Jesus: The Early Years
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And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth.  And the Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
 And His parents used to go to Jerusalem every year at the Feast
of the Passover.  And when He became twelve, they went up there according
to the custom of the Feast;  and as they were returning, after spending
the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. And
His parents were unaware of it,  but supposed Him to be in the caravan,
and went a day's journey; and they began looking for Him among their relatives
and acquaintances.  And when they did not find Him, they returned to
Jerusalem, looking for Him.  And it came about that after three days
they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both
listening to them, and asking them questions.  And all who heard Him
were amazed at His understanding and His answers.  And when they saw
Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, "Son, why have You
treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking
for You."  And He said to them, "Why is it that you were looking for
Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father's house?"  And they
did not understand the statement which He had made to them.  And He
went down with them, and came to Nazareth; and He continued in subjection
to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.  And
Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and
When a Jewish boy turned twelve, he was "a son of the law," taking on the full obligations of the law. If Jesus had lived within 20 miles of Jerusalem, it would have been his obligation to attend the Passover feast, but he didn't, he lived in Nazareth, about 60 miles from Jerusalem. But because his parents went to Jerusalem every year for the Passover, and because he was now old enough to go, Jesus took the long journey with his parents to Jerusalem for the Passover feast.
This trip was a major commitment. Today, we travel 60 miles on a whim to go to a favorite restaurant or run an errand, but it wasn't so easy in Biblical days. The roads were little more than walking paths pounded out by previous travelers. On average, men could walk about 15 miles a day. (ZPEB, V 5, p. 799) On a journey like this one, the women would go on before the men, because they didn't walk as fast, and they would join each other in the evening to set up camp. Because a good Jew would never walk through Samaria, they would not have traveled "as the crow flies" meaning that they couldn't have made the 60 miles in four days, it would have taken at least 5 days of hard travel. Five days going, and five days coming back. Add in at least one day for the feast, and keeping this religious festival was almost a two week commitment.
But the sacrifice was worth it for this family. At the feast, for the first time, Jesus celebrated the death angel "passing over" the homes of those who placed the blood of the lamb on their doorposts in Egypt. Later, Jesus, "the lamb slain before the foundation of the world" would fall into the hands of the Roman soldiers after celebrating the Passover for the last time with his disciples in the upper room. With time, Jesus would come to know that he was "the lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world," but for now, he was entranced by the celebration of God's grace to His people.
When the feast was over, Joseph must have thought that Jesus left with Mary and Mary must have thought that Jesus was with Joseph, because neither of them had Jesus with them when they left Jerusalem for the long journey home. When they rejoined one another at the campsite, 15 miles down the road, neither of them had Jesus. So they looked for Him among their relatives, but He wasn't there. So the next day, they retraced their steps, back to Jerusalem to hunt for their son.
When I was a small child, I wandered off with the family dog and was
separated from my parents for most of an afternoon. It was no big deal
to me, I was 5-years-old and was in my mind, big enough to look after myself.
I doubt if it was so uneventful for my parents. Luckily, the dog knew the
way home and we made it back safely. My Mother often reminds me that being
a parent is one way we pay for our upbringing. And sure enough, when Jamie
was 6-years-old, he went chasing after the family dog when she "broke out"
of the backyard. Susan was hysterical when she called me to tell me that
Jamie was gone. We got in the car and began searching for him throughout
the neighborhood, praying all the time that God would send His