When our son John-Mark was about 5 or 6, we lost him in Heathrow airport. We were sitting at the gate waiting and did not notice him wander off. I looked up and he was just gone. A very anxious 15 or 20 minutes ensued as we searched up and down the walkways for a small, blond boy. When we found him a few aisles over, he was surprised at the anger in our voices, for he had only been curious and was exploring. I can relate to Mary’s anxiety.
Now [Mary and Joseph] went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when [Jesus] was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.Luke 2:41–52
Todd Pickett, Dean of Spiritual Development at the Center for Christianity Culture & The Arts, Biola University, describes this passage very vividly:
What parent does not dread this moment? In Luke 2:41, Joseph and Mary begin the journey back to Nazareth after days of Passover celebration in Jerusalem. As usual, they are caravanning home with other Galileans, a parade of hundreds of pilgrims, maybe thousands, stretching out miles along the route. It will take them about 5 days. Men and women walk separately. Children tag along, willy-nilly, now with mothers, now with relatives, now with friends, but somewhere safe in the mass.
The sun is dropping below the horizon. The caravan slows, bunches up and finds a place to camp. Mary turns to Joseph, casually: “Where is Jesus?” Joseph replies, “I thought he was with you?”
They hurry to Jerusalem. It takes them a whole day and then two days of searching. No 911 to call. No “Passover 2016” FB group to poke. Agonizing. Hard, hard. “After three days”—3 days!—they find him in the Temple. They are incredulous and “astonished”. Jesus sees them, looks up calmly and says innocently (in essence): “What?”Advent Project, January 7, 2017
Distressed! Anxious! Pierced! “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” Other versions say they were anxious or frantic. Mary’s words smack of irritation and anger. When I finally found my son in Heathrow, I blurted out in anger, putting the blame on him for wandering off. Fear is often expressed that way. But Jesus answered, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” In essence, he was saying, “What are you worried about? I am not lost. I am right where I should be. I am in my father’s house doing his business. Don’t be anxious. I know what I’m doing.”
The narrative says that “they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.” So what did Mary do with all this confusion and anxiety? She “treasured all these things in her heart.” In this text, treasured (diatereo) means to keep continually or carefully, to watch thoroughly. Again, in Pickett’s words:
A 12-year old Jesus sits among scholars and teachers, taking careful notes, asking really good questions. The teachers may have looked up at the parents: “Is this your son?” Mary and Joseph perhaps at this moment recall the angel’s prophecy: “He will be great.”
What are you anxious about today? Especially in regard to your children?
What business is your Father about that might comfort your anxious heart
What promises from God do you need to treasure today?
Jesus, thank you that you are always about your Father’s business. Teach me not to be anxious, but instead to treasure your words and remember that you know what you are doing.
Next in series: Treasure and Ponder
For an updated (and better written) version of this, please purchase Favored Blessed Pierced: A Fresh Look at Mary of Nazareth, available on Amazon.