1 Samuel 2.18–20, 26
Parents, have you ever been out and about and realised that your child is no longer with you? You may have been in a shopping centre looking at what to buy and when you look down little Johnny’s gone.
It’s a rotten feeling, isn’t it? Sudden fear, intense panic and a huge dose of self-blame. You just know that everyone will say what a rotten parent you are.
If you’ve ever been in that situation, you have some idea of how Mary and Joseph felt. They’d gone up with family and friends to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover feast in the great Temple there. Halfway home, they realise Jesus isn’t with the group. Frantically, they look and look again in every nook and cranny, calling Jesus’ name over and over. Nothing. Finally they trudge back to the city under a cloud of shame, fighting off those insistent thoughts that kept inserting themselves into their minds—thoughts that he may no longer be alive.
Still, they found him. Parents will understand Mary’s mixture of relief, exasperation and anger:
Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.
But Jesus responded,
Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?
Didn’t you know where I’d be?
Well, they didn’t. It’s kind of comforting to see that the Holy Family had its messy moments. It gives some encouragement to the rest of us.
But Luke doesn’t tell the story to show that the Holy Family was human. This is a kind of ‘coming of age’ story, where Jesus is coming to terms with his identity as Son of God. Luke shows us that it’s something he had to learn about himself.