We don’t know much about Jesus’ childhood. We are given a brief description of the nature of His supernatural conception. Both Matthew and Luke give accounts of His birth. Luke tells us that, when He was just eight days old, His parents took him to Jerusalem, where a man named Simeon, led by the Spirit, took Him in his arms and proclaimed Him the Christ (Luke 2:29-32). A prophetess named Anna, coming to the temple at just that moment, “began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (v. 38). So it’s understandable that we struggle just a bit to remember that Jesus too was once a child. And when we do remember, it’s easy to imagine Him being anything but normal. It’s what makes the passage we find in Luke 2:41-52 so meaningful, even if we don’t know exactly what to make of it.
For anyone who has ever had children, worked with children, or even just been around children, this passage starts off as a nightmare. Joseph and Mary had traveled to Jerusalem for their yearly pilgrimage to observe the Passover. We can assume all had gone as expected. Luke tells us the feast had ended, so we can imagine they’d packed their things, joined their caravan, and started on their way back home, another meaningful trip to remember. That is until, after a day’s journey, Joseph and Mary settled down for the night and realized Jesus was nowhere to be found. We can imagine Jesus’ parents rushed back to Jerusalem in a panic. And even though we might be tempted to believe we’d never do something like lose track of the Son of God, it’s hard not to feel some compassion for his parents, knowing they’d spent three days frantically searching before they’d finally found their son.