Many years ago, I was youth pastor in a rural church in Indiana. I noticed one particular Sunday that an eight year old was left sitting alone in the foyer following worship. After doing a quick search, I realized he had been left behind, so I drove him home. He was from a large family, and everyone else assumed he went home with the other. They didn't even know he was missing.
There's a great little story in Luke 2 that gives us the only glimpse of Jesus in his childhood between the escape to Egypt and his baptism as an adult. It tells the story of Joseph and Mary's annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. This particular year held added importance since it was Jesus' 12th year and was marked by meeting with elders in the Temple and the beginning of his education in the Law of Moses.
When the Passover had ended, Mary and Joseph and the rest of their traveling companions began their slow journey back to Nazareth. They were a day out when the realized Jesus wasn't with them. Filled with anxiety, they returned to Jerusalem and looked for him for three days before discovering him questioning the teachers at the Temple.
When they found him, Jesus asked, "Why were you looking for me?" It's a good thing at this point Jesus' mother wasn't Italian [she'd have slapped the saint off his face!]. And then he asked this: "Didn't you know I had to be about my Father's business?" The first recorded words of Jesus in the Gospels was getting in trouble with his parents! What a fantastic story -- and one that tells us a lot about Jesus.
1] He knew who he was. He knew Joseph was his step-dad and that God was his Father. He had no identity confusion but knew exactly who he belonged to, and this gave him the confidence to find his place among the teachers.
2] He was hungry to learn and mature. When Mary and Joseph caught up with him, he wasn't in protective custody or living helplessly on the streets: he was in the Temple courts asking questions and engaging in conversation with the teachers. They were amazed at his understanding. Already, he had a big appetite for learning.
3] He wanted to be in his Father's house. My young son throws a little fit when he can't come to church. I hope that desire is always within him. We see that desire within the young Jesus. He wanted to be in the center of the "family business".
There are some great take-aways for us in this story: First, we need to know who we belong to. We belong to the Father, and our identity in Christ changes everything about us. 2] When we know Whose we are, we will develop and appetite for learning and maturity. We will be hungry to sit at Jesus' feet and learn from him. 3] When we know Whose we are, we will want to be involved in the Father'sbusiness. We will care about the things God cares about, and we will learn the trade of reconciliation.
"The Way of Christ" is the family business. When people ask you, "Why do you still go to church?", you can respond by saying you just want to be in your Father's house and learn the family business.
Let's follow Jesus together with the same curiosity and joy the Son of God showed us at twelve years old.