Not much is ever said about the preteen Jesus. In fact, it’s only mentioned in one of the gospels and only a few verses. However, despite the few verses dedicated to this season of Jesus’ life, there are some things we can learn.
First we know that while Jesus is in fact part of the trinity, He chose not to have that identity for at least a season. “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:6-8) Jesus voluntarily emptied Himself of what was rightfully His in order to serve in the must humble and meaningful way.
Second, we know from the one passage that we do have of His preteen years, that though He emptied Himself, He was still fully aware of who He was and who His true Father really was.
And when he 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?” (Luke 2:42-49)
Even though Mary said that ‘your father and I have been searching’, Jesus replies that He ‘must be in my Father’s house’.
Thirdly, despite His knowing His rightful place in heaven, He obeyed His earthly parents. “And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.”
(Luke 2:51a) Another sign of the true humility.
Now it is clear that Jesus was fully God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1). It’s also clear through the Philippians quote above that Jesus chose to empty Himself and become fully man. And at some point, He became fully God again. Some scholars say He returned to unity with the Trinity at the time of His baptism (one of the only times the Father, Son and Spirit all exist in one passage. Others say He rejoined the Trinity at the time of the crucifixion or resurrection. Still others say He was never actually separated from the Trinity and the phrase “emptied himself” has another meaning.
Either way, Jesus the preteen boy, knew He was God whether or not He was currently a deity or not… yet He willingly chose to remain subservient to the leadership the Father had given Him for the time, His earthly parents. And that is our lesson for today. Knowing that God is sovereign and that there is no leadership in place except that He allowed, then we ought to do as Jesus did and remain submissive to the leadership He has provided… for the season He allows.
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