Commentary by Walter Albritton


January 6, 2008


God’s People Can Never Stop Learning and Growing


Luke 2:41-52


Key Verse: [Jesus] said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” – Luke 2:49


Luke’s story of Jesus talking to the teachers in the temple is the only biblical reference to the years of our Lord’s growing up in the home of Mary and Joseph. Luke says Jesus was 12 at the time. The story helps us understand the growth and development of Jesus as a young man.

We see both his humanity and his divinity in this story. Evidently Jesus had a rather normal childhood as a Jewish boy. There is no evidence that he was considered a “special” young boy or that he did anything to set himself apart from his playmates. To his neighbors Jesus must have seemed like an ordinary child raised by devout Jewish parents in the home of a humble carpenter.

His behavior as a twelve-year-old confirms his humanity. It never occurred to him to tell his parents where he was. The idea that they might be worried about him never entered his mind. Like any child his age he became so fascinated with the teachers at the temple that he had no awareness of the time. Likely he was completely absorbed by the new ideas that captivated his mind as he shared this stimulating conversation with learned teachers of the law. He was “lost” in another world – the world he would later describe as the kingdom of God.

Jesus’ humanity is also demonstrated by his willingness to “be a good boy” and obey his parents. Once Joseph and Mary had found him, and reprimanded him, he resumed the role of an ordinary young man growing up in Nazareth. Though the people who heard Jesus’ answers to the teachers were astonished at what they heard, this made little or no impression on Mary and Joseph. They were concerned only about the anxiety that Jesus had caused them by leaving the caravan of travelers. Evidently it never occurred to them to wonder why Jesus was talking to the teachers.

The divinity of Jesus is also highlighted by this story. While other children were playing games, Jesus was engaged in serious conversation with teachers of the law of God and the people listening were stunned by what they heard.

Luke gives us two clues to demonstrate that Jesus is the Son of God, much more than an ordinary Jewish boy. One clue is Jesus’ amazing understanding. His answers to the teachers revealed that. A second and stronger clue is Jesus’ response to Mary and Joseph. At age 12 he implies that his heavenly Father has a plan for his life, a plan that will require his complete allegiance. He wants his parents to understand that the concerns of God, his Father, are more important than the concerns of his parents.

Luke tells us that after Jesus’ encounter in the temple he continued to grow – physically and spiritually.  His understanding grew until finally he realized the time had come for him to begin the ministry to which his Father had called him. We may presume that Joseph and Mary also continued to grow in their understanding of God and his mission for their son.

Learning and growing is necessary for God’s people as long as we live. We never arrive at a time and place where we “know it all.” As we grow in our understanding of Scripture and of God, we sometimes have to admit that what we thought we knew was not in fact the whole story. This story itself may illustrate this truth.

 How, for example, did Jesus explain his absence to Mary and Joseph? For many years I “knew” the answer. He told them that he had to “be about my Father’s business.” Right? We know that because of the language we learned in the King James Version (Luke 2:49):

          And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?

Well, hold on. More recent translations force us to see that the original language does not actually say that. More accurate translations such as the NIV tell us this is what Jesus said:  "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?"

Learning this was a growing moment for me. I have had many and expect to have many more. But it helps to learn and grow – and laugh also. I laughed when I thought about these translations. Jesus was “in” his Father’s House because he was beginning to realize that he had to “be about” his “Father’s business”!

If we remain open to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, the Father will teach us more and more. He will enlarge our understanding of the kingdom and our place in it. As we learn and grow we too will discover that nothing is more important than our Father’s business – and we need to be about it!

 (Contact Walter at