. . . they finally discovered Him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” His mother said to Him, “why have You done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for You everywhere.”
“But why did you need to search?” He asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in My Father’s house?”
But they didn’t understand what He meant. Then He returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And His mother stored all these things in her heart. Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and all the people.Luke 2:46-52
What a remarkable scene described here. Here is a twelve year old boy sitting among the religious leaders of Israel amazing them with his questions and more to the point perhaps, his answers. These are a remarkable few verses when you put them all together.
The method of question and answer was the customary form of rabbinical teaching. The teacher and the learner taking turns as questioner and answerer. At this stage Jesus hadn’t assumed the role of teacher. He is merely a 12 year old boy. “His hour” for that “had not yet come”. The process of His preparedness wasn’t complete yet. He had still to “increase in wisdom” as well as “stature” as recorded in Luke 2:52. Finding Himself for the first time in His Father’s house, there would be in His questions far more than in their answers. The frivolous questions they were to fire at Him as smokescreen questions became the questions pregnant with allusion with which He astonished and silenced them in later years: “What do you think of the Christ? Whose Son is He? If David call Him Lord, how is He then his Son?” “Which is the first and great commandment?” “Who is my neighbor?” etc.
The scholars and teachers asked questions, not to be informed; but as a teacher who proposes questions to his scholars in order to instruct them. Josephus, records that the Jewish teachers were either very ignorant or very humble. He tells us, “When Jesus was about fourteen years of age, the chief priests, and the principal men of the city, were constantly coming to him to be more accurately instructed in matters related to the law.” See Josephus, Life, Sect. ii. If this were true, it is no wonder to find them now listening, with the deepest attention, to such teaching as they had never heard before.
What part of the temple was Christ in? It was not in the holy of holies, for none but the high priest went into that, and that only on the day of atonement. It was not in the court of the priests, for he was not considered one of them. There were several courts for adjudication:
- (a) the grand sanhedrim sat in the room of Gazith.
- (b) the lesser sanhedrim, which consisted of twenty three persons, sat in the gate of the court (of the Israelites)
- (c) the bench of three sat in the court of the Gentiles.
It seems most likely that He was in the Gazith with the grand Sanhedrima. This group had the largest number of doctors and it would have been more amazing to his parents to find him here. The principal scholars at this time were Hillell (the president) and Shammai (vice president of the council). Also Rabban Simeon, the son of Hillell, who succeeded him in his office; and R. Judah, and R. Joshua, the sons of Bethira; Jonathan ben Uzziel, the author of the Chaldee paraphrase; and R. Jochanan ben Zaccai. Christ sat among the scholars it seems, referred to in the text “as sitting among the doctors”. Both hearing their debates and decisions about points in the law of Moses and asking them questions.
Verse 50 which reads “but they didn’t understand what He meant” is remarkable. The subject of it is clearly Joseph and Mary but it could also easily have included the Sanhedrim. Probably they were hearing things which they had seen and heard from Him at home but which He had never expressed in that way before. What is even more amazing is the addition of “He went down with them, and was subject unto them.” This One who is fully at home in the Lord’s house and before the highest scholarly body in the land, condescends to return home and obey them. Wow, the words fail me to express the juxtaposition of these thoughts and to balance it with the seeming disobedience of a 12 year old. From this point on there is no more mention of Joseph. Many suppose that between this time and the commencement of Jesus’ public life, Joseph died. I think there is a deep structure behind this but haven’t figured it all out. Still on the back burner.
Anyway that is enough for you to ponder at this stage.
(a) – Sanhedrim is the plural form referring to the members of the Sanhedrin, the body of religious leaders.
When all the [talk] is gone there is only God. Silence is a fence around wisdom.Sidney Mohede
O what a library I have in God, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge!Andrew Rivet
Don’t be worried about being thought childish in the light of greater wisdom – we are.Ian Vail
Wisdom is knowing reality and adjusting yourself to it. Enjoy the freedom of exploring new thoughts.Ian Vail
Repetition aids your memory.Ian Vail