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Don't Leave Jesus Behind

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.

Jesus stayed behind in the temple while his parents headed back home.

Jesus stayed behind in the temple while his parents headed back home.

Jesus' parents went to Jerusalem every year to attend the festival of the Passover. There were three such festivals, but this was the only one that was required for poor people who had to travel a long distance.

On this particular trip, Jesus, who had just reached the age of twelve, went along with his parents. We may imagine how the holy city and the temple and the sacred rituals fascinated him. He was now considered a “Son of the Law” since he just reached the age of accountability. From this point on, Jesus would be required to attend the festivals in Jerusalem every year just as the adults had to do.

After seven days, the parents of Jesus left, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they did not know it.

Jesus' parents did not know he stays behind in the temple when they left.

Jesus' parents did not know he stays behind in the temple when they left.

Jesus Stayed Behind in the Temple

After seven days, Jesus' parents left the holy city, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. However, Mary and Joseph did not know it.

Let’s not label Joseph and Mary as neglectful or careless parents. They were not riding in an automobile where they could just look in the back seat and see if Jesus was with them. They were not traveling on an airplane where they had to check in at the airport. Neither did they go by train or by bus where the conductor stamped tickets and all passengers were accounted for.

No, they walked the 80 miles to and from the festival. And this was done in groups, or companies, or caravans. Family, friends, relatives, neighbors all formed groups whose members would furnish assistance to one another in case of illnesses or danger.

Some of the groups would walk more leisurely than others. On the return trip, all the women and small children left first, then the men and the older children followed.

Now, do you see how Mary could have thought Jesus was with Joseph, and Joseph could have thought Jesus was with Mary? Jesus, who had just turned twelve could have been in either group.

A Day's Journey

Mary and Joseph went a day’s journey without knowing Jesus was not with them. That was about 26 miles. But when they discovered he was not with them, they went back to the place where they left him.

The parents looked for Jesus among their relatives and acquaintances. The Nazareth caravan was so long that it took them a whole day to look through it, but they did not find Jesus. It is sad to think Jesus was with family and friends when he was not.

After Three Days

After three days, they found Jesus in the temple. Can you imagine being without Jesus for three days? On that third day, they found where they had lost touch with Him — in the temple.

Jesus had been lost by holy people who loved him. What we have here is a story of the most unlikely people not being with Jesus. We must also keep in mind that they left him in Jerusalem, that holy city of God. They left Him in the place where most people find him — in the temple. They left Him in an instant, but it took three days to find Him.

When they found him, he was sitting in the midst of the teachers of the Law in the role of a pupil listening and asking questions. All who heard Jesus answering the questions were amazed at his understanding and his answers. Jesus was attending Bible Study!

Mary's Question

Joseph and Mary were amazed at what they saw and at what they heard. Mary asked, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have sought you anxiously.”

And Jesus so gently gives an answer indicating that He is now becoming aware that He is the Son of God. He said to them, “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” These are the first recorded words of Jesus. And they were about His Father.

Notice Mary asked a question in reference to Jesus’ earthly father, but Jesus nswered it in reference to His heavenly Father. Also, notice the urgency of Jesus’ answer: I MUST be about my Father’s business.

In obedience to his parents, Jesus left with them. We see or hear nothing else about Jesus in the Bible until He was thirty years old when He was baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist before he started his ministry.

This statement summarizes Jesus' status when He was 12. We don't hear from Him until He was 30 years old.

This statement summarizes Jesus' status when He was 12. We don't hear from Him until He was 30 years old.

Luke 2:52 records how Jesus grew:

  • In wisdom - This means that Jesus grew intellectually by becoming wise.
  • In stature - Jesus grew physically from a 12-year-old boy to a man.
  • In favor with God - Jesus grew spiritually in his relationship with His Father.
  • In favor with man - Jesus grew socially in his relationship with others.

The next time Jesus comes on the scene is when He is 30 years old.

About Jesus Being Left Behind

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. How old was Jesus when He was left behind?
    • 7
    • 10
    • 12
    • 33
  2. Where was Jesus left behind?
    • at the river
    • on the mountain
    • in the temple
    • on the road
  3. How was it that Jesus was left behind?
    • Mary thought Jesus was with Joseph.
    • Joseph thought Jesus was with Mary
    • Both of the above
    • Neither of the above
  4. What did Mary and Joseph do when they discovered Jesus had been left behind?
    • They continued on their journey.
    • They went back to get Him immediately.
    • They sent someone back for Jesus.
    • They went back the next day for Him.

Answer Key

  1. 12
  2. in the temple
  3. Both of the above
  4. They went back to get Him immediately.