41 Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast; 43 and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware of it, 44 but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and went a day’s journey; and they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45 When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem looking for Him. 46 Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. 48 When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.” 49 And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand the statement which He had made to them. 51 And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
52 And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
Luke’s gospel has the only story accepted into the canon about Jesus between the time of His birth and the time when He was baptized by John.
His parents being devout Jews, followed the commandment to go and celebrate the Passover near the Temple, so they made a yearly trek down to Jerusalem for the holiday. They travelled with their families and other Nazarenes in a caravan. While in Jerusalem, they celebrate the feast and visit the Temple, which the younger Jesus is fascinated with.
As they leave, Jesus remains behind in the city.
His parents assume He is somewhere in the caravan, not imagining He’d stay in a city alone, so they leave, travel a day’s journey and discover as the sun is going down that Jesus is still nowhere to be found.
Any parent who’s even had a few seconds where they could find their child will sympathetically feel that moment of sheer panic that hits the couple. Not finding Him with their relatives, they go back immediately to Jerusalem. They spend three days frantically searching for Him and finally go back to visit the Temple where they find their son hanging out with scribes and teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. The teachers are amazed at how smart this kid is (no one has bothered to ask where His parents are though.)
Now, as a parent now, I totally identify with Mary and Joseph here. I can almost hear myself screaming, “What in the world were you thinking?!? Do you know your mother and I were worried sick about you?!”
And Jesus’ answer wouldn’t exactly make me happy, even if He did have a point. Both Joseph and Mary had reported visitations by angels assuring them that this boy was the promised Messiah who would save Israel. So really, there was no need to panic. God would protect Jesus even in His absence from them.
And yes, they probably should have guessed that the Messiah would want to spend some time talking about the Law with learned scholars.
Neither of those thoughts are exactly at the forefront of a parent’s mind though.
So we’re told that Jesus returned with them and grew up in Nazareth, well-received by God and His neighbors.
And that’s it. The next time we see Jesus is in roughly 18 years.
So what did He do?
Apocryphally, there are some pretty twisted stories out there about what Jesus did, but canonically, Luke’s account is pretty much that He stayed in Nazareth. He grew up. He worked. He learned. He made friends. He did all of the usual things that kids and young adults do. He was like us. Most of us would probably gloss over our childhood in our biographies too. There’s really not much for most of us to tell until we reach our adult years and start living independently and pursuing our goals and accomplishments.
Jesus’ childhood and entry into adulthood is amazing for how ordinary it is.