The purpose of the coming to Jerusalem in Luke 2:42 on the part of Mary and Joseph was undoubtedly primarily that of fulfilling the requirements of the law, the bringing of Jesus to His confirmation. At this point the boy was supposed to enter upon that period of life when He should have immediate dealings with the law, receiving it no longer through the instruction of His parents; but having been brought by them into a knowledge of its requirements, He would now take upon Himself the responsibility. The rite, which is still in existence, consists in the preparation by the candidate of certain passages of the law, which are to be recited, and his presentation to the rulers and doctors, that in conversation with him, they may ask him questions, testing his knowledge, and he may submit to them questions arising out of his training. It was to this ceremony of confirmation that Jesus was brought at the age of twelve.
The picture of Christ here is very full of beauty, although too often the natural fact is obscured by false ideas concerning the attitude of Jesus towards the teachers. A very popular conception of His action here is that of a boy delighting to ask questions that will show His own wisdom and puzzle the doctors. This would seem to be utterly contrary to the facts. Jesus, a pure, beautiful boy, physically strong, mentally alert, spiritually full of grace, moving into new and larger experiences of His life, answered the questions of the doctors with a lucidity that astonished them and submitted problems to them which showed how remarkable was the calibre of His mind and how intense the fact of His spiritual nature. So great an opportunity was this to Him that He tarried behind, still talking with these men.
Supposing Him to have been with the company, His parents had started on the homeward journey, and missing Him, returned. Here again violence has been done to the character of Christ by the tone in which His question has been repeated. There was no touch of rebuke in what He said to His mother. It is far more probable that there was a tender expression of surprise that she from whom He had received His training, and under whose direction His mind had developed, and His spiritual nature been nurtured, should not know how "the things of His Father" were to Him the chief things.
Adapted from The Crises of the Christ, Book II, Chapter VII, by G. Campbell Morgan.