The mission of the Messiah, 1:5-9:50

2. Testimonies to the Messiah, 2:41-4:30

i] Witness in the temple


In his thirteenth year an Israelite child was obliged to apply himself to the Law of Moses. For this reason Jesus' mother and father take their son to Jerusalem, to the temple, to fulfill his ritual obligations.


In his visit to Jerusalem as a teenager, Jesus submits to covenant law, but he also demonstrates a higher obligation "to one whom he recognizes as Father, for he is the Son of God, declared so by an angel", Danker. As Son of God, Jesus is compelled to be about his Father's business.


i] Context: See 1:5-25. Luke now moves from the infancy narratives to a set of six stories / episodes which serve to inaugurate Jesus' mission. In the Testimonies to the Messiah, each of the episodes tell us something of Jesus' messianic character. So, Luke lets us into a secret, Jesus is the Son of God, the messiah. In the first episode, Witness in the Temple, Luke introduces us to Christ's unique character. Then follows the witness of John, and of the Father at Jesus baptism, then Jesus' genealogy, all testifying to Jesus' messianic character as Son of God. Then follows Jesus' own testimony to his messianic role, 4:14-30, that of a suffering servant, rejected by his own.


ii] Structure: This narrative, Witness in the temple, presents as follows:

Jesus' family visits Jerusalem in his twelfth year, v41-42;

Jesus goes missing in Jerusalem, v43-45;

Compounding complexities, v46-50:

The scholars are amazed, v46-47;

Jesus' parents are underwhelmed, v48;

Jesus' response, v49;

"did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"

Jesus' parents are confused, v50.

Jesus submits to his parents, v51;

Jesus' developing years, v52:

"Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man."


iii] Interpretation:

This story is important for a historian like Luke in that it maintains continuity between the infancy narratives and the commencement of Jesus' ministry proper. For Greek thinkers, stories about a hero's youth are important in understanding their character and in this story Luke provides the key to Jesus' character - he must be about his Father's business / in his Father's house. The story is found in the gospel of Thomas, 19:1-5, but gains no authenticity by it's use in an apocryphal gospel. Obviously Luke would have loved to have developed the story about Christ's early years, but this story was all that was available to him.


Jesus' divine compulsion: Luke again centers Jesus in Jerusalem, within Jewish piety, under the law, marking his declaration ouk h/deite oJti en toiV tou patroV mou dei ei\nai me, "didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?", as the central truth of the episode. Yet, it is not clear what Jesus is actually saying. Whatever the point he is making, he is stating clearly that he is under divine necessity, dei, "it is necessary / I must." It seems likely that Jesus is saying that he must be about his Father's business - this is what Mary and Joseph find Jesus doing (listening and asking questions = debating = teaching). So, as well as revealing the nature of Jesus' mission, the story serves to reveal something of his character, of his self-awareness and understanding beyond his age.


The Greek text: Evans notes that the syntax of this narrative is polished, more inline with classical Greek than that of the LXX, eg. the double genitive absolute, "they went up", "when the feast was ended."


Homiletics: The sample sermon provided for the first Sunday after Christmas in the church year has the potential to promote some awkward questions. To the mind of some, suggesting that Jesus may have acted outside his parent's authority, can undermine belief in Jesus' sinless state and therefore his capacity to be a perfect sacrifice for sin. Of course, a child's testing of their person, in relation to their parents, is all part of growing up. Sin is found in our defiance of parental authority, not our submission to it. Luke makes a point of telling us that Jesus submitted to his parent's authority. Also, such a sermon introduces the subject of Jesus' humanity. The apocryphal gospel's treatment of Jesus' miracle-working childhood well illustrates the difficulty believers have in conceiving of Jesus as a boy with a runny nose, etc. Yet, it is important to keep before God's people the full humanity of Jesus, and to do so without denying his deity.


iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 2:41

Jusus' witness in the temple, v41-52: i] Luke first sets the background for the story, v41-42. A Jewish boy reaches manhood at age 13, and it is the responsibility of the boy's father to introduce him to his religious obligations before he comes of age. Jesus, now 12, is taken to the most important of the Jewish religious festivals. It was expected that Pentecost and Tabernacles be attended as well as Passover, but the Jews of Galilee, due to distance, tended to attend Passover only. The significance of the Passover, Israel's deliverance through sacrifice, is not lost on Luke.

kai "-" - Luke's use of a transitional kai instead of de; "Now, every year ...."

kat (kata) + acc."every [year]" - according to [the year]. Common idiom, distributive, "every year." Typically, those far from Jerusalem made only one pilgrimage to Jerusalem each year and that on the Passover. "Annually".

autou gen. pro. "Jesus'" - [the parents] of him. The genitive is adjectival, relational.

oiJ goneiV (euV ewV) "parents" - the parents. Only men were required to attend, so a woman's attendance at the feast was a sign of great devotion.

eporeuonto (poreuomai) imperf. "went" - were going. Usually taken here to express iterative, repeated action, "every year his parents used to go to Jerusalem", although Culy questions this classification suggesting that the imperfect is simply expressing a past/remote process.

th/ eJorth/ (h) dat. "for the Feast" - The NIV treats the dative as a dative of interest; "for the festival of the Passover", Barclay, although an adverbial use, temporal, may be intended; "at the time of the passover festival."

tou pasca gen. "of the Passover" - The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "festival"; "the Passover festival." Properly called "the feast of Unleavened Bread", or simply "the Passover", 15 Nisan, March/April. Celebrating the escape from Egypt.


oJte + ind. "when" - Serving to introduce a temporal clause. Note the series of temporal clauses that follow, serving to narrow the timing of the story.

etwn dwdeka gen. "twelve years old" - of twelve years. "A boy" is assumed, so the genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "boy"; "when he was a boy of twelve years / a twelve year old boy." The reference to Jesus' age probably indicates that he is now of an age when he can take on adult responsibilities.

anabainontwn (anabainw) part. gen. "they went up to" - going up. Best read as a genitive absolute forming a temporal clause, "when they were going up", Marshall."

thV eJorthV (h) gen. "the feast" - of the feast. The genitive is ablative, reference/respect, lit. "according to the custom with reference to the feast."

kata + acc. "according to [the custom]" - Expressing a standard; "in accordance with, according to." The custom being referred to is not overtly clear. Possibly the custom of a yearly visit, or even of going up to Jerusalem as part of a pilgrimage caravan.


ii] Jesus goes missing in the house of his Father, v43-45: A pilgrimage to a religious festival was usually undertaken in a large group of family, relatives, neighbors and friends. The women and children would travel as one group, followed by the men. They would not all come together again until they met at a prearranged meeting place on the journey home. It was only then that Joseph and Mary discovered that Jesus was not with the other parent, or with their "kinsfolk."

teleiwsantwn (teleiow) aor. part. gen. "After [the feast] was over" - having fulfilled, completed, finished [the days] - A temporal genitive absolute participle. Possibly indicating the family's attendance for the full seven days of the festival; another sign of devotion. "They stayed to the very end of the festival", Barclay.

en tw/ uJpostrefein (uJpostrefw) pres. inf. "while [his parents] were returning home" - [they] in the return. This preposition with the dative articular infinitive usually serves to form a temporal clause, contemporaneous time, as NIV. The present tense expresses durative action - Jesus' parents were journeying home. Note how the aorist "having fulfilled" is used for completed action, see Culy.

oJ paiV (paiV paidoV) "the boy [Jesus]" - [Jesus] the boy" - Nominative "boy" standing in apposition to "Jesus".

uJpemeinen (uJpomenw) aor. "stayed behind" - remained. No value judgment is made of Jesus' staying, nor of the parents' being "unaware". Today the parents would be charged with neglect, which may indicate that we are overly protective of our children.

en + dat. "in [Jerusalem]" - Locative.

autou gen. pro. "-" - [the parents] of him [did not know]. Genitive of relationship.


nomisanteV (nomizw) aor. part. "thinking" - having believed, supposed, assumed. The participle is adverbial, probably causal, "because they thought ...."

einai (eimi) pres. inf. "he was" - to be. The infinitive forms an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what they thought; "they thought that ...." The subject of the infinitive "he" takes the accusative case.

en + dat. "in [their company]" - in [the company, group]. Possibly local, "in the caravan", or expressing association, "with/among the caravan."

hJmeraV oJdon "for a day" - a day's way. "At the end of the first day's journey", Barclay.

anezhtoun (anazhtew) imperf. "then they began looking for [him]" - they were looking for. The imperfect carries a durative sense which possibly means that not only did they go searching for Jesus at the end of the day, but that they were searching for him the whole day. The NIV opts for an inceptive translation.


mh euJronteV (euJriskw) aor. part. "when they did not find him" - not having found. The participle is adverbial, temporal, as NIV.

uJpestreyan (uJpostrefw) aor. "they went back" - they returned. Aorist expressing a singular action.

anazhtounteV (anazhtew) pres. part. "to look for" - looking for, seeking. The present participle expresses an ongoing search and is adverbial, expressing purpose; "in order to look for him." "Looking for him as they went", Phillips.


iii] Compounding complexities, v46-50: a) Jesus' parents find him in the temple impressing the teachers of the law with his understanding, v46-47. It was at the end of the first day, after leaving Jerusalem, that Joseph and Mary discover Jesus missing. On the second day they return to Jerusalem, and on the third day they find Jesus in the temple. During festival and on the Sabbath, the teachers sat in the Temple precinct to teach their traditions and answer questions. It was in one such group that Joseph and Mary found their son "listening" and "asking questions." The members of the teaching group were "amazed" at Jesus' "understanding." The word "amazed" is used, particularly by Mark and Luke, as a preliminary response by the crowds to a powerful working of the Spirit of God in word, or sign. In this case, it is a Spirit-filled word. So, even at the age of 12, and prior to the descent of the Spirit upon him, Jesus fills the crowd with wonder and awe.

egeneto (ginomai) aor. "-" - it became, happened. "And it came to pass", AV.

meta hJmeraV treiV "after three days" - Possibly meaning that the search in Jerusalem lasted three days, although it is more likely that it was three days after the caravan had left Jerusalem that they found Jesus. Some commentators suggest that there is an allusion here to the resurrection, cf. Johnson, ....

en + dat. "in [the temple courts]" - in [temple]. Expressing space/sphere.

kaqezomenon (kaqezomai) pres. part. "sitting" - As with "listening" and "questioning", the participle functions as an object complement, complement of the object "him"; "they found him sitting .. listening ... and inquiring."

en mesw/ "among" - in the midst of. Locative.

twn didaskalwn (oV) gen. "the teachers" - of the teachers. The genitive is adjectival, partitive / wholative. A word usually reserved for Jesus. Luke normally refers to the Jewish teachers as "lawyers", or "scribes".

akouonta (akouw) pres. part. "listening" - Jesus is under instruction and not doing the teaching, but the fact that he is also "asking them questions" indicates that he is involved in debate.

autwn gen. "to them" - of them. Genitive of direct object after a verb of perception, here the verbal aspect of the participle "hearing".


oiJ akouonteV (akouw) pres. part. "[everyone] who heard" - [all] the ones hearing. The participle functions as a substantive.

autou gen. pro. "him" - of him. Genitive of direct object after a verb of perception, here the verbal aspect of the participle "hearing".

existanto (existhmi) imperf. "was amazed" - were amazed, confused, astonished. The word is often used of pre-belief, which may well be the sense here. Also, often used in association with a miracle. Also possibly the word may just express surprise at the depth of Jesus' questions and answers. "Everyone who heard him was surprised at how much he knew and at the answers he gave", CEV.

epi + dat. "at" - Here expressing cause; "on the basis of."

autou gen. pro. "his" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive / subjective.

th/ sunesei (iV ewV) "understanding" - the intelligence. With the substantive "answers" there is a possibly hendiadys, "his penetrating answers", Fitzmyer. "Were astonished at his powers of comprehension", Phillips.


b) Mary and Joseph "are shocked by Jesus' apparent insubordination", Nolland, v48.

idonteV (eidon) aor. part. "when his parents saw [him]" - having seen [him]. The participle is adverbial, temporal, as NIV.

exeplaghsan (ekplhssw) aor. "they were astonished" - they were perplexed, astounded. Luke's use of this word in Acts 13:12, "he was greatly astounded at the teaching about the Lord", indicates that Jesus' parents may be astounded by the theological capacity of their son. Yet, seeing Luke has chosen a different word to that in v47, the sense is probably more like "surprised", even "shocked", Nolland, which reaction prompts Joseph and Mary's reproach. In their eyes, their son has acted wilfully and caused them no end of trouble. Their "shock" obviously indicates that it is out of character for Jesus to act this way. "When Joseph and Mary saw him they could not believe their eyes", Phillips.

teknon (on) voc. "Son" - child. This word can be used of a person of any age, particularly were it is used as an expression of endearment. Yet, it is also used to address a young member of a family, as here.

ti "why" - Interrogative pronoun.

hJmin dat. pro. "[have you treated] us" - [why did you do] to us. Dative of interest.

ou{twV "like this" - thus, in this way.

odunwmenoi (odunaw) pres. pas. part. "anxiously" - being anxious, pained. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of their "searching". Here describing mental anxiety, "filled with anxiety"; "we have been worried to distraction", Barclay. Mary's complaint prompts Jesus' reply.


c) Jesus' pronouncement, "I must be in my Father's house", grounds the story, v49-50. Jesus responds by telling his parents he must be about his Father's business, the Word business. Most translations have "Father's house", meaning the temple. As for "my Father", he certainly doesn't mean Joseph. Jesus may be claiming that God is his father, although the "my" probably just reflects a messianic awareness; Jesus is "the Son of God", a term which is primarily a messianic title. If Jesus is making this link, it is likely that he is not claiming a filial relationship with God the Father, nor is he denying his human kinship. In the end, the pronouncement is beyond the comprehension of his parents.

oJti "-" - [and he said to them why] that [you are looking for me]. The first oJti possibly serves to introduce an object clause / dependent statement of direct speech expressing the content of the question. Culy suggests that it is epexegetic, explaining the question ti gegonen oJti, "why has it happened that ..."; "why is it that you have been searching for me?", Weymouth. The second oJti, "don't you know that I must be ..." introduces a dependent statement of perception, expressing what they should know.

dei "I had" - it is necessary. Often expressing divine compulsion, here the only time it is used of Jesus' relationship with the Father; "I must", Phillips.

ei\nai "to be" - The infinitive of the verb to-be forms an infinitival phrase subject of the verb "is necessary", lit. "that to be in the things of my Father is necessary."

ouk - The negative construction of the question implies a positive answer. It is obvious where Jesus would be found since the business of knowing God's will takes precedence over everything else, "surely you realize that I was bound to be ...?

en toiV tou patroV "in [my] Father's house" - in the things of the father. A neuter plural article functioning as a substantiver with the genitive of "the father" indicating "things" in relationship with "the father." What are the "things"? Obviously not the teachers as the article is neuter. There seems to be three possible options: i] "house", NIV etc. meaning "I must be in my Father's dwelling place (ie. temple)", presumably for the business of revelation, although the article is plural, ie. "things", not "thing". None-the-less, en, "in", together with the neuter plural and the genitive can give the sense "house" as of "involved with instruction in divine things", Bock; ii] "I must be about my Father's business", obviously again the Word business, NKJV; "to be engaged in the affairs of my Father (the truth business)", Nolland, cf. Brown. Although the most likely option it doesn't really answer Mary's question; iii] Jesus must be among the teachers of the law in his Father's house. This option is not widely accepted. Whichever option we choose, Jesus is messiah in training and must be about his vocation under God in the divine business of fine-tuning truth.

mou gen. pro "my" - of me. The genitive is adjectival, possessive. Probably a full-blown filial relationship is not intended, rather it is an expression of piety, or possibly expressing Jesus' messianic role as "son of God" = messiah.


d) Jesus' parents are confused, v50: Jesus' parents simply do not understand what he is up to. Given his miraculous birth, he is obviously a candidate for messiah, Son of God, but why "must" the coming Davidic messiah (a worrier king) be in the temple discussing theology?

ou sunhkan (sunihmi) aor. "did not understand" - "They did not understand what he meant", CEV, best captures the general sense of Mary and Joseph's failure to understand Jesus' enigmatic reply, rather than their failure to understand any filial or messianic allusions. They have not forgotten Jesus' miraculous birth, nor the prophetic word associated with that birth, but they would be fairly angry, having little patience for riddles, and would not be thinking rationally (every parent has been there!). None-the-less, their ignorance reveals an important theme for Luke - Israel's failure to understand the day of God's visitation in Christ. Luke's comment that Jesus was "obedient to them" probably reflects the reprimand Jesus received from his parents on this occasion.

autoiV dat. pro. "to them" - Dative of indirect object.


iv] The family returns to Nazareth, and again Mary is left with something to think on, v51. As far as his parents are concerned, the young Jesus is way out of line. Jesus rightly submits to them and returns with them to Nazareth. Mary is left to wonder about it all.

katebh (katabainw) aor. "he went down" - Used of coming down in height from Jerusalem since the city was in the hill country of Palestine. Best expressed "as for Jesus, he went back with them to Nazareth", Cassirer.

met (meta) + gen. "with [them]" - Expressing association.

hn uJpotassomenoV (uJpotassw) pres. pas. part. "he was obedient" - he was being subject. An imperfect paraphrastic construction probably emphasizing durative aspect and so expressing a continuing submission of Jesus to his parents until he was of age.

autoiV dat. pro. "to them" - Dative of direct object.

diethrei (diathrew) imperf. "treasured" - was keeping, maintaining. The imperfect is durative. "Jesus' mother continued to mull over his words."

ta rJhmata "these things" - the matters, words. The definite article indicating that the matters are those just described, either the words of Jesus, his actions, or both.


v] Luke summarizes Jesus' developing years under God, v52. Meanwhile, Jesus continues to grow in wisdom, as well as stature and moral integrity.

proekopten (prokoptw) imperf. "grew" - was increasing, advancing, growing. The imperfect is durative. Probably "progressed" is better. "As Jesus grew, he advanced in wisdom and in favor ....", REB.

en th/ "in" - The preposition and the dative article, missing in some manuscripts, applies to all three of the following nouns and functions adverbially, expressing reference / respect; "with respect to / with reference to."

sofia/ (a) dat. " wisdom" - wisdom, skill. Possibly "intellect", although "insight", and in particular, "theological insight", may well be intended.

hJlikia/ (a) dat. "stature" - age, height, stature. "Bodily stature" is preferable. Nicely handled by REB.

cariti (iV itoV) dat. "[and] in favor" - The meaning "blessing" doesn't work. Advancing "in favor with God and other humans" probably indicates a moral/ethical advance. So, "Jesus progressed intellectually, physically, and morally."

para + dat. "with [God and men]" - Probably expressing sphere; "in the sight of, before." Possibly extending to "in the judgment of God and men."


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