43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
1901 ASV Translation:
43 and when they had fulfilled the days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and his parents knew it not;
I. Luke's Words Are a Clear Record of Jesus Putting His Parents in a Significant Bind.
A. There can be little doubt that Luke intended to show how Jesus' commitment to His Father created significant problems for certain people in this world.
1. He ended this record with the comment that Jesus was "subject to" Joseph and Mary as He lived in Nazareth (2:51). This comment assumes that Joseph and Mary are not the only ones who "understand not" (2:50), for there are many parents who would feel like their "child" had unnecessarily created problems for them if he/she had done the same thing Jesus did.
2. The intention reveals that all men need to clearly understand that it is not human attachments which are to drive their decisions, nor is what we are to do a matter of the "convenience" of others (Luke 12:51-53 and 14:26). The misguided, and idolatrous, "loyalty to family" over loyalty to God was present in the Garden of Eden and continues to be a major stumbling block even now. Worshiping and serving the creature in the place of the Creator is a profound fault (Romans 1:25) and will be addressed in the life of every disciple of Jesus at some point. The jealousy of God is not an insignificant issue because it is a safeguard for His beloved ones. Those who make better progress than did Joseph and Mary, who did not understand, are those who enter most fully into the Life of God. Every idol that is allowed to stand between a disciple and His God is a detriment to that disciple's experience of God's life.
3. It is habitual for people to "go up to Jerusalem" to "offer an innocent Lamb upon the altar of sacrifice" and completely miss the point of the sacrifice.
a. The point of sacrifice is that it is the essential nature of Life.
b. People who are "put out" when they are called upon to be the lamb, rather than to offer that lamb, are people who do not understand the essential nature of Life.
c. Jesus did not come to offer Himself for others who would try to take advantage of His labor and loss without ever understanding that He is the demonstration of the nature of His Father's kingdom. Rather, He came to offer Himself so that others might become sufficiently free from their own bondage to selfishness to be able to voluntarily offer themselves as sacrifices back to Him Who is Life.
d. The problem with livingsuperficially is that "understanding" also remains superficial, and, thus, not "understanding" at all. Those who believe that God is the only One Who is to "sacrifice Himself" are so far out of the understanding loop as to be completely in the misunderstanding loop. Jesus came to do for man what he could not do for himself, but He did not come to harden man in his selfishness.
II. The "Fulfilling of the Days" Included the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
A. The sacrifice of the Passover Lamb led immediately into the observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:18).
B. The point of that feast was, according to Paul, to make the people of God sensitive to the need to put away malice and wickedness and fully embrace sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:8).
1. It should go without saying that such a sensitivity would address the focus that has turned inward and generated an innate selfishness.
2. But, as it turns out, neither Joseph, nor Mary "understood" Jesus' reasoning when they departed and He did not.
III. The "Child" Jesus Remained in Jerusalem.
A. It was the "norm" for the pilgrims of the feast to leave after the feast was over.
B. It was, apparently, the "norm" for Joseph and Mary to simply assume that Jesus was as occupied by the "norm" as they were.
C. There can be no doubt that Jesus did what He did deliberately: He did not tell anyone that He wasn't leaving yet.
1. The word Luke used for "tarried behind" is a word that is never used elsewhere in the New Testament in a context that does not have an element of the highly undesirable within it.
a. The significance of this observation is that Luke is injecting a notion of something undesirable into this text by using the "abnormal" word for "remain".
1) The standard word for "remain" is a root verb.
2) The word Luke used is a combination of this root verb and a prefix that adds the notion of some kind of "burden". In this there is a deliberate likeness to the verb in 2:51 that tells us Jesus "was subjected" to his earthly parents.
a) In this paragraph Jesus clearly declared that His "subjection" was to His Father.
b) In 2:51 we are told, by means of a passive voice of the verb "to subject", that His Father "subjected" Him to Joseph and Mary during his early adult life.
3) The point is that Luke is hinting at some clearly undesirable things that are going on -- at least some of which had to do with Mary and Joseph.
b. The larger context of Luke's record (which was created by him after the murder of Jesus, His resurrection and the proclamation of the Gospel to the nations) is an indisputable context of corruption in Israel and a wickedness that is coming to a head in its antagonism toward Yahweh. This is the typical backdrop of the word he used to describe Jesus' actions.
1) It seems to be endemic to human thinking to create a rather "benign" way of looking at Jesus and thinking of His setting as benign also.
2) We have already been told by Luke that a host of angelic warriors was on hand at His birth: a rather clear indication that all is not well in this world.
2. This was a deliberate rejection of the "norm" thinking.
3. It was also a deliberate rejection of His parents' "assumptions" living. [When has it ever been 'acceptable' to put people into an "assumption" box...especially when that Person is God...and not pray or talk?] When people start "assuming" that God is going to go along with their "norm" living to the point that they do not even consider talking it over with Him, they will, at some point, find themselves seriously frustrated with Him.
a. How easy it would have been for Joseph, or Mary, to have said to Jesus as the feast entered its last hours, "Well, Son, are you ready to head back to Nazareth?"