“And his mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.‘ And he said to them, ‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?‘ And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.” (Luke 2:48–50)

What Jesus did may seem to be quite irresponsible for it shows an apparent disrespect for his parents and their feelings. But we know that is an incorrect assumption for it would be entirely inconsistent with His nature. He never did anything wrong. The fact that Mary and Joseph did not immediately know He was missing gives us some insight into Jesus’ character. We can assume that they knew Him to be a very responsible boy who could be trusted to always do the right thing, who had good judgment, common sense and who could take care of himself. Otherwise his parents would never have waited a whole day to check on him.

Jesus had a good reason for staying behind without telling his folks where He was, for causing them some emotional pain and worry. He did not do this out of boyish foolishness or disrespect. Rather than showing disrespect to Mary and Joseph, Jesus showed them and us as well that He knew who His real Father is. Jesus knew He was The Son of God. He knew He had a unique relationship with the Father. He also he knew that he had a mission, a calling to carry out. This mission meant obedience of the Father in all things. Such obedience would require of him devotion and dedication so great that it would take precedence over the closest family ties.

There is a lesson for us here about the cost of discipleship. If we say we are disciples of Jesus, if we say we are followers of Christ then God has a claim on our life. God’s claim on us conflicts with human desires not only our own but those of others, especially our families. Such desires include social acceptance, loyalty to family, economic prosperity, and other worthy ideals. The hardest decisions we have to make call for us to choose between options which both present worthy claims. However, if we are honest, most choices we face concern superficial and trivial things that center on our own fleshly desires. Yet we often pursue them with more zeal and energy than the things of God.

The example of Jesus at the temple teaches us that faith in God should not be a peripheral matter. It should affect every area of our lives in a profound and fundamental way. The Christian faith is not just a part of our life: it is our life. It is more than just a matter of fulfilling prescribed religious obligations. Jesus chose His calling and ministry over His earthly family. He subordinated all other priorities, though they were good, worthy and important, to God’s call and purpose on Him. We are called to do our Father’s work. This will mean we have to give up our agenda, our priorities. We are called to humble ourselves, to surrender our plans and goals to the Father to do His will and to accomplish the goals of the kingdom of God.