This is the only account we have in Scripture of Jesus as a child. Luke’s emphasis is on the fact that Jesus demonstrated wisdom and was aware of his unique relationship to the Father, even at an early age. Firstly, we want the children to know that they are never too young to seek God’s wisdom and his purposes! We want them to “increase in wisdom and stature” (v. 52), just as Jesus did! Secondly, we want them to understand that the wisest thing that they can do is put their faith in Jesus.
“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and with people.”
– Luke 2.52 (NET)
The story this week tells us about Jesus as a 12-year-old boy and it’s another story about him going to the temple with his family, much like you kids are at church today with your families. The only difference is that they lived far away from the temple and only went to the temple on very special occasions a few times a year. Jesus and his family lived in a town called Nazareth and the temple was in the city of Jerusalem.
The Jewish custom required them to go to Jerusalem for Passover, which was a kind of festival, or celebration. Joseph and Mary obediently followed that custom and they went every year! When they got to Jerusalem they went to the temple and they celebrated Passover with a feast. What were they celebrating? They were celebrating how faithful and loving God is, and that he set the Israelites free from Egypt.
(For the 6-8s and 9-11s you can briefly go into the meaning of Passover but don’t over complicate it for the 4-5s).
I’m sure that Jesus would have been really excited to go with his parents to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival and celebrate God’s faithfulness and his love! Do you guys want to know what happened when it was time to go back home?
First, let me ask you… How many of you went to celebrate Christmas in another town or city, like at your grandparent’s house, or an aunt and uncle’s house? (Let the children show hands). And, how did you get there? You probably drove in a car, or flew in an airplane. Now, they didn’t have cars in those days, so some of them rode on donkeys but most of them had to walk, and it would have taken them about five days to walk from Nazareth to Jerusalem! They all walked together with friends and family, and aunties and uncles and cousins.
So, when they started walking home it was a big group. Mary and Joseph didn’t know where Jesus was but they weren’t worried because they thought that he must be with family somewhere amongst all the people who were walking home to Nazareth. After they were walked for a day they did start to worry because Jesus didn’t come check in and they couldn’t find him amongst all their friends and relatives. That would make them worried, wouldn’t it?
They immediately turned around and started walking back to Jerusalem to go look for him. Now, if you were looking for a twelve-year-old boy, where would you look? Well, imagine that you were looking for a boy who loved baseball. Where would you look? Or, imagine you were looking for a boy who loved fishing. Where would you look? Or, imagine you were looking for a boy who loved books. Where would you look?
So, Joseph and Mary looked for Jesus and do you know where they found him the next day? They found him in the temple! Why do you think he was in the temple? He was in the temple because he loved God and he knew that God was his Father. When they got there he was sitting among the rabbis, which were very important teachers of the Bible. The rabbis were astonished at how clever Jesus was and the questions that he was asking.
Well, when they found him Mary said to him: “Jesus, how could you do this to us? Your father and I have been going crazy looking for you!” She must have been so worried! But do you know what Jesus said? He said: “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I need to be here, in my Father’s house?” Even though Jesus was only twelve years old he knew his Father and he was aware that he was the Son of God and that he needed to be doing the work of God.
So, what can we learn from this story? Well, the story tells us that, even though he was just a boy, Jesus was wise and he loved his Father in Heaven. Do you think that God wants you to be wise? Yes, wisdom is very important! What does it mean to be wise? It doesn’t just mean knowing the right things, it means doing the right things! Jesus went home with Joseph and Mary and that he was obedient to his parents, which means that he listened to them and followed their rules and directions.
That’s pretty amazing! Do you think that any of you can follow all of the rules all of the time and never make a mistake? Well, Jesus did that because his heart was clean and right before God. When Jesus grew up he made a way for all of us to know God and for all of us to be children of God, simply by trusting him. So, what is the wisest thing that you can do? The wisest thing that we can do is grow with Jesus. You guys are still young, but I want you to know that because of Jesus you can know God, because he is your Father in heaven and he loves each one of you!
Prayer: Thank God for sending his Son Jesus who lived the perfect life and teaches us to be truly wise. Pray for the children to grow in their relationship with God and that they would become more like Jesus.
How did Jesus get separated from his parents in this story?
How long did it take for Mary and Joseph to realize Jesus was missing?
Where did they find Jesus?
What did Jesus say to his parents when they found him?
What can we learn from Jesus in this story?
Game Idea 1: Who is Missing?
Supplies: Quilt or blanket
What to do: Have all the kids sit in the middle of the room. Choose one child to be it. This child either leaves the room with a volunteer and waits outside the door or turns their back and closes their eyes. While they are out of the room or with eyes closed, have the children on the floor switch places and cover one student with the blanket. Have the child who is “it” return to the room or open their eyes and guess who is missing from the group. If they guess correctly, that child now becomes it. If they are wrong, they can keep guessing or give them clues, then choose another child to be it.
Jesus went missing, but was safely found in the house of His Father!
Game Idea 2: Who am I?
Supplies: Pieces of paper with Bible characters from recent stories and or animals written on them, magic tape.
What to do: This can be played all at once, or in teams.
All at once: tape a piece of paper on the backs of each child without letting them see what is written on it. Instruct the children to walk around the room and ask one person a “yes or no” question to try to guess who they are. For example, a child can ask another child “am I a person?” and that child will answer “yes” or “no.” They then must move onto another person. When they think they know who they are, they can tell you or another leader. If they are right they can take the paper off and keep playing to answer others questions. If they are wrong they keep playing. Set a time limit of several minutes. Switch papers and play again!
Teams: Split into two teams. Have one child from each team come to the front and tape a paper on their backs. Have them take turns asking their yes or no questions to each other until one of them guesses who they are. Keep points for which team guesses the most.
Jesus came to the Temple to ask questions and learn more about his Father. It is great to ask questions!
Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.
Image Credit: Giotto, The Arena Chapel Frescoes: The Boy Jesus in the Temple (1305-1306).