Mary and Joseph found the 12-year-old truant Jesus in the Temple complex, learning and debating in one of its schools for young men. Jesus saw the Temple as the home of his Father: even as a boy he was developing a new way of seeing God.
Jerusalem at Passover
Passover was the greatest of the three festivals which all Jewish men had to keep in Jerusalem. Whole families and village groups travelled together to Jerusalem, swamping the capital with pilgrims – men, women and children. The city’s normal population was about 25,000. At Passover there were as many as 100,000.
People travelled in large groups for security. Women and children formed one group, men another. There was a certain amount of to-ing and fro-ing between the two groups, but people like Joseph and Mary could go a whole travelling day without seeing each other.
This particular year they brought Jesus with them for a reason: he had turned twelve, and was therefore counted as a man, no longer a child.
They say that the concept of childhood is a modern invention, but if you look at Jewish customs in biblical Israel you’ll see that there was a definite demarcation between child and adult. A child was a child until the age of twelve. Then he was an adult.
This is why the Finding of Jesus in the Temple marks a pivotal moment in Jesus’ life. He had been a boy; now he was a man.
With adult status, Jesus took his rightful place among the adults in the Temple. He was no longer confined to the Women’s Court (see the large open courtyard in the top left of the picture above) when he visited the Temple in Jerusalem with his family.
Now twelve years old, he moved naturally to the space reserved for men – the Court of the Israelites. He assumed the status of an adult man, with the particular responsibilities assumed by men. With these responsibilities went privileges, the first being his right to converse with the high-status scholars who dominated the Temple colleges for promising young men.
This was his first Passover in Jerusalem, and it was a happy time for all.
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