Luke 2:21-52

Daybreak for Students

Luke 2:21-52

Luke 2
And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions . . . And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? — Luke 2:45-46,49

When we hear on the news that a child is missing, most of us identify with the anxiety the parents must be experiencing. Several years ago, two boys from our church, ages four and five at the time, wandered away while their parents were packing up after a vacation in a remote wooded area. When they realized the boys were missing, the parents called the church office for prayer and notified the local sheriff. In a few hours, search crews were on the scene. Rescue workers on horses and all-terrain vehicles began combing the area, but as evening came, the boys still had not been located. Prayer was made around the world as the word spread. By morning, news organizations had converged at the spot and updates were aired on national television networks. Around noon, the glad word came: the boys had been found on a side road about three miles away. They were muddy, thirsty, and tired . . . but safe!

Our text relates that as Mary and Joseph returned from the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem, they realized that twelve-year-old Jesus was not with them. Although the era and circumstances were different than that of the lost boys described above, no doubt the emotions experienced by the parents were very similar. It is easy to imagine the anxiety they must have felt. After seeking among those traveling with them but failing to find Jesus, Mary and Joseph retraced their steps to Jerusalem, and there they found Him.

Mary revealed her concern (and perhaps just a trace of motherly exasperation) when she asked, “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.” Notice the sense of necessity in Jesus’ reply: “How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” His words indicated not only a consciousness of His relationship to His Heavenly Father and His mission on earth, but also an assumption that Mary would grasp the divine compulsion underlying the word must.

What a lesson is contained for us in that word! That same awareness of relationship to our Heavenly Father and our duty to serve Him should be in our hearts. Do we long to hear and learn the things of God? Is there a purpose to always be about our Father’s business? As it was with the child Jesus, so it should be with His followers. A sense of divine necessity should impact our lives also. Our whole inclination and purpose should be submitted to the Father’s authority.

This event is the only glimpse we have of Jesus’ childhood; the chapter concludes by simply relating that Jesus returned with His parents to Nazareth, was subject to them, and “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Normal family routine was resumed. The necessity of “must” was followed by Jesus’ submission to parental authority and acceptance of the lowly duties which were the lot of a carpenter’s son.

For us, even our most common activities can be “the Father’s business” when done as unto Him. When we keep a submissive spirit and carry a deep sense of mission into all tasks of life, we will find — as Jesus did — the joy that comes in doing the will of our Father.


Today’s text covers two visits by Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem: when He was forty days old for presentation to the Lord (verses 21-40), and when He was twelve years old for the annual Feast of the Passover (verses 41-52).

Jesus was raised according to Jewish custom. His circumcision (which took place on the eighth day after birth), and the purification of Mary (which lasted for forty days after the birth of a male child), were rites prescribed by Mosaic Law. Both were reminders to the participants of the taint of sin and uncleanness. Though Jesus was sinless, throughout His life He participated in the religious observances required under the Law, thus fully identifying Himself with sinful mankind.

The purpose of Joseph and Mary’s visit to the Temple when Jesus was eight days old was His presentation to God, symbolic of the redemption of the firstborn (see Exodus 13:2,11-16 and Numbers 18:15-16). This ceremony included the practice of “redeeming” or buying back the child from God through an offering. The humble lifestyle of Jesus’ earthly parents is evidenced by their sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” (verse 24). The typical requirement was a lamb, but a concession for the poor was made by allowing the substitution of turtledoves or pigeons.

The presence of the devout man Simeon in the Temple when Mary and Joseph arrived with Jesus was orchestrated by the Holy Spirit (see verse 27), who had previously revealed to this godly man that he would not pass from earth without seeing the Messiah. As Simeon held the Promised One in his arms, he prophetically stated that some people would find refuge in Him, while others would reject Him and “fall” because of their attitude. He also foretold the sorrow that would pierce Mary’s heart thirty-three years later, when she would watch her Son being crucified (verses 34-35).

Most commentators concur that the prophetess Anna had been a widow for eighty-four years, so she may have been more than one hundred years old when she saw the infant Jesus. Her regular attendance in the Temple, along with her continual fastings and prayers, are memorialized in verse 37. That she was in close contact with God is evidenced by the fact that she instantly identified the divine nature of the Child (whom Simeon may still have been holding) and gave thanks.

Jesus’ journey to the Temple at age twelve (verses 41-52) is the only Scriptural record of any event in His childhood. The fact that the account describes what the parents thought and felt suggests that it was from Mary that the author Luke received such intimate details.

According to Talmudic tradition, even young boys were required to attend religious festivals, and Mary and Joseph were devout people. Mary attended every year (verse 41) even though as a woman she was not required by the Law to do so. So Jesus may have traveled to Jerusalem for religious observances at other times during His childhood. If that is the case, likely this particular journey to Jerusalem was described because of the incident which took place in the Temple.

In Bible times, people often traveled together in large groups as a means of protection from robbers. Typically, women and children journeyed at the front of the caravan, and the older boys and men came behind. A twelve-year-old could have been part of either group, so as the return from the visit to the Temple began, most likely Mary thought he was with his father, while Joseph assumed he was at the front with his mother and the younger children.

The phrase “after three days” (verse 46) does not mean that Mary and Joseph spent three days searching in Jerusalem for Jesus. After the Passover week, the first day was spent traveling toward home. On the second day the couple retraced their steps, likely arriving in Jerusalem at a late hour. On the third day, they probably went to the Temple first, since that was the last place they knew He had been.

Mary’s comment to Jesus in verse 48 reveals that He was typically obedient and considerate toward His earthly parents. The fact that they “understood not the saying which he spake unto them” (verse 50) seems to indicate that His childhood had not been characterized by supernatural events revealing His divine nature. While Mary and Joseph knew Jesus was the Son of God, they apparently did not grasp what that meant or how His divinity would be manifested. Perhaps their limited perspective was necessary in order to ensure that Jesus would have a normal upbringing, rather than one in which His parents worshipped Him.


(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

II.    The advent of the Son of Man
   C.    The advent of the Son of Man
       2.    The circumcision of the Son of Man (2:21)
           3.    The presentation of the Son of Man (2:22-38)
               a.    The presentation in the Temple (2:22-24)
               b.    The recognition in the Temple (2:25-38)
                   (1)    By Simeon (2:25-35)
                       (a)    His character (2:25-26)
                       (b)    His reception of Jesus (2:27-28)
                       (c)    His song (2:29-33)
                       (d)    His message to Mary (2:34-35)
                   (2)    By Anna (2:36-38)
           4.    The childhood of the Son of Man (2:39-52)
               a.    Childhood at Nazareth (2:39-40)
               b.    Passover at Jerusalem (2:41-50)
               c.    Maturity at Nazareth (2:51-52)


  1. To whom did Simeon say that the Child he held in his arms would be a light?

  2. What do you think is meant by the statement that the child Jesus “waxed strong in spirit”?

  3. What are some ways we can demonstrate a commitment to be about our “Father’s business”?


From boyhood, a sense of divine compulsion characterized Jesus’ life on this earth. As His followers, it should be our joy and consuming desire to obey God’s purpose for our lives.