Did You Not Know that I Must Be in My Father’s House?

“Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” These are the first recorded words of Jesus in the Gospels. This moment in Jesus’ life is recorded only in Luke’s Gospel and it marks the end of the “infancy narratives” concerning Jesus. It is a remarkable scene too, given the fact that Jesus is twelve years old and has remained behind after his family’s first visit to the “big city” during the great Jewish feast of the Passover.

There is so much here to be considered. First, we realize that at the age of twelve a Jewish boy was considered old enough to become a “child of the Law.” We can imagine easily that Mary and Joseph were bringing Jesus up in a pious and prayerful house, that they “home schooled” him in the prayers and the scriptures, and that they would have taken him to the synagogue in Nazareth every sabbath. Talk of God would have been common in their house. He would have heard the prayers and psalms whispered or sung softly by his mother from the time he was at her breast. We can imagine with ease too, that he was a curious little boy, asking his mother questions about God and his love. His questions to his father, Joseph, asked while he watched, or helped him work in his carpentry shop, might have been around God’s faithfulness and his great and mighty works. But now he is twelve and in the great Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, experiencing the feast of Passover in a way he had never experienced before.

Jesus was no ordinary child. Mary and Joseph knew this, of course, but he was their child and their love for him would be recognizable to any of us who have had children and watched them grow up with a mix of awe and wonder, worry and frustration. We can imagine what kinds of thoughts and emotions went through the minds of Mary and Joseph when they realized he was not with them, or any of their friends and relatives from Nazareth in the caravan on the way home after the great festival’s completion. Worry and fears to the point of desperation come to mind. Then, when they find him in the Temple dialoguing with the teachers, they are surprised by his seemingly impertinent response, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” From his perspective, he may have wondered at the the fact that they had not looked for him in the Temple first. Did they not know and teach him that God comes first, even before them? They, of course, did not understand, but Mary took it all to heart. He went home with them and was obedient and “grew in wisdom, age, and favor before God and man.” (verse 52)

This moment in the life of Jesus is striking for another reason as well. These first words of Jesus here at the beginning of his life in Luke’s gospel, “Did you not know I must be in my Father’ house,” harmonize powerfully with his last words on the cross, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Jesus, even at that early age, felt the deep and abiding love of his Father in heaven, and was deeply moved by his growing love for the Father. Even at that early age Jesus gives us a model of how we should see the Father, how he should occupy the first and foremost position of importance in our own minds and hearts. After all, it is this love of God, whom we come to know intimately in and through Jesus, that make our love for one another both possible and meaningful. This is the paradoxical reality of our faith. It is in loving God that we become true lovers ourselves.

Let us pray: Jesus, fill my heart with love for the Father, a love so real and so profound that I will joyfully say to him, “Thy will be done.” Let thy will be done by me in some small way here on earth in my daily life, as it is done perfectly in heaven by your angels and saints. Instill in me a love so great that I will willingly share it freely and compassionately with others who long for such a love in their lives. I desire with all of my heart, all of my mind, and all of my strength, to one day dwell in Your house with You, forever. In your name, Jesus, I pray. Amen!

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