When Jesus was twelve years old, he accompanied his parents to Jerusalem for the annual Passover Festival, which they attended each year. After the celebration was over they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him the first day, for they assumed he was with friends among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started to look for him among their relatives and friends; and when they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there.
Three days later they finally discovered him. He was in the Temple, sitting among the teachers of Law, discussing deep questions with them and amazing everyone with his understanding and answers.
His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son!” his mother said to him. “Why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”
“But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you realize that I would be here at the Temple, in my Father’s House?” But they didn’t understand what he meant.
According to God’s Law, every male was required to go to Jerusalem three times a year for the great festivals (Deuteronomy 16:16). In the spring the Passover was celebrated, followed immediately by the week long Festival of Unleavened Bread. Passover commemorated the night of the Jews’ escape from Egypt when God had killed the Egyptian firstborn but had passed over Israelite homes (see Exodus 12:21-36). Passover was the most important of the three annual festivals.
Mary had to let go of her child and let him become a man. Fearful that she hadn’t been careful enough with this God-given child, she searched frantically for him. But she was looking for a boy, not the young man who was in the Temple astounding the religious leaders with his questions. It is difficult to let go of people or projects that we have nurtured. It is both sweet and painful to see our children as adults, our students as teachers, our subordinates as managers, and our inspirations as institutions. But when the time comes to step back and let go, we must do so in spite of the hurt. Then our protégés can exercise their wings, take flight, and soar to the heights God intended for them.