This verse was in one of the readings in church yesterday, and it struck me for the first time to wonder exactly where Mary and Joseph were looking for those three days.
I’ve been to Jerusalem; it’s not that big. I imagine a parent seeking a lost child would try to think where he might go, try to remember the things he most enjoyed doing, the places he most enjoyed seeing, the people he most enjoyed visiting… Apparently there were three days’ worth of things Jesus had enjoyed in this little, bustling town.
That’s consistent with what we read about him in later life; this Jesus who ‘came eating and drinking’, who was more likely to be at a dinner party with ‘sinners’ than sitting in the temple courts debating with the scholars.
It also seems to suggest Mary and Joseph’s place in the social strata of Jerusalem – none of the friends whose doors they frantically knocked asking if they’d seen Jesus said ‘my husband said he was in the Temple courts yesterday’. Jesus must have gone back to someone’s home in the evenings and slept somewhere, but no one Mary and Joseph knew had seen him or even, it appears, heard tell of this young prodigy who was causing such a stir.
But how did it take them so long to even think to look in the temple for this child who they knew was the promised Messiah? Had it become commonplace to them to have Emmanuel with them? Had they forgotten who he was? Had he simply enjoyed every part of the Passover feast so much that they couldn’t narrow it down to his favourite places?