<< Luke 2: The Passover at Twelve Years Old >>
IT was spring, when the fields waved with grain and the hills were bright with flowers. All the people who could were making ready to go to Jerusalem to the Passover. Many thousand Jews from Egypt and Africa, Italy, Greece, Asia Minor, and Palestine were on their way to the Holy City. A company went each year from Nazareth, Mary and Joseph with them, and this time, being twelve years old, Jesus went also. It was a journey of perhaps four days down the rough hill-side, across the broad plain and over the hills beyond. They were eager for the first view of the city. As it came in sight over the hill-tops we can imagine that a shout of joy went up from the company, and perhaps they sang, "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, 0 Jerusalem," and the rest of that beautiful Psalm. The city was full of people. The khans and the houses were filled with guests. Tents were pitched in the gardens and on the roofs, and outside the walls in the valleys and on the hill-sides.
It was the Passover which had brought them all together, the great feast in memory of the deliverance of the people from Egypt long ago. The feast lasted seven days, but one day was the chief day, when the Passover lamb was killed and eaten. The day before, all raised bread and all yeast had been put out of the houses, and all dishes and furniture had been cleaned. On the chief day, in the afternoon, thousands crowded into the temple courts, which were gaily trimmed in honor of the feast, and stood in long rows before the temple, each with a lamb. At the blowing of the trumpets the lambs were killed. Long lines of priests in white robes passed the blood up to the altar in gold and silver bowls. The fat was burned by the priests on the altar, and the lambs were taken away to be carefully roasted for the feast. In the evening the people gathered in companies of ten to twenty, reclining about the low table. On the table were the roast lamb, thin cakes of bread, bitter herbs, a dish of preserved fruits, and wine. During the feast Psalms of rejoicing were sung. At a certain time one of those present, usually the youngest boy, asked the meaning of the feast, and one of the old men told the story of the escape from Egypt and the first Passover. Before midnight the feast was ended.
Other ceremonies occupied several following days, but the people need not stay to them, and many of them began to scatter to their homes. There was great confusion as one company after another made ready to start, in the cool of the moonlight evenings, camels and donkeys were being saddled and loaded, the narrow streets were crowded with people running back and forth shouting to one another and to their animals, and as fast as they were ready hurrying on towards the gates of the city. Among the rest the Nazareth friends started, Mary and Joseph with them. They would not go far the first night, but would stop outside the city to see that all were there, that nothing had been left behind, and to arrange themselves for the journey. Why do we see Mary and Joseph turning back again to Jerusalem, sorrowfully searching in the streets and the temple courts?
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. 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 all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.---Luke II 41-52.
Author: William L. Worcester 1904