“Why were you searching for me?” Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”
This verse, found in the second chapter of Luke’s gospel, contains the very first recorded words of Jesus, spoken when he was just twelve years old.
Jesus had journeyed to Jerusalem with his parents and other relatives in order to celebrate the Passover. But when his parents left to return home, Jesus stayed behind without their knowing. By the time they realized that he was gone, they had already been travelling for a day. It took them still another two days of frantic searching before they finally found him in the temple, sitting with the rabbis, asking questions and answering questions. The Bible tells us that when they saw him sitting there, his parents were “astonished.”
We can easily imagine Mary’s emotional state as she asks, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” In the King James version she says, “Thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing,” which actually gives a little clearer picture of the emotional anguish that she had been experiencing. The Greek word, “odynōmenoi,” translated here as “sorrowing” is derived from a word that means “to suffer acute pain, physical or mental; to be tormented.” Provided with such descriptive terms in the text, we can almost picture the expression on Mary’s face when she finally sees him.
But the scriptures do not give us any such clues as to what Jesus’ demeanor might have been like. He responded to her anguished question with his own questions, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But there is nothing else in the text to indicate whether he was chiding or defensive, just the simplicity of the words themselves. Still, even these simple words can provide us with some early insights into his nature and character.
“Why were you searching for me?” – This practice of answering a question with another question is something that we see over and over again when studying the life and teachings of Jesus. It is a characteristic of his divine nature. The Bible is filled with examples of God asking questions, even though he already knows the answers. In fact, the very first recorded dialogue between God and man in Genesis 3:9 begins with a divine question, “Where are you?”
“Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Or, as the King James puts it, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” – Surprisingly, in the original Greek there is no actual word that can be translated as either “house” or “business.” The literal translation is more like: “In the _____ of my Father it is necessary for me to be.” (See www.teknia.com)
We could fill in that empty space with “business” or “things” or even “anything and everything” because the entire focus of Jesus’ life and ministry was to do the will of his Father. Period. If we truly desire to know Jesus better, we must grasp hold of this concept first.