Passover was one of three pilgrimage festivals that required attendance at the temple in Jerusalem. However, women were absolved from this requirement.
In Luke 1 we read about Jesus becoming lost in Jerusalem. At least “lost” in the sense that Mary and Joseph had no idea where he was and sought Him for several days “sorrowing.” What we focus on in the story is that His parents found Him teaching and asking questions of the elders in the temple. They realized quickly that this was no “very smart child.” His questions and answers astounded them. Jesus was vastly more intelligent than they, even though their lives had been dedicated to studying the scriptures and debating their meaning.
Jesus had essentially “come of age” according to Jewish law. At age 13 Jewish boys become Bar Mitzvah; they are sons of the covenant. They learn how to read scripture publicly in the synagogue and to expound on them. Had Jesus been younger He might not have been indulged by the elders.
We see in this story that Jesus accompanied His parents to Jerusalem for the Passover and that they were part of a “company,” which was probably made up of extended family and close friends. Passover was one of three pilgrimage festivals that required attendance at the temple in Jerusalem. However, women were absolved from this requirement. They were not expected to make the trip because of the demands of managing a home and mothering children. Children weren’t expected to make pilgrimage either.
But here we have Mary, and perhaps other women close to her, making the trek to the Holy City. while she may always have taken her children with her, this time was special because Jesus had reached maturity in the faith. This story is a glimpse into the quality of Mary’s faith.
In this story, we see that Jesus somehow didn’t get the message to His parents that He would be busy in the temple. Passover was an eight-day festival, but His tardiness kept the company from beginning their journey home when they expected. When Mary and Joseph found Jesus, according to the Bible, they pled with Him and told them how distraught they were. Jesus sounds almost dismissive in His reply (though we are sure He was loving), “Didn’t you know I have to be about my Father’s business?”
Jesus was sinless. How often have we judged others for a missed appointment or bungled communication? It’s only human that we sometimes space on an event, leave a few minutes too late, or don’t account for heavy traffic. It’s a relief to hear from this story that to err is human, but it’s not a sin.