After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.
Our Substitute in Worship
As a 12-year-old, Jesus travels to Jerusalem with his parents, and when the festival is over, his parents accidentally head home without him. It’s unusual—but at the same time, it’s not hard to picture how that could happen. Mom and Dad are preoccupied with getting everything packed up and getting on the road on schedule. Perhaps, with Jesus being the oldest, Mary and Joseph had a few younger children demanding their immediate attention. Have you ever been on a road trip with your family? If you have, it’s a little easier to see how a semi-self-sufficient 12-year-old might not be his parents’ greatest concern at that moment.
We make a big deal about Jesus getting left there, but maybe we should be making a big deal about him even being there in the first place. He was there in Jerusalem to worship God! At any time was he tempted to think, “Wait a second, I am God!” He was there in Jerusalem to offer the required Passover sacrifices. At any time, was he tempted to think, “I’m the One all these sacrifices are pointing to? Shouldn’t I be on the other side of the altar? The object of the worship, rather than the one doing the worshiping?” Fact is, he is God. But he willingly chose to follow God’s laws. He did deserve to be the object of worship, but he willingly took his place alongside the worshipers.
So we see Jesus, even at 12 years old, already perfectly carrying out his Father’s will as our substitute. He perfectly worships at the temple for our moments of imperfect worship, distracted worship, uninterested worship. All so that on one dark Friday afternoon, he could step forward as our perfect substitute once again. Yes, all our accumulated punishment was placed on our substitute. Today, and every day, consider the magnificent and undeserved blessing of having a Savior so willing to be your substitute.
My sins are many, O Lord, but your mercies are even greater in number. May your perfection in my place always bring me true comfort and joy. Amen.