Luke 2:41-52 Mary’s Great Distress

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents[f] saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”[g] 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature[h] and in favour with God and man.

Mary’s Great Distress

Mary is anxious, she is distressed.  The Bible emphasizes this distress in the original language.  The focus of the passage is no the development of Jesus, but I think of Mary’s anxiety each time I have read this passage recently.  I understand anxiety, I have not been able to escape it without Jesus.  It is a kind of fear and it is akin to worry.  What was Mary worried about?  Any parent can empathize with what it would be like to lose a child, but what is it like to misplace the Messiah?

However, when she tries to transfer her anxiety on Jesus and blame him for it, he throws it right back on her.  He calmly but firmly tells her what he is about.  He has developed into a man, but a young man – he still knows he has to grow, but he chooses the leaders of Israel to help sharpen his thinking.  Mary has to let him grow up and as she sees her remarkable son she contemplates the significance of his actions.  She knows that he is different in some way, every mother knows that about their child, however in this case she is cataloging the traits of God made flesh.


I can’t imagine what it would have been like to watch you grow up, Jesus.  Mary must have been shocked by where you were and how you responded when she found you in the temple.  I would be shocked to see that maturity in a 12-year-old.  Yet you still submitted yourself to her.


  1. What does this account tell us of Jesus?
  2. What does this account tell us about Mary?
  3. Why do you think Jesus waits until he is 30?
  4. What should our attitude to our parents be?
  5. How does Jesus help us with our ideas for raising children?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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