The first story in the gospels where Jesus is seen taking action is his decision to remain in the temple to discuss theological issues with the rabbis while his family left for home (Luke 2:41-52). The family had gone to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Now they were returning and late in the day his parents noted that Jesus was missing. They returned to Jerusalem to look for him. Three days later they found him in the temple in serious discussion with the religious leaders. Jesus had decided that being in “(his) Father’s house” asking and answering questions of the rabbis was more important than returning with the family. But now he went with his parents, returned to Nazareth, and “continued to live under their authority” (vs. 51). He “grew in wisdom and stature, gaining the approval of God and neighbors” (vs. 52).
You might ask at this point, “What is it that we could possibly learn about imitating Christ from this early incident?” After all, even as a child he was the incarnate Son of God, and we are miserable sinners at best. I think there are at least a couple of lessons in the story for us today. First, by remaining behind he is saying that the spiritual concerns of life are more important than all its secondary issues. I’m not suggesting that we should view Jesus as a super spiritual young man with an extraordinary longing to be a religious leader. There is nothing in the evidence that would suggest that. He was simply a young adult with a deep desire to know more about those issues that were central to life. To be like Jesus in this sense is to make the most of every occasion that offers the chance to learn something of spiritual importance.
A second observation is that this experience that, for the moment , placed him at the center of attention did not go to his head. It did not change his responsibility to “live under their [his parents] authority” (vs. 51). The normal reaction of youth would be to make the most of that privilege at the expense of responsibility. It could be argued that a boy whose insight into matters spiritual was that high should be free from normal childhood obligations. The mature Christian recognizes that being a child of God does not relieve us from the normal restrictions of life. It is true that we are citizens of another country (the Jerusalem above) but for the time being we live under the authority of the land we used to call home.