Jesus among the doctors in the Temple: “Son, why have you done this?”

Father Giovanni



One question that we can ask is how to interpret more precisely, also from a psychological point of view, This stopping of Jesus among the doctors in the temple. What can be exactly happened? And why?



Author John Cavalcoli OP

John Cavalcoli OP



[…] After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the masters, He is listening to them and asking them questions;. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When they saw him they were amazed, and his mother said: «Son, why have you done this? there, Your father and I, distressed, We are looking for you» [CF. LC 2, 41-52. Full text WHO].



Albrecht Dürer, Jesus among the doctors (1506)

Albrecht Dürer, Jesus among the doctors (1506)

One of the episodes from the life of Christ more difficult to interpret, but rich in teachings, is that of his conversation with the doctors in the Temple of Jerusalem, after being suddenly taken away for three days, without advance notice, to the custody of Mary and Joseph [CF. LC 2, 41-51]. Jesus disappeared, the first thing that comes to mind to Mary and to Joseph is to look for Jesus among "the relatives and acquaintances" [v.48]: idea of ​​common sense human, but that is not up to figure out where he might be really Jesus: in Jerusalem, in the temple! And in fact, here is that this idea comes, and Jesus is found. Where in fact more Christ can live if not in the temple? In the Tabernacle of the Most Holy Eucharist? There are sure to find it. If, then disappears, there we go looking for him.

Milan - S. Ambrogio - treasure - Bergognone school

Jesus Trai doctors. Milan, Sant'Ambrogio, treasure. Bergognone school

The first question we can ask in this troublesome episode about the seemingly strange conduct and disturbing of Jesus, It is how come he did not think to warn parents that would have stopped a long time - three days - to the temple to talk with the doctors. We can not assume in Jesus voluntary misconduct or raising the head towards parents, how could any undisciplined and reckless boy. The other part, the words of the Mother, "Anguished", They know of reproach: "Son, why have you done this?» [v.48]. However, it will be better to interpret this question as - say Saint Catherine of Siena - a simple albeit "ansietata" request for clarification. The question, the rest, It is born of outrage, but precisely from anguish, feeling very natural, trying a normal mother for the extended absence of his son who died suddenly without warning. Her, knowing him as a good son, caring and obedient, not think of a reckless act of irreverence towards parents, but it is brought to the fear that has been an accident. You can not be excluded, moreover, in parents, an element of anxiety for fear that the child might have happened some misfortune.

Uffizi Gallery - Jesus' dispute with the doctors of the Temple

Uffizi Gallery – Jesus' dispute with the doctors of the Temple

The interpretative key, illuminating the sense of the mysterious episode, as it is to be expected, It is given by the response of Jesus himself in the form of counter-questions: «Because you were looking for me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father?». Even these words at first they know of reproach. But it is unthinkable that Jesus reproaches her parents. Simply refers to their memory things which in all probability had already told them and that they could remember at the time of his death and during his prolonged absence. Things of which, however, evidently had forgotten. Which things? Probably precisely the warning that could have happened then what actually happened to the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It is therefore as if Jesus had told them: "You had to find me. I would have to remind you that I must be about my Father. I am not only the son of man, but also of the Most High. Indeed, I had warned you that it would have happened a thing. You had to wait quietly for me to go back alone, on my own". Instead, with the words "your father and I have sought thee" [v.48], it is clear that Mary does not have in mind the heavenly fatherhood of the Son. Warns at this time herself as mother and wife. Clearly here for her now, "your father," is Joseph. But Jesus at this time ignore this human fatherhood and invokes another: the one that most interests him: "My Father", bones Heavenly Father. Mary and Joseph, that, finding Jesus, they were "amazed" (v.48), Now they remain banned. They do not understand.

Pintoricchio. Spello, Santa Maria Maggiore child Jesus in the temple dispute with the doctors

Pintoricchio. Spello, Santa Maria Maggiore. Child Jesus in the temple dispute with the doctors

This episode clearly shows that Mary and Joseph made a journey of faith, for which, knowing that Jesus was the Son, only gradually they learned to uncover the mystery of their son. Although Mary had had the revelation by the angel that she would be the Mother of the Most High, here it does not seem to rise to the occasion. Thus Mary is beside us in our faltering steps, wavering, weak and doubtful; Her, He takes us by the hand and guides us maternally where she has now arrived.

From the words of Mary We can understand, then, that parents do not understand the explanation given by Jesus: "But they did not understand his words" [v.50]. We are careful that this "does not understand" does not mean "we did not understand anything", how could it happen to me if someone spoke to me in Chinese or tell me nonsense, where there is nothing to understand. These words refer instead to the mystery of the divine sonship of Jesus: a truth certainly dark, because it transcends the limits of human reason; but yet, while, saving light of reason. So that "they did not understand" is not the sorry attitude, skeptical and annoyed, if not offended, Typical of parents in front of flimsy excuses given by a wayward son, who embarks on an escapade from home without notice or reasonable cause. Athe contrary - and this is explicitly stated in the behavior of Mary - Ella, as has become his custom was before the mysterious and precious facts of the Son [2,19], "She kept all these things in her heart" [v.51]. Mary is the model of the Church, that, along the story, faithfully preserves the treasure of truth and grace, who entrusted the Bridegroom.

Gaspare Landi - Jesus dispute with the doctors in the Temple. Palazzo Farnese

Gaspare Landi – Jesus dispute with the doctors in the Temple. Palazzo Farnese

As noted by St. Edith Stein, big inquisitive and teacher of the qualities of the woman, It is typically feminine virtues of things and custody of their secrets of man who loves. When she is fertilized, contains within it the germ received, until it becomes that human being, that one day will give birth. Similarly to Mary, The Church guards in the history and explains always better to men the treasures of God's Word. Here is the dogmatic progress.

In this treasure in our hearts and meditate on the Word of God, Mary is also the model of the theologian and contemplative soul, which is consolidated in its faith convictions, deepens, It draws new conclusions, formulating new proposals and at the same time remains open, as the Holy Father Francis says, the "surprises of God", which you can be at first collide with our limitations, but then, in front of our trustful openness, manifest their infinite wisdom.

Dispute of Jesus among the Doctors of the Temple, Jacopo Robusti known as Tintoretto

Dispute of Jesus among the Doctors of the Temple, Jacopo Robusti known as Tintoretto

A question that we can ask ourselves It is how to interpret more precisely, also from a psychological point of view, This stopping of Jesus among the doctors in the temple. What could have happened exactly? And why? Let's read: "They found him in the temple, sitting among the doctors, He is listening to them and asking them questions;. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers " [vv. 46-47].

As it happens in mystical phenomena High intensity, Jesus in the temple was probably kidnapped by the beauty of his Father's mysteries and forgot even her parents and who passed not only the hours, but the days. That estimates of Jesus for lawyers!! those same, although probably not the same people, that one day will pronounce his sentence. In the same way, the divine charm of this mysterious boy must have struck and deeply impressed those good, honest and wise doctors, so the mutual contact between these holy souls and love of God, He shot him, if I may say, a divine spark, that gave off a mystical fire of divine love. Thus he unleashed an overwhelming and irresistible dialectic, a spiritual circularity, for which Jesus and the doctors were going to race in mutually stimulate themselves in the heavenly elevations. Who could no longer look after the time and the surrounding reality?

Jesus among the doctors in the temple - Giovanni Battista Beinaschi

Jesus among the doctors in the temple – Giovanni Battista Beinaschi. Racconigi Castle.

Jesus showed signs of extraordinary intelligence and you can well understand. We do however find it hard to understand how he could ask questions to doctors, They, incarnate Wisdom. Perhaps even then he put them to the test, as he would in adulthood? Or maybe that just was eager to know their opinion? Or he was delighted to see in those minds elected a reflection of divine wisdom? Or maybe he intended to urge them to recognize the Messiah? One thing seems certain there: that in this sacred conversation does not show anything controversial as it will appear the clashes of the adult Jesus with the Pharisees and teachers of the law.

"Nativity of Filippino Lippi from Prato (XV sec.)

Nativity by Filippino Lippi from Prato (XV sec.)

In the language of sobriety the Lucan account, what a wonderful example are reduced to the essential spiritual dialogue: the question and the answer! Would that also in our theological and religious debates were breathed this atmosphere of profound communion and a free time in the atmosphere differentiation enriching, soothing, thrilling, pacifying and enriching the truth! L'mysterious episode, who challenged Mary and Joseph, It is culminating in everyday normality: Jesus "went forth with them, He came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them " [LC 2,51]. Like any good obedient boy in the making, "Increased in wisdom, age and grace before God and before men " [ibid.].

The deity back to hide behind humanity, after mankind has disappeared before the deity, in a continuous alternation of moments infinitely distant between them, so it seems contradictory and incompatible, a unique phenomenon in the whole of humanity, characteristic instead of the person and of the earthly life of Christ. Even in our Christian life that Christ happens suddenly and inexplicably absconding and you seem to disappear, without that we can understand or imagine where he might be and then how to look and how to achieve it, nor know when, how and where to reappear.


Varazze, 27 December 2015

Feast of the Holy Family



Dear Readers.

With the article published 5 January [see WHO] We asked for your support, in which we trust and which we unfortunately really need.

Thank you!




1 reply
  1. father ariel
    hector says:

    Rev. Fathers,
    I thank you for your spiritual gift, these two admirable, wise thoughts. I am a breath of elementary school, temple, fresh and healthy patristic theology, to be conveyed through the intercession of intense prayers, straightway, without further delay, toward those ancient palaces, wrapped in an increasingly dense haze, to disperse, to sweep it away also to allow a necessary exchange of the polluted air of those, too many, veiled rooms and clear your eyes, hearts and minds, of many people who reside there, from all those dark ones, personalistic, modern, proud ruminations. Each of us is invited to open doors and windows on their own, the eyes, heart and mind to simplicity, clarity, to the truth, in the light and grace of the Word of God, according to the teaching of the Son the Redeemer.

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