24. St. Peter and Paul Church, East Harling, East window, Boy Jesus
in the Temple, 1480.
When the Passover caravan leaves Jerusalem following the culmination
of the feast, Jesus is not among them. Much to the surprise of his
parents, Jesus has stayed in the temple, surrounded by teachers who answer
his questions, amazed at the way he completely understands them.
After three days of worrying and frantically searching for their son, Joseph
and Mary find him in the temple with the elders. When Mary vocalizes
the agony she and Joseph have endured while searching for their son, Jesus
replies, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must
be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)
Although Jesus obeys his parents and returns
to Nazareth with them, he has acquired a new understanding of parental
terminology. Retaining the bond between mother and child cemented
in the scenes leading up to the discovery in the temple, Jesus gazes not
on the elders, but upon his mother, pleading her agony from below.
Joseph is not present in this scene. His role as father has clearly
been superseded as Jesus addresses his divine sonship for the first time.
Knowledge gained in the temple has elevated his sense of parental obedience
to his heavenly father, taking precedence over Joseph. The relationship
between mother and child, on the other hand, remains unaltered. The
prevailing object of the child’s gaze is his mother.