The Child Jesus in the Temple
(Luke 2:40-52)

Summary

  1. The story of Jesus remaining behind in Jerusalem while his parents headed back home after the Passover is acted out by the children, in several stages, with the help of adults who guide them through their parts and lead a discussion of the story between each stage.
  2. The children act out the story again, without interruption.

[Alternatively you could reverse the order, so that the story is acted out first without interruption and then again with breaks for teaching. This is merely a matter of preference/teaching style: which feels most natural to you?]

People

Props

Preparation

Teaching Notes

These teaching notes are intended to be used in between the scenes in the drama.

  1. Jesus lived with his family in Nazareth - about 80 miles from Jerusalem - or about 3 days' travel.
    They made this journey once a year, for the Passover festival in March or April.
    The festival lasted for eight days. They would have travelled in a large group of friends and relatives.
    There are four gospels. Luke alone tells us this much about Jesus' childhood. It reminds us that he knows what it is like to be a child, to grow and to learn.
    In those days, twelve was just about the end of childhood. At that age boys would have begun to learn a trade. More like today's sixth formers?

  2. In such a crowd of fellow-travellers it would have been easy to lose track of Jesus, each assuming he was with the other or with some other relative or friend. How would they have felt when they stopped for the night and discovered that he had been left behind? Terrified? Guilty?

  3. For three days - while his parents travelled away from Jerusalem, then back again, then searched for him - Jesus had been discussing God's word and astonishing those who heard him with his understanding and answers. When we think about the impressive intellectual insights and research of Jewish Rabbis, this is like a Year 7 discussing physics with Einstein!
    Has Jesus been thoughtless? Naughty? Many a parent must have read this story in the Bible and asked these questions!
    But, no: at the age of twelve he is growing in independence and beginning to understand who he is and what his mission must be. Just like other boys his age, Jesus is beginning to learn his father's business - but he is telling Mary and Joseph that his first priority must be his Heavenly Father and His business. He has stayed behind in the Temple to learn more about God and his plans; to let his parents know that he is becoming a man who must fulfil God's plans for him; to begin to tell people about God as our Heavenly Father, and himself as having divine wisdom.
    When Jesus calls God his father, Mary and Joseph do not really understand what he is telling them. They know that he is the Messiah, the one who will save the Jewish people, but they don't yet understand how he will save them; that he is also God's son.

  4. Jesus was fully obedient to his earthly parents. We know that he did learn his father's trade and became a carpenter. He did not insist, as such a clever child might, on staying in Jerusalem and learning from all the best teachers. He was obedient to God's will for him, and he had the patience to await God's timing for his ministry to begin. We don't know anything about the next eighteen years, but we can have faith that God's timing was perfect.
    God has plans for us all. We may not understand them yet. We may feel impatient to know what will happen next, and for it to come sooner. We may feel afraid. But we can trust Jesus to be with us and we must follow his example: seeking to learn more about God; being obedient to those to whom he has entrusted us; waiting to find out his plans for us; growing in independence and having the courage to do his will when the time comes.

Luke 2:40-52 - drama outline

[Notes in italics are for the adult who guides the children into the correct positions.]

Scene 1

Jesus, Mary, Joseph are in Nazareth. A crowd of friends and relatives are also in Nazareth, but standing slightly apart from the holy family.

Narrator: The child grew up and became strong and full of wisdom. And God's blessing was upon him. Every year at the Passover festival, Jesus' parents used to go to Jerusalem. When he was twelve years old they went up to the city as usual for the festival.

Joseph: It's time to go to Jerusalem for the Passover. Come on, everyone.

A crowd joins the holy family. They all walk from Nazareth to Jerusalem.

STOP THE CHILDREN WHEN THEY REACH JERUSALEM AND ASK THEM TO TURN TO FACE YOU, TO LISTEN TO THE TEACHING - SEE NOTE 1.

Scene 2

Narrator: When it was over they started back home, but the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, without his parents' knowledge.

Person 1: The Passover is over now. It's time to go back home to Nazareth.

Everyone except Jesus walks back to the middle of the aisle, where they stop. Jesus remains with the Temple teachers.

Narrator: They went a day's journey assuming that he was somewhere in their company, and then they began to look for him among their relations and acquaintances.

Mary and Joseph start to look for Jesus.

Mary: Have you seen Jesus?

Person 2: No. Sorry.

Narrator: They failed to find him, however, and turned back to the city, looking for him as they went.

Mary and Joseph walk back to Jerusalem.

STOP THE CHILDREN WHEN MARY AND JOSEPH REACH JERUSALEM AND ASK THEM ALL TO TURN TO FACE YOU, TO LISTEN TO THE TEACHING. SEE NOTE 2.

Scene 3

Narrator: Three days later, they found him - in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. All those who heard him were astonished at his powers of comprehension and at the answers that he gave.

When Joseph and Mary saw him, they could hardly believe their eyes, and his mother said to him, Mary: Why have you treated us like this, my son? Here have your father and I been worried, looking for you everywhere!

Jesus: But why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?

Narrator: But they did not understand his reply.

REMIND THE CHILDREN TO FACE YOU TO LISTEN TO THE TEACHING. SEE NOTE 3.

Scene 4

Narrator: Then he went home with them to Nazareth and was obedient to them.

Joseph: It's time for you to come back home with us now, Jesus.

They walk back to join the crowd.

Person 3: Hurray! They found Jesus!

All except the Temple teachers walk back to Nazareth.

Narrator: And his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And as Jesus continued to grow in body and mind, he grew also in the love of God and of those who knew him.

REMIND THE CHILDREN TO FACE YOU TO LISTEN TO THE TEACHING. SEE NOTE 4.


[This script is an adaptation of J. B. Phillips's translation of Luke 2: 40-52, taken from "The New Testament in Modern English", Revised Edition, 1958, 1960, 1972]




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