Dear Theophilus… Feb 2019

Dear Theophilus
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAccording to Jewish law, every adult man was required to go to Jerusalem three times a year to celebrate the major Jewish festivals. St Luke tells us of a time when Jesus was twelve, the age at which he was considered no more a child, and Mary and Joseph took him to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Traditionally they would have travelled as a large ’convoy’ with the women and children at the front and the men at the back. Aged twelve, Jesus could conceivably have been with either group.

Unbeknown to his parents, Jesus remained behind in the temple when they left for home, and it wasn’t until the evening that they realised Jesus was neither with the women and children nor with the men and so, probably in a panic, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him. They found him in the temple the day after. I wonder how you would have responded if you were Mary or Joseph?

Mary was not best pleased but Jesus, who was not sinful, was surprised that they hadn’t realised that he would be “in my Father’s house”, and
presumably safe in his Father’s care. Luke then tells us that Jesus went home with his parents ‘and was obedient to them’. I think there are some interesting messages here for all of us about relationships between adults and children, about trusting God and not being anxious.

For parents, there is a message about letting our children grow up and develop their own personalities and interests, about giving them appropriate levels of freedom and about understanding things from their perspective. There is also a message about not getting anxious over our children, but trusting in their judgement and common sense.

For the children there is a message about taking the opportunities that there are to develop as a person and to listen and learn from others through questions and discussions. There is also a message about obedience, even when they think they are ‘all grown up’.

The result of all of this for the teenage Jesus was that he ‘grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men’ (Luke 2:51).


Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!