The Third Sorrow of Mary: The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple

The Third Sorrow of Mary: The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple December 7, 2017


Things had been easier for so long.

Herod was dead. They were not in Egypt any longer; they were raising her Son in Nazareth, in relative quiet. The neighbors knew Him as Yehoshua, son of Joseph, and didn’t ask questions. He was helping in the carpentry shop, by all accounts an ordinary child. He was filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him, but not many noticed that. Not many noticed them at all, for which Miriam was grateful.

She loved Him with all of her heart, with all the hearts of all the mothers in all the world. No words could ever express the depth of her love, and He loved her more still. The trauma of what she’d suffered when He was a newborn had stayed with her– such things don’t go away. They only become easier to bear, or not. She couldn’t help but fear a little each time He was out of her sight– all mothers do, and mothers whose children have been in mortal danger most of all. But they were happy in Nazareth.

Going to Jerusalem for the Passover was their yearly devotion. Sometimes it felt like a treat  and sometimes like a hassle, as family devotions always do, but they went every year to the Temple. Nothing is ever totally easy and relaxed with a child in tow, even if that child is perfect, filled with wisdom and the Son of God. It’s in the nature of children to make things complicated, just as it’s in the nature of mothers to fear and the nature of holy families to make pilgrimages whether it’s convenient or not.

The year that Jesus was twelve years of age, he did not return to Nazareth.

Miriam was traveling in the women’s section of the caravan. She thought that He was traveling with the men, since He was now twelve years old and working in the carpentry shop. Her heart was heavy even though she was proud of him– and, of course, she was worried. Joseph was traveling with the men. He thought that Jesus was staying with His mother, even though He was almost at the age where He would be expected to travel with the men.

They traveled for a whole day before they realized their mistake.

They asked among their family and friends, but no one had seen Him.

And then Miriam was running again– back to Jerusalem as fast as she could, her husband running with her just as they’d run to Egypt. But this time they were running to the temple, back to Jerusalem, and Jesus wasn’t with them.

The sword of trauma pierced her heart again.

The angel told her that she would conceive and bear a Son. The angel gave no details except that her Son would be great, Son of the Most High, taking the throne of her ancestor, David. He didn’t say how this would come about. He never promised that she would raise her Son herself. He never said how long the Son of God would be in her care. Now here she was in Jerusalem, the city where David had united the tribes under himself and built a palace of cedar. She was in the city where David had vowed to build a temple for the Lord, and where the Lord had told David that his hands were too bloody for such work. The Lord told David that He would build David an everlasting house, and that one of David’s sons would build a temple in peace– but the Lord had not given details about how that would come about either.

A temple had been built by David’s son, in fulfillment of God’s word. And then it was destroyed because of the wickedness of the sons of David’s sons. David’s sons went into captivity in disgrace; all Jerusalem lay in ruin for a time. Then a new temple was built on the same spot. The temple had withstood the desecration of the Greeks. It had stood to this day, though Jerusalem was occupied by the Romans. Herod, who had murdered all of those infants in an attempt to protect himself from Jesus, had renovated this temple as a gift to the Jews just a few decades ago. Now Herod himself was dead. Jesus, David’s long-awaited successor, was missing somewhere in that temple. God can be trusted to fulfill His promises, but there’s no telling how that will look, how long it will take or how much it will hurt before it’s done.

For all Miriam knew, she would never see Him again.

Perhaps He’d left the temple and gone somewhere else. Maybe someone had kidnapped Him and sold Him to someone else; maybe He was miles away by now. Perhaps He’d been taken up to Heaven like Elijah. Maybe some Roman soldier who remembered Herod had heard His age and somehow found out He was born in Bethlehem– Miriam couldn’t bear to think of that, but she couldn’t stop thinking of it either.

They searched for days, and found nothing. They searched until their hearts were broken; until they were frantic with grief.

And then Miriam heard her Son’s voice, there in the temple where they’d already looked so many times.

She beheld Him again.

(image via Pixabay) 




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