Jesus about His Father's Business
To Jerusalem, year by year, the parents went
To observe their nation's solemn Festival;
Nor knew they took the Paschal Lamb that year—
White, without blemish, set apart to be
Sin-offering before God for all the world!
When he was twelve years old, now, went He up
With all the joyous company, praising God.
There, in the temple, the boy took on Him,
As custom was, His part in Israel's life—
A son of Judah, called for praise of God.
As dim previsions come to our dull minds,
Did He, conditioned as a child of man,
Hear, while He shared the sacrificial Feast,
The echo of a Word—The Lamb that was slain
Ere the foundations of the world were laid?
Did he foresee, scarce knowing what He saw,
The Last sad Supper, when the Lamb of God
Gave of his flesh and blood at dying feast?
The days of the Feast went by; quick-rising thoughts
Surged in the heart of the young Son of Man :
Think what it were, if, all at once, the sun,
Faces of men, service of prayer and praise,
The immanence of God, grew real to thought,
Each with its full significance! The wonder of't
Would send us dazed and faltering on our way :
A child sees somewhat—this Child saw the whole,
All, full of pristine meanings, awful claims;—
Things grow not stale to the Eternal Mind.
Now when His parents returned, the Boy Jesus
Tarried behind them in Jerusalem,
His home, the court of His own Father's house!
The folk returned in two gay companies,
The men and the women, while the children ran
From one to the other as their humour was:
Thus it befell that they had gone a day
Or ever his parents knew the Child astray.
Inquiring among kinsfolk and acquaintance,
they hurried, anxious, up and down the camp
Couched round the evening fires; This mother wept,
Blaming herself for holy trust betrayed;
And every word she treasured in her heart
Revealing the Child's state, returned in chiding.
Back to Jerusalem turned they, seeking Him;
And, for three fevered days of much distress,
The Child they searched for in each likely place;
But not in that where, had they understood,
They first had sought, unanxious and assured.
After three days they found Him in the temple;
here was the Boy, sitting among the doctors,
Fulfilling all the part of Jewish child
As Moses had conceived it:—"What mean ye
By the lamb, the bitter herbs, loins girt, and sandals
Strapped for journey?" what joy in this young scholar,
So apt to learn, so strenuous to attend
And quick in apprehension! All the tale
Of Israel's great deliverance they told
To the Boy who knew, and fain would know much more
The past was plain, but the great Feast looked on:
His teachers found their settled thought perplexed,
Their knowledge failing, as the Boy's replies
Opened new, simpler meanings; while, unconscious,
He brought fresh thought to bear on time-worn themes,
And showed how their stale words of letter-lore
Looked, quickened by the Spirit. Day of grace
Came to these pedant doctors as they asked,
Aside, questioning each other, "What think ye
Of th' Boy? New wine into old bottles pours He,
And Brings Messias to our very door!"—
They, too, were in the Light.
After three days
The parents came upon the group—the doctors
with fervent young Disciple in their midst.
Alas, for Mary! Days of fretful search
Wrought weariness of flesh, soreness of heart:
Blind to His part, she thought but her own
(this once) : and His mother said to Him, "Son,
Why dealt thou thus with us? Thy father and I
Have sought thee sorrowing!" even while she spake,
His mother knew her fault, knew she had failed
In love's nice comprehension; she should have known:
"Why is it that ye sought Me?" said her Son,
Wistful and troubled with that life-long grief—
No one would understand! Not one would know!—
But, patient, sweet always, He told her how,
"My Father's business I must be about—
Wist ye not that?" Nor yet they understood.
"My Father"—was the word blissful surprise
To Him who spake—possession realised?
We, knowing beyond their knowledge, dimly see
that His Vocation this day reached the Boy :
He heard His Father's call, gave meet reply;
Sate, pupil, in His Father's house and learned,
As meek disciple, at the doctors' feet:
What things are lovely, meet, of good report
In any boy, became the Son of Man ;
These, and no other. No subtlety of mind,
No wondrous act miraculous, should mark
The Boy, release Him from the discipline
proper for growing youths: no "great one" He!
He went down with the two to Nazareth;
lived there in sweet subjection all the years
'Twixt youth and man's full prime—nor grudged the days.
And wherefore grudge? Is not a single day
With god, His Father, as a thousand years?
Well might He wait until His day should come,
Crowded with all the Life of all the years
Since God made man; of all the purpose, full,
Which God towards man conceived and brought to pass!