If you have ever been curious about what Jesus was like as a child, Luke 2 provides a glimpse at the 12-year-old Jesus in the temple that proves he already knew who he was and was setting his priorities for the mission for which God sent Him. Classroom activities about this fateful Passover visit to the temple in Jerusalem help children relate to the emotional impact it must have had on Mary and Joseph to "lose" the Son of God and then find him abounding in wisdom beyond all normal expectation. Additionally, children can practice obedience, which Jesus modeled in his relationship with his Earthly parents.
Searching for Jesus
Gather the children in a large circle. Choose one to be the worried parent looking for a lost child. Blindfold her and have her stand in the middle. Secretly hand one of the other children a Jesus doll. The seeking parent must try to find someone in the circle, touch his arm, and ask, "Have you seen my child?" until she finds the person holding the doll. Explain that the crowds were so large during the holiday that it would have been hard for Mary and Joseph to see through the crowds to find their missing son. Ask students to give examples of times they have been lost in a crowd or public place and discuss how they and their parents felt.
When Mary and Joseph finally found Jesus in the temple, the teachers were amazed by the depth of his knowledge and understanding of scripture at such a young age. You can challenge your students' own scripture knowledge with a quick memory verse review game. Have the children stand in a circle and hand one a rubber ball. Play some music while they toss the ball back and forth. When the music stops, the child holding the ball must recite one of the memory verses for the quarter. Continue playing until each child has had a turn to recite at least one verse.
The gospel of Luke records that Mary and Joseph were somewhat mystified by Jesus' answer when asked why he did this to them. Nevertheless, even though he was the all-sovereign Son of God, he returned home and obeyed them as his Earthly parents, setting an example for how all children are to act toward their parents. Children can make an obedience thermometer to take home to keep track of how well they obey their parents during the week. Draw a large thermometer on a piece of paper. Starting at the bottom, write "never," "some of the time," "most of the time" and "all the time." Write instructions to one side that explain that being cheerful, prompt and obedient raises the temperature while complaining, stalling or partial obedience lowers the temperature. Cut a small horizontal slit at the top and bottom and tape two long thin strips of paper together end to end, one red and one white. Feed the open ends through the slits, trim as necessary and secure the loop with another piece of tape. Send it home with the children and explain to parents that you are asking them to keep track of their child's obedience temperature for the week and send back a report the following week to help the child in her quest to be like Jesus.
Act it Out
Have students act out the story, fleshing out details and real emotions of what the search and discovery of Jesus in the temple would have been like. Another dramatic option is to play obedience charades and have students pantomime situations in which they need to obey their parents, varying the child's response from cheerful obedience, slow, begruding obedience to defiance. Others guess what the parent asks them to do and rate the obedience level the child shows in the situation.