Bede comments that the story of Jesus in the Temple at the age of twelve teaches us about his humanity so we might rise to an understanding of his divinity. He kept the Law to show us that we are to do what is God’s ordinance. St Ambrose notices some numerological significance in the numbers 12 – his age here, but also the number of the 12 tribes and of Apostles – and 3 – the Persons of the Trinity and the number of days after which the Lord was raised.
Ephrem the Syrian addresses, here, those who vainly imagine that Our Lord had other brothers and sisters. Not only did the Jews call him the son of Joseph, but also Mary called him Joseph’s son. There is, here, no sign of any other son, or of a sister. The angel commanded Joseph to keep Mary in his care so that she would not be subject to scandal by being single and being pregnant
When Jesus says that he ‘must be about my father’s business’ this is a declaration of his power and glory, who are co-eternal with the Father. However, he was also fully human, so when he returned to Nazareth he was subject to his parents. Bede also notes the wisdom of Mary, who learns from her son, and who ponders the meaning of the things that have been revealed to her through him.
John of Damascus takes up a theme noted by Jerome and others, which is how the Son of God could ‘grow in wisdom’. As he grew, the wisdom inherent in him became more apparent. By making what is ours his own, he made his own the progress of people in wisdom and grace, as well as the fulfilment of the Father’s will, which is to say people’s knowledge of God and their salvation.