What does Luke 2:45 mean?
ESV: and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him.
NIV: When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.
NASB: And when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, looking for Him.
CSB: When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.
NLT: When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there.
KJV: And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.
NKJV: So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him.
Verse Commentary:
The older and more responsible a child is, the less meticulous parents need to be about keeping track of them. Jesus, in this event, is nearly what His culture would consider an adult (Luke 2:42), on a yearly family trip (Luke 2:41), and travelling with friends and relatives from his hometown (Luke 2:44). He's also the only child in history to have ever lived a sinless life (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22). The thought of Mary and Joseph not tracking Him down until the end of a day of travel is not as negligent as it might seem at first.

As well, the time between when Jesus was left behind at the temple and His reunion with Joseph and Mary was not "a completely full three days," as in "72 total hours." The first day was the family's travel away from the city, the second was the travel back, and during the third day His family found Him speaking to teachers in the temple (Luke 2:46).
Verse Context:
Luke 2:39–52 relates Scripture's only record of an event in Jesus' life occurring between His infancy and adulthood. His family travels to Jerusalem for a feast. When returning, Mary and Joseph lose track of Jesus, assuming He is with others in their large group. Once they realize He's missing, they find Him in the temple having a deep discussion with the teachers there. Jesus refers to the temple as His "Father's house," and the family returns to Nazareth. After this, Jesus grows and develops much the same as any other young boy.
Chapter Summary:
The early part of this chapter is famously read at Christmas, while celebrating the birth of Jesus. Luke gives a relatively brief description of how Mary came to give birth in a stable, laying Jesus in a feeding trough. Nearby shepherds are informed of the news by multiple angels. Two people speak in praise of God at Jesus' circumcision. Years later, Joseph and Mary lose track of Jesus on the way back from Jerusalem, only to find Him astounding teachers in the temple with His wisdom.
Chapter Context:
Luke began his well-organized account by explaining the conceptions of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist, in chapter 1. In chapter 2, he briefly summarizes Jesus' birth and the arrival of shepherds directed by angels. Prophecies and prayers celebrate His dedication at the temple. After briefly losing track of a twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple, Jesus' parents take Him home to Nazareth. There, He grows up relatively normally. Chapter 3 leaps forward many years to the beginning of John the Baptist's preaching. This is followed by Jesus' genealogy. Chapter 4 relates Jesus' temptations by Satan and the start of His public ministry.
Book Summary:
Luke was a traveling companion of Paul (Acts 16:10) and a physician (Colossians 4:14). Unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke writes his gospel as an historian, rather than as a first-hand eyewitness. His extensive writings also include the book of Acts (Acts 1:1–3). These are deliberately organized, carefully researched accounts of those events. The gospel of Luke focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Luke's Gentile perspective presents Christ as a Savior for all people, offering both forgiveness and direction to those who follow Him.
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