When we come to the fifth joyful mystery, there are an abundance of themes to meditate upon. There is the fact that Jesus was missing for three days, a foreshadowing of his death and resurrection. There is the recognition even at the age of twelve that the first Person of the Trinity is his Father in a way far superior to Joseph. There is the sanctification of the religion of the Old Testament, as he calls the Temple his Father's House. There is the obedience he offered to Joseph and Mary from that time forward, and the reverence and respect he showed them. But of all the possible themes, I want to focus on one.
I want to focus on how Jesus listened to the scribes.
Often devotion had misread this passage. We want to think of a precocious boy Jesus teaching the elders of the Temple, showing them up in some way, a child prodigy among the mediocre. But this is not the case. The Gospel clearly teaches that Jesus was asking questions, being taught, listening to the teachers, not teaching himself. (Luke 2:46) It is true that the teachers in turn questioned him, and were amazed by his responses. (2:47) But nowhere does the Gospel allow us to imply that Jesus was in some kind of contest, or that he was clearly above it all. Jesus was drinking in the wisdom of his teachers.
But this asks a very important question: could Jesus learn anything? After all, he was himself the all-knowing God. Even of his human mind, we have testimony that he knew everything (John 21:17). Was his "learning" just a farce, then? Was he putting on a show?
Tempted as I am to go into a lengthy discourse about the human knowledge of Jesus, I will refrain. Suffice it to say that yes, the majority of orthodox theologians, especially the Doctors of the Church, have taught that in a certain way our Lord knew all things, even in his human mind. But knowing something, thinking about something, and hearing something already known expressed in a different way by someone else - these are three very different acts. Let us suppose that Jesus was not ignorant of any of the mysteries of God's word. Since he is himself the Word made flesh, this seems apparent. Yet nevertheless he can delight when people draw mysteries of that word to his attention, not that he was previously ignorant of them, but that he was now focusing on them. And he could rejoice in the discourse of a master speaking that word and explaining it. To use an example: I am certain I have heard every musical note and seen every color. Nevertheless, when a master arranges them in a symphony or a painting I am still delighted, not because I am made aware of something new, but because I see the beauty of the expression of a master.
What tender and honorable attention our Lord must have paid to the Jewish masters! He witnessed lovers of his word searching it out, explaining it, discovering analogies for it, and he was moved by their passion for the word. Note please what Jesus did in his Father's house - he didn't preempt the sacrifices, or pray aloof in some corner. Instead he participated in what was basically a Bible study, a feast of the word. He shared in a Christian devotion that goes back centuries among the Jewish people. He meditated on the Scriptures, and watched as the Scriptures transformed his interlocutors. He practiced what many today know of as lectio divina. We too can share this with Jesus. It's not just about knowing the Scriptures, as if they were our multiplication tables. It's about relishing the Scriptures, and listening to the masters (the saints) explain them. This is the devotion that the child Jesus practiced in his Father's house. It is a devotion that we should mimic, even - hopefully! - to the point of being lost in it for days, as he was.