Luke 2:41–52 (NIV)
41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When He was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while His parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking He was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for Him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find Him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for Him. 46 After three days they found Him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard Him was amazed at His understanding and His answers. 48 When His parents saw Him, they were astonished. His mother said to Him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49 “Why were you searching for me?” He asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in My Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what He was saying to them.
51 Then He went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But His mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
Many parents have experienced it around Christmas time, and you’ve probably heard it – the hail over the public address system of a supermarket or shopping centre:
"May I have your attention please? We are looking for a six-year-old child who is lost. His name is Eric and he’s wearing blue jeans and a red shirt. If you find Eric, please bring him to the customer service centre."
How did this child become lost? Perhaps he just wandered off to look at the toys? Or, his parents were distracted by the Boxing Day sales. Or, perhaps his mother and father each thought he was with the other parent and went on about their shopping.
You can imagine how concerned parents are when they realize that their child is missing. How about Eric? How do you think he felt? If he was having a good time playing in the toy department, he probably never even knew that he was lost!
Sometimes it’s not just children who get lost. Perhaps when we haven’t worshipped together as a Church family for a while -because we’ve been distracted with chasing the dollar, visiting relatives or friends or we just got used to sleeping in – we have been lost.
Were you ever lost as a child? How did you feel? Were you afraid, or were you confident that your parents would find you and everything would be okay?
Did the child, Jesus, ever get lost? We don't know much about Jesus’ childhood because the Bible doesn't tell us very much about it, nor His teenage or early adult life for that matter.
Most of Jesus early life is summed up in Luke 2:52 (NIV) 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.
Today's Gospel lesson tells us a story about a day when Jesus was supposedly lost. But could it be that his human parents had lost focus on who Jesus is?
It was about the time when a 12 year old Jewish boy would be presented at the local synagogue by his father to become a “son of the law” - a bit like a confirmation, where, the young person takes responsibility for their faith and observing God’s law.
Every year Jesus' parents, along with relatives and others from their community of Nazareth, went to Jerusalem for a festival called the “Passover”.
When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. When the celebration finished, Joseph and Mary began to head home to Nazareth with the group they were travelling with.
But, Jesus had stayed behind in Jerusalem. At first, Mary and Joseph didn’t miss Him. They assumed he was travelling with some of their friends or relatives.
When evening came on the first day of their journey home and they couldn’t find Jesus amongst their friends and relatives they became worried.
Naturally worried about their son they retraced their steps back to Jerusalem to search for Him. They searched for three days – one day they spent returning to Jerusalem, and then,on the third day they finally found Him.
From the reading you know where He was? He was in the Temple, sitting among the religious leaders, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard Him were amazed at the knowledge and understanding of this young boy.
People were amazed at Jesus knowledge about spiritual matters and the world in which He lived. Jesus sets us an example in listening to and asking questions of the religious leaders. How often are we found in the temple precincts with God’s teachers ready and willing to teach us?
Our Christian life and witness can be enhanced with our listening to Jesus’ teaching and asking Him the important questions for life.
There are many things which are important in life but our relationship with Jesus, as members of His family the church, should be a priority as we learn from the example of Jesus in God’s house.
Can we honestly say with the Psalmist: Psalm 119:10–16 (NIV)
10 I seek You with all my heart;
do not let me stray from Your commands.
11 I have hidden Your Word in my heart
that I might not sin against You.
12 Praise be to You, Lord;
teach me Your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from Your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following Your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
15 I meditate on Your precepts
and consider Your ways.
16 I delight in Your decrees;
I will not neglect Your Word.
Jesus certainly didn’t neglect Father God’s Word.
Now as you can imagine, Mary and Joseph were happy to find Jesus, but perhaps they were a little displeased with Him too.
“Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49 “Why were you searching for me?” Jesus replied firmly yet respectfully to His human parents as He asserts His priority as “Son of God”. He asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”
Mary and Joseph must surely have known that Jesus was no ordinary child. The angel had told Mary prior to His birth that Luke 1:35 ESV …, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
Joseph too, had been informed by the angel in Matthew 1:20 ESV …"Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
None the less, as we hear this story, we can justifiably wonder how Mary and Joseph could have been so careless as to go off and leave Jesus behind in Jerusalem.
But before we become too critical of Joseph and Mary, perhaps we should look at our own lives. Do we sometimes become so focused on what we are doing that we leave Jesus completely out of the picture? Do we look for the Divine Person everywhere except where He is to be found?
How many of us have been so busy preparing for Christmas or Easter celebrations in the home or on holiday and not attended Christmas or Easter worship services?
How many of us have a Bible and devotion book on the shelf - with a reading, meditation and prayer for each day - and yet the pages haven’t been turned regularly, let alone read?
How many of us, at one time or another, have neglected to hear God’s Word preached and receive Jesus in the Sacrament of Holy Communion as He commanded and as we promised to do in out Confirmation vows?
When we realize that we’ve left Jesus behind, we need to do what Joseph and Mary did. We need to go back to the place where we left Him. That's where we will find Him... right where we left Him.
So, whether it’s our worship life or devotion life, our relationship with Jesus can easily be one sided as we go on our merry way through the world, taking for granted that Jesus will be with us, while we neglect to be with Him.
It’s the custom in New Zealand at the beginning of a calendar year to make a new year’s resolution. How about making it something like this?
“I resolve in 2019 to be committed to attend and participate in regular Sunday worship services and to read my Bible each day, meditate on the Word of Jesus and pray as His Holy Spirit leads me.”
It’s a big commitment, but not nearly as big as the commitment God made to you when He humbled Himself, becoming like you and then taking your sin and the sin of the world on His shoulders as He died on the cross for you so that you may have life and have it in abundance.
Heavenly Father thank You for the gift of Your Son. Help us to keep Him at the centre of our lives and may we never leave Him behind. Amen.