So, where were you when you lost your kid? Seriously, if you have children you’ve lost one at some point or another. And if you haven’t lost one yet you will. Maybe it was in a grocery store, or on a street, at Disney Land or perhaps at church. But you remember the moment when panic set in and you realized that you didn’t know where your child was.
When I was little my mother looked on the street from our apartment and thought “I wonder what type of mother would let their toddler in diapers wander down the middle of the street.” Then it dawned on her that she was that type of mother and I had escaped again. Once when I was locking up the church in Truro I realized that I had an extra three year old with Deborah. Kellie’s parents had arrived in separate vehicles and when they left they both thought Kellie was with the other one, it wasn’t until they got home that Ron and Kim realized they had misplaced their youngest.
Our moment came in Arlie Beach in Queensland Australia. Arlie Beach is about a 12 hour drive from Brisbane where we were living at the time, it is a beautiful little resort town on the very edge of the great barrier reef and it is full of strange people.
We had spent our day on the reef, first on a semi-submersible and then snorkelling and scuba diving on the reef itself. It was a full day. When we got back to town and had supper we were visiting some of the shops and Angela and I split up and it was only when we got back together that we realized that we had our nine year old but we didn’t have our six year old, again with the “I thought she was with you” discussion. Panic ensued as we started to retrace our steps looking for our “baby”. We eventually found her back at the dive shop we had visited earlier looking at pictures from our dive. She assumed that we would come back, if not for her at least for the pictures.
And most parents have a similar story, perhaps more dramatic perhaps less but you know that sudden hollow feeling in your stomach.
And it is in the book of Luke that we find the only accounts of Jesus as a child and in this snippet we read about the time Mary and Joseph lost their oldest kid. I’m sure that Mary and Joseph told the story of their trip to Jerusalem on many occasions, recounting the horror of that day. The story starts in Luke 2:41-42 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual.
Culturally we are told that it was required by Jewish law that every adult male who lived within 20 kms of Jerusalem should go to the temple in the capital city for the Passover celebration. It was also decreed that under Jewish law that at 13 a boy became a man. So this was a very special occasion for Jesus. This wasn’t the first time that Jesus had been in Jerusalem for the Passover, but it would be the last time he would celebrate the feast as a child and I’m sure he was looking forward to next year.
The Passover celebration lasted for several days and culminated in the Passover Feast; it was the biggest holiday in the Jewish faith and was a major celebration. Mary and Joseph and their family would have been there with friends and extended family from Nazareth and we are told that they probably didn’t travel alone,
Those in the know tell us that in all probability the women and children would have travelled as a group and the men would have travelled as a group. You only have to go to a social function today to realize that things haven’t changed much. We are also told that the women and children would have left earlier in the morning and travelled slower while the men would have left later but travelled faster, and every one would have ended up at the destination around the same time.
Because of Jesus’ age he could have travelled with either group, he was really neither fish nor fowl. Young enough to still travel with the women and children if he wished but old enough to tag along with the men. And that is where the trouble began, because it would appear that when Joseph got ready to head out with the men he assumed that Jesus was with his mother, while Mary had assumed that Jesus would follow with the men and older boys. And you know what happens when we assume right? That’s right sometimes we are wrong.
Luke 2:43-45 After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, because they assumed he was among the other travellers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. Can you imagine the panic? The finger pointing? The fear? Mary and Joseph would have split up and began canvasing all of the other groups. Who had seen Jesus? Where and when? By the time they had finished it was very apparent that no one had seen Jesus at all through that day. When they couldn’t find him we are told they left the group and headed back to Jerusalem on their own. But how would they find him? They came from the little town of Nazareth and Jerusalem was the largest city in the country. Perhaps not Toronto size but certainly the task before them was daunting.
And so they hunted, they went back to their accommodations and Jesus wasn’t there, they went to where they had eaten and Jesus wasn’t there, they looked up the new friends they had made during the days they had been celebrating and no Jesus.
We aren’t told but we have to assume they went to the authorities with no results and checked whatever served for emergency health care to see if a twelve year old boy had been brought in, but to no avail. We don’t know if Mary and Joseph had brought their other children back to Jerusalem with them, or if they had sent them ahead with family members but when it seemed that all the avenues had been exhausted we read this Luke 2:46 Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions.
We don’t know what took them to the temple, if they were looking for Jesus or if in desperation they returned to the centre of their spiritual lives to pray for their son and to seek comfort from their God. Whatever it was that took them to the temple took them to their son. Isn’t it always the way, you find what you are looking for in the last place you look. Which is one of the dumbest things people say. Just once wouldn’t it be nice to hear someone say “Yep I found it in the third from the last place I looked. I had a list of places I needed to look so even after I found it I just kept right on looking.”
In this case it kind of makes you wonder what would have happened if they had of gone to the temple to ask for prayer before they looked all over Jerusalem. But Mary and Joseph were like most of us, we try to do it on our own first and only after it becomes apparent that we can’t do it do we ask God for help.
I wonder about the range of emotions that Mary and Joseph must have felt when they saw Jesus there right as rain in a conversation with the teachers of religious law? From “I can’t believe you are all right we were so worried about you.” To “What were you thinking, your father and I were worried sick.” To “You are going to get the spanking of your life when you get home young man.”
It appears it was somewhere in the middle, you understand that we are just getting snippets of the conversation, we are hearing the high points not all the minutia that actually makes up a conversation, so we hear Luke 2:47-48 All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.” That’s a good motherly response, lead with guilt. And we can read it any number of ways because we don’t know the tone of voice that Mary used, the volume of her words, the look on her face or whether she was hugging Jesus or shaking him.
And he responds by saying Luke 2:49 “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” It might be blasphemy, and you might want to stand back in case the lighting strikes, but reading that I think I would have reached out and slapped the kid. Arrrggghhh. And I have never hit either of my kids in anger, although there have been times.
Most of the commentators agree that this was a pivotal point in Jesus’ life, that it was at point that he became aware of who he was and the task that lay before him. There are all kinds of stories, legends and tales of Jesus as a child but this is the only biblical account of Jesus’ childhood. Up to this account the sum total of what we know about Jesus as a child is summed up in these words in Luke 2:39-40 When Jesus’ parents had fulfilled all the requirements of the law of the Lord, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. There the child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favour was on him.
We don’t know all of the intricacies and mechanics that went into God becoming man but somehow I doubt if he had a full awareness of who he was before this stage. If he was to truly experience what it was to be fully human how do you do that with an awareness that you are God at the age of three?
And so it was here that in whatever fashion for whatever reason the switch was tripped and Jesus became aware of his deity and his destiny. Had Mary and Joseph forgot the wonder of his birth, maybe the everyday had caused them to lose sight of the eternal and suddenly Mary and Joseph were reminded of who their son truly was, not the son of Joseph creator of tables and chairs but the son of God, creator and master of the universe. I wonder if for Joseph he suddenly remembered “That’s right I’m not his father.”
As William Barclay tells us in the Daily Study Bible “Here we have the story of the day when Jesus discovered who he was.”
Adam Clarke adds to that in his commentary “According to the Jewish canons, it was the age at which they were obliged to begin to learn a trade.” And so it would appear that Jesus had chosen his path, listen to the statement that Jesus made Luke 2:49 “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” That Jesus had chosen his path and was beginning to learn his trade and it ultimately would have nothing to do with carpentry.
But this morning I don’t want to focus on Jesus discovery instead I want to focus on the question “How do we lose Jesus?” Because we all know people who had a close personal relationship with Christ but now they don’t, and the question is: How does that happen? And maybe you are in that position yourself, you are sitting there today thinking, "That’s me, I used to have that relationship but now it’s different, what happened?"
Some thoughts on losing Jesus, would apply to Mary and Joseph and might apply to you or someone you know.
1) It Was Not Intentional There is nothing to lead us to believe that this was part of the plan. I don’t think that Mary and Joseph sat down and planned how they would ditch the kid. “Ok Mary, you sneak out with the other women and the kids, and then when Jesus is looking for you I’ll slip out the back door.” I don’t think it happened that way, I think that it was a total shock at the end of the day when they suddenly realized that Jesus wasn’t with them.
When we lost Deborah in Arlie Beach it wasn’t intentional, we didn’t plan to lose her and she didn’t plan to get lost but she did.
And in the same way I don’t think that anyone becomes a Christ follower thinking “Someday I won’t be this close to Jesus, someday Jesus will no longer be a part of my life.” That’s not to say that along the way some people don’t make a conscious decision to walk away from Jesus and his teachings, but that wasn’t part of the plan from the beginning.
So what happened?
I think Busyness Played a Part. It was a crazy morning, Joseph was trying to get things organized for the trip and Mary was trying to round up the kids. They weren’t busy with bad things or evil things they were just busy. And to be fair their busyness had a lot to do with good things, they had been in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover that was good. Joseph needed to get back to the carpenter’s shop and perhaps as he walked with the other men he talked business and found new customers, that was good. Mary was tending to the children and enjoying being with her friends those were good things. But in their busyness they lost sight of the fact that with every step they were moving further away from their first born.
The urgent often distracts us from the eternal, we become caught up with the here and now and lose sight of the there and then. We become so busy with life and all that involves that we lose sight of God. He takes a back seat to career, and sports and school and holidays and yard work and and and. Not bad things but we can become so busy that we miss the important things. My Daddy used to say, “The hurrier I go the behinder I get.”
Which is why Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Slow down, take a breath, look around and find Jesus.
I think Carelessness Played a Part Perhaps they were seeing Jesus in a different light than how they had seen him previously. He wasn’t a little boy any longer he was growing up and taking on more responsibility for himself and his younger siblings.
And they had never lost him before. But a year ago they were paying more attention to the whereabouts of their son; they made sure they knew where he was and who he was playing with. A year ago they would have been certain of his location and wouldn’t have simply assumed that he was with the other parent. It might not be flattering but they had become careless with their child.
And to a certain degree if we look at times that our children have gone missing it has been through carelessness. Things distracted us and it’s been awhile since we checked on them and then there they were, gone.
When we were getting ready to move to Australia we knew that we were going to be going through a number of busy airports with a three year old and a five year old so we decided to take precautions. So we bought wrist leashes, not a big deal now but twenty five years ago more so. And to get the kids used to them we started using them in the mall, Stephen figured that since he was on a leash he should bark, which led to interesting conversations. And some old folks actually criticized us for putting our kids on a tether, but we never lost them.
If we were honest when we discover that Jesus isn’t where he used to be in our life it can often be traced back to carelessness. Do you remember in the book of Revelation John is reading letters to the seven churches of Asia that he had received from Christ in a vision. And to the church in Ephesus these scary words are written: Revelation 2:4 “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!” In the NKJV it reads this way, Revelation 2:4 “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”
The Christ followers in Ephesus didn’t love Christ the way they once had and that happens, if we were to be truthful today the flames of that love might not be as hot as they once were. And that happens for the same reason it happens in other relationships, we take things for granted and get careless. We do things that we would never have done when we were dating or courting or in the first few years of marriage.
And in our relationship with Christ, when we first started to follow “The Jesus Way” we were hungry for his word, wanted to be in church at every opportunity, wanted to be around other Christ followers and wanted to talk to Jesus on a regular basis. But then life stepped in and we became careless in our church attendance, our prayer life our bible reading and who we were spending our time with. And before long it could be said about us as it was about the Peter when Jesus was on his way to the cross, Matthew 26:58 Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance . . .
But no matter the reason, ultimately what happened that day in Jerusalem was a Result of Choices they Made Mary and Joseph probably wouldn’t think that way; they would say they didn’t choose to lose Jesus but they did. Because they chose to assume that Jesus was with them, because they made the decision to not check with the other person.
Listen up, this is important. Just because it wasn’t an intentional decision on their behalf it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t Mary and Josephs’ fault. It doesn’t matter how you slice it they were the adults and he was the kid, they were supposed to make sure that he was with them. It wasn’t the twelve year old's job to make sure he was where he was supposed to be, it was the parents.
We live in a society that we like to think that some things aren’t anyone’s fault, that’s just the way it happened. I heard someone talking about a car accident their daughter had and another person asked “Whose fault was it?” to which the first man replied “It was nobody’s fault, it was an accident.” It might not have been intentional, it may have been an accident but it was still someone’s fault. Unless the ground in front of her suddenly opened up and swallowed her car or a meteorite landed on top of her car it was probably somebody’s fault. You see, I think that we get faultless and blameless mixed up.
For example, I tend to be a bit of a klutz, if you had invited us over for tea and cookies and served me tea in your great grandmother’s fine china and I accidentally set my cup too close to the edge of the coffee table and it fell on the floor and broke you might say it was nobody’s fault but that would be incorrect. I might be blameless in the sense that I didn’t mean for it to happen but it was still my fault for putting the cup too close to the edge. And to a certain degree if you knew me you would have to say you were at least partially to fault because you didn’t serve me out of plastic or stainless steel.
If your relationship with Jesus isn’t what it used to be it is because of choices you have made and decisions you have made on how to lead your life and what would be a priority for you. I love the story and tell it often about the old farmer and his wife driving along in the pickup and she asks “How come we don’t sit all cuddled up like we used to?” To which the farmer replied “I ain’t moved.”
And here is the reality, if you find yourself further away from Christ than you once were, he ain’t moved.
Jesus didn’t run away from Mary and Joseph, he didn’t leave them behind they left him behind.
And now here is the good news, You Can Choose to Come Back to Jesus Mary and Joseph could have chosen to keep going. They could have rationalized that it was too much of a problem to travel back to Jerusalem; they were already too far away to go back, it wasn’t that far to home, Joseph had business he had to attend to at home and besides they had other kids.
But they didn’t choose to leave him behind they went back to find him. And it took time and energy and tears but they found him.
What will it take for you to get back to where you were in our relationship with Christ? To rediscover your first love? I don’t know, but you do? Like any relationship your relationship with God requires work and effort the question is: is that a commitment you are willing to make? And only you can answer that question.
But here are a couple of suggestions, the best place to find Jesus is still in His Father’s house, that would be church. Take time to talk to him, that’s prayer and let him talk to you, that’s reading His word, the Bible and being obedient to his commandments.