Every year His parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. When He was 12 years old, they went up according to the custom of the festival. After those days were over, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but His parents did not know it. Assuming He was in the traveling party, they went a day’s journey. Then they began looking for Him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for Him. After three days, they found Him in the temple complex sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all those who heard Him were astounded at His understanding and His answers. When His parents saw Him, they were astonished, and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for You.”
“Why were you searching for Me?” He asked them. “Didn’t you know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” But they did not understand what He said to them.
Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them. His mother kept all these things in her heart.
I am searching for something right now and it is consuming me. I have been preoccupied with it. I have let my search stress me out to the point that I have been too anxious about it.
This story, from Luke chapter two, came to my mind. In this story, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, after the festival was over; when his mom and dad, family and friends left. Their group was big enough and Mary and Joseph were trusting enough of Jesus maturity, that when they travelled, they did not need to always have an eye on him.
I can really identify with them, because my son is eleven years old. He is right at the age where we do not have to keep an eye on him all the time. But we are still concerned about where he is and with whom.
I know exactly what the panic must have felt like for Mary and Joseph. They were one day’s journey away from Jerusalem, when they realized they lost him. Talk about losing something or someone special.
I’m talking about losing your own child. When I became a parent, the stories of children being abducted struck horror in my heart. I took it all for granted, before I became the parent of a beautiful little boy.
When Jesus parents realized he was unaccounted for, they first looked among the whole group that was travelling with them. Maybe he was there somewhere? But he was not.
So, they made their way back to Jerusalem, and looked all over, perhaps retracing their steps. Then, they got to the temple complex and there he was, seated with the rabbis. He was so engaged in the discussion that he hardly noticed mom and dad walk up.
Joseph and Mary perhaps had the chance to hear Jesus words as he dialogued with the teachers and saw the amazement at what he had to say. Luke does not tell us that they scooped Jesus up or that they said, “Thank God, you are ok!” Nope.
Instead, we are told that they rebuked him: “Son, why have you treated us like this?” Mary was calling him to responsibility. She is speaking to him, like we might speak to our 15, 16 or 17 year old; because maturity and responsibility came at a younger age in first century Jewish culture.
We say that someone becomes an adult at age 18 and the truth is that many young people do not even become adults today until their mid-twenties. And the markers of adulthood are maturity and responsibility.
In that culture, where Jesus grew up, age twelve was the transition from boyhood to manhood. He is more mature than our twelve year olds. He is ready to be a man.
Have you wondered where he spent the night? Probably at the place where one of those teachers lived or at the temple. Have you wondered if those teachers would have asked him about his parents or if he should be going home?
Whatever those conversations entailed of if they happened at all, there he was.
I had scenes in my childhood, when I ventured out of my mom’s sight and she lost me. My mom was very upset. I know the phrase, “Where have you been?”, when I was perfectly fine, in my mind, and having an adventure or just enjoying myself with others.
Mary’s rebuke to Jesus, “Why have you treated us like this”, puts the blame for her anxious turmoil onto the boy. He neither responds with “Sorry, my bad”, nor, “Don’t talk to me like that”.
Instead, he gently turns the issue back to her and reminds her that God, His Father, is the center of his life; even though he is rightly related to his earthly parents. Jesus is teaching me how to talk to my mom.
In the same section of scripture, it says that Mary and Joseph were Jesus parents and that he also has The Father as his father. This is important, because Luke is underscoring that Jesus was human and divine. He was not delivered, as a baby or a boy, from heaven; but came out of Mary.
They lost him and were searching, searching, searching for him. But all along, there he was, at the temple, consumed with his Father’s things. These are the first words we have of Jesus: “Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house?”
This is our English language rendering, and in the HCSB that I am using here. The oldest translation that we are commonly familiar with, the King James, says, “Knew ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” But what it literally says is something like, “did ye not know that in the things of my Father it behoveth me to be?’
That is how we get the idea that Jesus was saying something like, “Didn’t you know that I am all about being consumed by the things of my Father?” Jesus did not say the word “house”. House is in our translations there because the translators would say that it is implied.
Jesus is saying that they should have known that he would be at the temple, the figurative ‘house of God’, involved in the discourse with people about the things of God.
The motif of this story, for me is ‘searching’. We could say that the human perspective was of the parents and their tribe, searching for the lost boy. Searching equals seeking. They were seeking the boy while the boy was seeking or involved with the work of seeking God.
They were seeking Jesus, all the while Jesus was involved with the pursuit of the things of the Father. Jesus did not take a detour to an alone place to seek or be with the Father. Jesus went to or stopped and stayed at the place where people gathered to discuss God things.
This is where we get the phrase, “I had to be about my Father’s business”. What is the Father’s business? It is God’s whole enterprise of loving and saving the people in the world he created.
Today, I am seeking something or a number of somethings. And at the same time, Jesus is seeking or all about, as in ‘consumed’ with something. I believe Jesus cares about what I am searching for, but mainly to the extent that he cares about me.
He loves me and he is consumed with the Father’s business. I am searching for something, while he is involved with doing what he sees the Father doing.
What I am searching for is not bad. Some people in the world must search for their daily food each day. Jesus is not too busy discussing theology with the teachers to care about his people.
He does care and he does understand. But where we get in trouble is when we stress out in our searching for whatever and I am assuming here that we are searching for something wholesome. Something we do not want to do is to stress out and then say to Jesus, “Why did you do this to me?”
My grandmother never touched alcohol and never went to a 12-step group, but she had the serenity prayer on a plaque, above the kitchen sink. I grew up, looking at that prayer, and thinking about it.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change; courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
People who blame God and do not accept responsibility and and do not take the initiative are not developing spiritually, and are half-baked and stunted in becoming men and women, and staying childish.
Another remarkable thing about this story is that it says that Jesus went with them, back to Nazareth, in obedience. Let that sink in. He just showed them that he was ready and they did not get it.
Instead of forcing himself on them, he submitted himself to them. This should blow our minds and massively teach us something about submission. God was ready, but they were not ready to let go.
This is how it is so often with us in our lives. We think we are waiting on God. “Why is he taking so long!”, we say. And all along, God is waiting for us.
Jesus and history had to wait 18 years. When he left home at age 30, his family still did not get it. They had lived with him and did not get him.
This is very sad in a sense, but should also encourage you, if your family does not get you.
It is really nice when people get you, understand you, to the best of their human abilities. But the default position or the case that is most common, is that they won’t get you. And then there is the whole range of the ones you love actually opposing you.
When we fast forward to when Jesus is 30 and begins his public ministry, in one of his first times of teaching, they love it, but then say, “Wait a minute, isn’t this Joseph’s son?” Somehow, many people can’t wrap their heads around ordinary people becoming extraordinary because of God in their lives. Instead, they want to see extraordinary people as gods.
The whole ethos of Christianity is that God in Christ comes into you and makes you a person in-Christ, that Christ works through and points to God.
What does this story from when Jesus was 12 have in it for me and what might it have for you? I am searching. I am always searching for something to one extent or another.
Sometimes my searching overwhelms me and I get stressed out. I am tired and I need rest. That is first.
Then there is the issue where I realize that I am missing God. I have been praying about my search to God, but maybe not enough because my search has taken me away from God’s presence. Maybe I need to search a bit less or pray more or perhaps wait on God more?
What about time out for recreation? But if my search is desperate, like for food or water or a place to stay when all the places say ‘no vacancy’, I probably do need to pray more and practice God’s presence.
It is all grace right? Not my works that make life happen. But faith is only real if it is tested and tried.
The circumstances of life test and try our faith to make it genuine. Faith involves risk and when we risk we do often fail. But God loves riskers who fail.
It is worse to do nothing than to do something that fails.
I am searching. Will Jesus follow me in my search and make it work out? I am supposed to be following him. But I can ask him to grant me success in my search. I can pray as I consider things and choose things.
I would rather be with him wherever he is. When I am searching and he is not with me, that is not his fault. I left him behind and he never left me.
Rather than doing a comprehensive search and then getting overwhelmed and saying “Where are you in all this?”, I want to be with him and then put my head on his chest and ask him about it.