Where Can You Find Jesus?
In the Gospel of Luke, we are given our single story of Jesus in adolescence. On the surface, it may seem like a small insignificant story. But the more and more I dig into it, it seems to be brimming with meaning and purpose. It is found in Luke 2:41-52, and the general gist is this: When Jesus was twelve years old, he along with his mother and father traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover. At the end of the feast, Mary and Joseph are on their way back to Nazareth, when they realize that Jesus is not with them. They return to Jerusalem and search three days for Jesus until they find him sitting and talking among teachers in the temple.
One of the first questions some people have when they read this story is, how could Mary and Joseph lost Jesus? They traveled an entire day and it wasn’t until evening when they suddenly noticed that Jesus was gone. This is answered when you read verse 44 and consider the nature of travel in the first century. It says, “supposing him [Jesus] to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances.” Back in that day, most everyone traveled by foot, and to travel alone was dangerous. So people tended to travel in large groups or caravans. It also being the Passover, a considerable amount of their family and friends from Nazareth were traveling with them. Certainly back then, the same as today, children desire to spend time with children, and adults are grateful when someone else is looking after the kids. Mary and Joseph presumed Jesus was with the other children in the caravan and was being watched by someone they trust. It was like that beginning scene in Home Alone where everyone assumes someone else to have accounted for Kevin.
Here is the first insight I want to take out of this passage. Mary and Joseph didn’t know where Jesus was, but they were sure someone else was taking care of it. It wasn’t until they had traveled an entire day and they begin looking for Jesus that the fear and anxiety starts to take hold. Up until then, they were traveling farther and farther away from Jesus, but they weren’t concerned. They thought someone else was keeping track of Jesus.
I think that this is often how many people treat Jesus today. They gather around themselves people that they believe they can trust, who seem to have an interest in knowing where Jesus is. And then they coast for a while. They don’t concern themselves where Jesus is, someone else in the church is keeping an eye on him, the pastor, the elders, brother so-and-so, someone certainly knows where Jesus is. And after a while they look around and they find that nobody seems to know where Jesus went. People are following their own doctrines, the church is going down its own path, and no one seems to know or care where Jesus is.
So, Mary and Joseph return to Jerusalem and spend three days looking for Jesus. Just recently, in one of my latest read-throughs of this passage, it struck me how long three days must be to search for a missing child. Those are long and arduous days. Retracing every step, going to every nook and cranny, checking and rechecking and re-rechecking every spot you can think of. This isn’t a half-hearted attempt to find Jesus, this is desperation. And they cannot find him for three days. They finally find him in the temple of all places, and Jesus is talking with the teachers there. Mary chastises Jesus saying, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress” (2:48). That certainly seems like an understatement coming from a concerned mother.
Jesus’ response is really interesting to me. In verse 49 he says, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Jesus response is an odd one, and in the next verse it says that Joseph and Mary did not understand it. Jesus is saying that they didn’t need to search for him, there was only one place he could have been. Jesus asks, “Did you not know that I MUST be in my Father’s house?”
The answer to where Jesus is, is that Jesus is where he should be, and he always has been. When we lose sight of Jesus, it’s not because he tricked us, or he went hiding somewhere obscure. He’s right where he’s supposed to be. It reminds me of the story in the Old Testament when King Josiah is refurnishing the temple, and the priests come to him saying, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 34:15). How long had it been hiding there in plain sight? It was where it was supposed to be. How many people have a Bible right in front of them or easily accessible, and they still wonder what God might want from them?
Jesus is not hard to find. He’s sitting in plain sight. You can pick up a Bible (or click on an app) and start reading. You can discover him today. Do not trust in other people to take care of Jesus for