This morning I spoke at our all-age service on Jesus being lost in the Temple, click here if you want the PowerPoint:
WALL.E has just met the mysterious Eva and they are getting along well when Eva appears to shut down completely. WALL.E is devastated and tries everything to get her to wake up. He stays constantly by her side – even clinging to the space ship that comes to retrieve her. Why did WALL.E want to be with Eva so much?
Who do you want to be with the most?
The question we want to ask this morning is who do you want to be with the most? It might be friends and family; it might be famous people – you want to hang out with a great sports person or musician. But to help challenge us this morning on how we answer this question, let’s go back to this morning’s reading and ask who did Jesus want to be with the most?
Initially when we look at the story recorded in the last section of the second chapter of Luke, there seems to be little of consequence, a part of the story of the life of Jesus which if we consider at all we see as merely an interesting anecdote. Since it is the only incident in the biblical record of the growing up years of Jesus, it must be important. Out of all the things that Luke must have heard from Mary, he has chosen only this one incident, perhaps because it reveals so much.
Jesus lost in the temple
In this snapshot of Jesus’ life we hear how the scribes, the teachers and the other people present were amazed at his understanding of scripture. Just as an aside, I did some research and found that there are 41 events in the Gospels where people are described as being amazed or astonished when they meet with Jesus.
I don’t think that we can automatically assume that He was there teaching an interpretation of the scriptures. I don’t think he was expanding the understanding of the educated men of the temple. As highly educated men they would never have been amazed at the teaching of a child. But, they could have been impressed at how much this boy from a distant village knew of the Law and Prophets. Perhaps, he was able to quote blocks of scripture in response to the teachers questions about what Isaiah said or details about Solomon’s wisdom.
For the teachers in the temple to be astonished. I do wonder if His answers to their questions were too good. Too grownup. Too well thought out for a boy of 12. I wonder if he was able to explain the meanings and usage of words like atonement, or maybe how animal sacrifices worked to cover sins and/or other difficult concepts.
It is easy for us to think about Jesus growing physically, from a child to a young man, but it is difficult for us to imagine Jesus growing spiritually. The idea that he would learn the understanding of God and the Law as regular people did seems strange, but was it that the Son of God needed to experience a human existence and limitations if he were to understand the human condition?
Perhaps the reason he stayed in the temple was to learn things in the scriptures about himself. Maybe, He needs teachers, who were objective and came from that academic perspective to explain about the teaching of the prophet’s description of the suffering messiah. I suspect that Jesus would not have received that level of teaching at home in Nazareth.
So, the amazement of the crowd is connected to his dialog with the scribes and Pharisees. But, I am amazed by something else in the scripture. We see Jesus being left in the Temple for three days by his parents. Could you imagine that happening today, imagine the reaction, Parish Safeguarding Officers, Social Workers and the Police would all be working frantically to try and resolve the situation.
I don’t know if you’ve ever misplaced something. You know you haven’t lost it, but you have no idea where it is. Maybe it was your wallet, your mobile phone, car keys, or the classic is your reading glasses. What do you do when that happens? Often it’s the worst moment when that happens, it’s as you try to pay for something in a shop you realise your wallet isn’t in your pocket and you’re not quite sure where it is; or you need to ring someone but you can’t find your phone in your pocket, your coat, your man bag or handbag; you’re rushing to get somewhere and of course that’s the moment when the car keys suddenly seem to have disappeared; and the best one is when you’re trying to read something and so you look everywhere for your glasses. Now in my experience I often find my glasses are actually on my head but in other situations what do you do? You begin to retrace your steps so you can find what you have misplaced.
Mary and Joseph had been to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of Passover, their twelve-year-old son was with them. When the feast was over they began to travel back home. They had traveled a whole day’s journey and set up camp that evening before they had realised they had misplaced Jesus. Before you write them off as being bad parents and not looking after their children understand they were traveling in a large group, the women and children generally would begin the journey ahead of the men. By evening time when they would make the camp the men had caught up with the women and children. I am sure Mary thought Jesus was with Joseph. And Joseph thought Jesus was with Mary. So it was not until that evening they discovered Jesus had been misplaced, and even lost at this point.
This happened to Hannah and I once when we were in the Marks & Spencers at Hedge End. Josh was with Hannah as she was paying for some things at the till, I thought Daniel was with Hannah, Hannah thought Daniel was with me – which let’s all be real is probably the case – I just wasn’t listening! Anyhow we had that mad panic, where on earth is Daniel! After a few minutes of walking round in a panic, quietly trying to say “Daniel, Daniel, where are you?” without looking like a pair of weirdos to other shoppers, Daniel pops out from a display of coats “You’ve found me!”. He’d gone off and decided that we were all playing a game of hide and seek without thinking to tell us we were playing too!
Losing your child is one of the most scariest experiences for a parent. Even if it is only momentary, you know the feeling that almost over powers you. The palpitating heart, the frantic searching, the calling of their name in ever more shrill tones, and feeling of fear, dread, and embarrassment. The questions that surge through our minds: Are they safe? What could have happened to them? There is guilt, shame. We should have kept a better eye on them! We should have been more careful! Multiply those feeling by one hundred and you still could not match that of Joseph and Mary, after all they had been entrusted by God with Jesus, the Son of God!
What I find interesting is that once again we see the word “amazed”, as we read in verse 48: “So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.”
Unsurprisingly once they got over their amazement they were just plain irritated. Just place yourself in the place of Jesus’ parents at this point. You need to be honest! Imagine your growing sense of alarm as the time passed, and the child has not be found. Consider how your fears must have intensified as you recall how absolutely trustworthy Jesus has always been. And then you find him in the temple, seemingly unmoved by any concern for the anxiety His actions had caused. Admit it now, you would be angry with him, just as they were. You would react as any parent would react to a missing child who was finally found and who in their eyes, had been insensitive to their feelings. There was joy, relief but also frustration and confusion. A frustrated mother now addresses her adolescent son and asks how could he have behaved this way, leaving his parents with a major anxiety attack. The term “sought you anxiously” refers to deep mental anguish and pain. The reproach came from hurt feelings.
Who did Jesus want to be with the most? His Father
Mary’s loving rebuke brought a respectful but astonished reply from Jesus. Verse 49, “….Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” Jesus was essentially saying, “Mother based on your own experience of the confirmation given you, you have to know who I am and why I have come to the earth.” Jesus reminds his parents that He was, first and foremost, the Son of God, in obedience to Him, and called to carry out His “Father’s business.” He introduces the concept that he has a heavenly father who had an agenda for him that will not always coincide with that of his earthly parents.
Jesus for the first time introduces us to the concept of God as a father who is present, someone that you can call “Abba” which means father or daddy. Today we have a hard time understanding how radical this understanding was, in the 39 books that make up the Old Testament, God is referred to as Father only fourteen times and then, never in a personal sense. But when Jesus came on the scene he referred to God as his Father and he never used any other term. When he began his public ministry his awareness of God as his Father became the trademark of his ministry.
I also want us to notice that the word “must” was often used by the Lord: “I must preach” (Luke 4:43); “The Son of Man must suffer…” (Luke 9:22); the Son of Man “must be lifted up.” (John 3:14). Even aged just twelve he was moved by a compulsion to do God, the Father’s will.
Verse 50 tells us that, “But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.” Joseph and Mary were not able to grasp what Jesus had said. The incident ends with his parents perplexed at the events that had just transpired in their lives.
The Bible tells us that Jesus went back with them to Nazareth. Verse 51, “Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart.” They both failed to understand and appreciate the full significance of his statement. Mary added this to the list of things that she ponder about her son. It was only after his death and resurrection that Mary truly understood the significance of many of the things that Jesus had said.
Luke summarises in verse 52 the eighteen years, from the age of 12 until he begins his public ministry at the age of thirty. Verse 52, ”And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.” The whole matter is summarised when it says that he “increased” the word can also be translated “advanced.” This is an entirely different word from that found in verse 40 were it says that the child Jesus “grew.” This passage implies more than just the passage of time and the natural physical development, it implies development toward maturity.
God is our heavenly father too. How do we feel about that? Do we want to spend time with Him?
How far would you have traveled before you realised that you had misplaced Jesus? Or should I ask are you sure Jesus is still with you in your travels? Are you sure you have not misplaced him? When is the last time you felt that you really needed him? When was the last time you had to call on him?
God wants to spend time with us more than anything.
Let’s be clear about one thing – God is completely infatuated with you.