Luke 2:41-52: Where is Jesus?

A fascinating account!  The only reliable report of Jesus from the time He returned from Egypt until almost three decades later, when He began His public ministry.  To Jerusalem, His family travels for the Passover—the annual commemoration of Israel’s liberation from death and Egyptian bondage by the blood of a lamb (Exodus 12).  Through this, God pictured the real release to come, through the slaughter of the true Lamb of God, Jesus Himself. 

Now, Jesus is 12 years old.  On this day, He’s also at the Temple to go through the ritual of becoming a son of the Law, called “Bar Mitzvah.”  After going through this rite, Jesus will become responsible for understanding the Law’s contents and keeping them.  The custom required a boy, ready to be considered a man, to memorize vast portions of the Old Testament.  Some say as much as the first five books of the Bible—at the least!  So, you thought confirmation to be difficult! 

Think of the implications.  In Jesus’ humanity, He memorized the Scripture, which He, in His divine nature, as part of the Godhead, is the God-breathed Author behind the human writer!  Ponder this!  The incarnate Christ goes to keep the Passover, realizing full well its purpose—to represent Him and His work of redemption to come! 

The Passover is complete and the remembrance of their rescue is now over.  All begin to return to their homes.  Will they?  So, Joseph and Mary leave the flurry and commotion of a crowded metropolis and head back with neighbors and relatives—without Jesus.  How is this possible?  No parent, who’s not negligent in his duties, wants to abandon a child! 

Though they didn’t witness Him enter the caravan going back home, they assume He is within the bustle, as they head back to Nazareth.  Every year, they come for Passover.  So, He understands the drill. 

Those entrusted to care for the Father’s only Son presume He is around, somewhere.  Now, Jesus can take care of His needs.  Though true, He is also in His state of humility.  Though His humanness is evident to all, His divinity is hidden.  So, Jesus is growing in both spirit and body (Luke 2:52), and His earthly parents realized this. 

Though unintentional, this is negligence.  The business of everything overcame these parents and, for them, Jesus vanishes in the multitude.  Today, such actions might receive the charge of child neglect or endangerment! 

So, I stated the obvious—but we often avoid this conclusion because they are, well, Jesus’ parents.  So, Mary and Joseph aren’t perfect, and Jesus will also need to save them from their sins.  Not counting Mary’s virginity, they are like us in so many ways. 

Whenever someone deals with the sacred, he can, in short order, handle what is holy as something mundane and commonplace.  Every pastor and Altar-Guild member can let this happen.  Soon, the pastor is bored, reciting the words of our Redeemer, which make bread and wine also to be our Savior’s body and blood.  Those who attend to the cleanup of the Supper’s gifts of salvation, sometimes think little of what earlier came to Christ’s people at His Table.  Despite the wondrous working of Jesus, others things take over, and He is now a missing person in the maze. 

So, two parents realize their mistake.  Back to the capital city, they hurry, seeking their Son in all the incorrect locations.  These worried detectives don’t go to God’s House, where one should suppose His Son to be.  No, they go where their hearts lead them—in the wrong places.  Laden with sin like us, they search for three, fretful days! 

Exasperated, they find the 12-year-old Messiah sitting with the learned teachers of the Torah.  In His humility, He listens and learns from them and asks them questions.  Far from dismissing this boy as unworthy, they also welcome His words.  Oh, the depth and insight they discern in Him, leaving them amazed as they marvel. 

Astonished, not one rabbi wonders, “Where are your parents?  Why are You here all alone?”  The only ones in a panic are His rattled mother and step-father.  The religious discussion taking place doesn’t interest them.  After three days, who cares about theology, they need to live in the real world.

So what if Jesus is astonishing others, including the Temple’s prestigious rabbis.  The sacredness of their heaven-sent Son wore off long ago.  Beat, worn out, they treat the Holy One as some ordinary boy, and nothing more.

Out gushes the inner anxieties of Mary’s heart.  For her, this is what mattered—her feelings and her love.  Though important, she overrode and impeded what Jesus came to do at the Temple.  In a mixture of profound relief and much annoyance, she forgets her duty in this whole business and puts all the blame on Jesus!

Don’t let your Lord’s reply alarm you.  For if this enfleshed Son only responds as someone earth-born, He will appear snarky and disrespectful.  Not so, if He also reacts as the flesh-enrobed God speaking the truth, which is what He does. 

The God of the universe, who is Mary’s Son, places the responsibility back on His mother.  Still, don’t miss how considerate He is.  No preteen outburst explodes from His mouth.  Don’t He and Mary both recognize who He is?  Yes!  So, she and her husband are without an excuse for being annoyed at Jesus. 

So, if anyone should be angry, He should.  At Jesus’ birth, the angels told them who He is.  With goosebumps, they quivered when mysterious shepherds bowed down to this Newborn.  Later, prophetic words of Simeon and Anna struck them deep inside.  Oh, and the worship of the wise men.  Unknown to us is what God allowed them to acquire in the silent decade, which Scripture leaves blank and unmentioned.

Does Jesus berate them with any of this?  Stark and gentle, He reminds them, “This should not only not surprise you, but you should also be expecting this.”  The insides of Mary and Joseph continue to spin, for they are speechless, with no reply to offer.

Let us learn this day from Jesus’ sinful parents, whose behavior becomes a useful object lesson and reminder for us.  Contemplate all the celebrations in the Church and our lives, where Jesus is at the center.  Joyous time spent with friends and relatives accompany these events—as they should!  With shining eyes and affection, we delight in Christmas morning, the Easter resurrection, and the baptism of a child. 

These are occasions, which God provides.  In our pilgrimage, we can celebrate with His gifts of family and friends.  Most essential of all, and at their core, is Jesus! 

How easy for the unwrapping of Christmas presents to influence us more than the reason for the holy day—Jesus.  So, on Christmas Day, we aren’t where the Christ-Child vows to come to us, in Word and Sacrament.  Now, who celebrates a birthday without the birthday person present?  Like Mary and also Joseph, we too forget the Christ and let other things, though worthwhile, dominate over Him.

So, what do we do?  Go back to Jerusalem, searching for Jesus.  Pursue Him, not in the tinsel, trappings, and finery of a festival but wherever He declares He will be.  Behold Him in the Word.  Seek Him out in the Sacraments. 

Of course, you can go in your garden and wait for Him to walk and talk with you.  Why do something so unsure?  For Christ Jesus doesn’t assure you He will visit you like this.  Don’t waste time on some mere possibility when He tells You where to meet Him!

Encounter Christ in His Holy House.  Here, He pledges to find you.  So, Jesus isn’t absent.  The One who always descends to us in His Word, read and spoken, and His distributed Sacraments is here.  So, if He is gone, He’s not at fault.  No, as His erring parents did, we are the ones who leave Him behind.

In the noise and din of our demanding existence, we can lose the Lord.  Busy, running around to and fro, exhaustion bleeds into our bones.  Too tired, we become irritated, and Jesus is no longer near us because we are not where He chooses to be for us. 

Recall the response of Jesus—the answers He gave, and apply them. 

Why are you so anxious?  Do not wonder if your efforts to be with me are worth your time.  Remember, I came as a saving Gift to you at Christmas, and Life for you at Easter.  Not only at the Red Sea did I save my people.  In the cleansing waters, I gave you an eternal inheritance, birthing you into my everlasting Kingdom.  Trust in the treasure of my forgiveness and pardon, delivered to you every week, when you gather to rest on my holy day.  Didn’t you understand I needed to be here, in this Place of My Presence?

With fresh eyes of faith, given to us by our ears, a smile now graces us.  Again, we can breathe a sigh of respite.  Astounded by the boy Jesus in the Temple, we cry. 

How kind and gracious of You, putting up with all my nonsense.  Each day, I not only agree but choose, to put the secondary ahead of You.  So, You allow me to experience weariness and frustration.  All this is to cause me to turn to You again, to be found by You in Your preached Word and sacred Sacraments.

In mercy, You give me a lifetime to take in these lessons, as You did with Your parents.  My heart is hard, and my mind is stubborn.  In real repentance, restore me to You.  In an unending stream of grace, first poured over me in Baptism, find me and fill me with joy in the promise of Your presence, now and forever.  Amen.

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