Can Jesus Get Lost, Pastor Fred
Can Jesus get lost? Lost from his family? Lost from us? Can Jesus be disobedient and walk away from the family Passover gathering? Will they find him? Will we?
This is the only story of Jesus’ adolescence – when he was a teenager – in any of the gospel stories. Though there are a couple of mystical, fanciful ones in the extra-canonical writings, like the one in the Gospel of Thomas, where the boy Jesus turns clay pigeons into real pigeons – he gives them life, and they go flying away! But the story of Jesus in the Temple, at age 12, is the only one we have in the four Gospels of Jesus’ youth. In Luke’s story of the boy Jesus, there is a struggle between his human obedience to his parents, and his extraordinary God-given knowledge as the Messiah-in-training.
Mary and Joseph’s extended family are all together in Jerusalem for the Passover festival, as was their custom. Not every family took it that seriously. But Jesus’ family did. They were all watching over each other, in that sort of, “it takes a village to raise a child,” kind of way. So, it may not have been unusual that Mary and Joseph don’t know their 12 year old is lost, missing from the extended family. The kids of the entourage would often, hang together at festival time, and parents of one family would be looking out for other parents’ children, depending on where the kids were that day. It usually worked really well. But Jesus was not like every other kid!
And neither does the text make explicit whose fault it should be, that Jesus ends up where he does, and becomes lost to his parents. And it’s probably deliberately unclear. But, we do find out how each, feels about it! Mary is very upset. And Jesus, well he is surprised that they didn’t know where he would be, where he naturally would have gravitated to!
There must have also been a moment of fear and terror, when Mary first discovered that their 12 year old son is missing, and he isn’t with the family caravan – and it’s already been a day into the journey back home to Nazareth in northern Galilee. What do you mean he’s not with us!? Where could he be? Stop, we’ve got to turn back and retrace our steps. We have to find him!
The only thing that can assuage the fear of losing your child, is to search for him or her as diligently as you know how. Time is of the essence! How long can a 12 year old survive without their parent? Without something happening to them? So, back they go, to Jerusalem. Where could he be hiding?
And finally, after three days, they found their boy in the Temple of the LORD. And, contrary to Mary’s worst fears, we discover that in the Temple, Jesus could not be more in his element, and more comfortable! Jesus is asking very astute and learned questions of the rabbi’s, and his answers amazed these scholars! So when Mary asks Jesus why he did this to his parents? Why did he make them so anxious? His answer to them is, well gee, mom, I thought you’d know where I must be. Of course I’d be in my father’s house. Left unsaid, by Jesus, of course, was what the Shepherds who had attended his birth had announced – this good news, that to them, a Savior had been born, who is Christ the Lord. That’s how they should know!
But Jesus also understood that Mary was beside herself, and deathly concerned with Jesus’ whereabouts. And so he agreed to returned with his parents, and was “obedient” to them, Luke says, and he increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.
Mary was angry when she found Jesus, but she no doubt hugged him, and rejoiced that her son, she considered lost, now was found – even though Jesus himself, never felt lost for a minute!
Do we ever feel like it’s sometimes hard to find Jesus? Have you been searching for Jesus, wondering where he’s gone to? Have you been looking for peace in your life? For spiritual answers, spiritual fulfillment? For healing? For forgiveness?
Jesus does not need us to find him, actually. Jesus comes to us, everyday. Jesus is always available in the love and grace of the good news given to all, sealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus finds us!
That Jesus was 12 years old in this story, is of course, significant. 12 is the age of learning Torah, the sacred scriptures and accomplishing your bar/bat mitzvah – something like our confirmation process. It’s the coming of age in the faith, and as a young adult. But Jesus is well advanced beyond that. He amazes the Temple teachers with his answers.
In this way, from the very beginning of the story of Jesus according to Luke, he is continually compared with Emperor Augustus. Augustus considered himself divine and worthy of worship, as the supreme leader of the Roman Empire. He oversaw a period of peace. But, Augustus accomplished it, often times, through intimidation and military might, with any peoples, or nations, who would not bow down to him. Those who fought were conquered and made slaves, often times brought to Rome, lost their property, may never be able to gain control over their lives and families again.
Jesus, at his birth, was hailed as the Prince of Peace by the early church, ruler of the whole world, but a ruler who came to liberate the oppressed and heal the sick, to create a new kind of family, and declare the year of Jubilee.
Here in our reading today, Jesus is again compared to Caesar, who also was wise from his youth, and at the early age of 12 had, for example, spoken eloquently at his grandmother’s funeral. But Jesus is even greater than Augustus, Luke tells us, listening and teaching with the greatest minds of his day, at age 12, proving he’s already the Son of God.
Jesus was not lost in the Temple. In his Father’s house, he knew he was where he should be, where he belonged. In all things, Jesus is about God’s business, caring for the world God made for us, and showing us the way.
At the end of the gospel, Jesus will go to the Passover festival again, one last time. But then it will be with his followers, his disciples, who are his new family. And he will commend his spirit to his father, on the cross. This causes great anxiety for all of them. The followers of Jesus think they have lost him. But it is the disciples who are lost, and after three days, they will be rescued, saved. When Jesus goes to the Passover festival in Jerusalem to celebrate the liberation of God’s chosen people, he is not lost, but accomplishing his mission, for the sake of the world.
Jesus cannot be lost. But we can. We lose our way when we become disconnected from the road Jesus invites us to travel on.
So, who is the one – who is Jesus for us in our lives, the one who finds us? It may be a baptismal sponsor, a parent, a sibling, a friend, or even a stranger. But Jesus has arisen and searches for us daily, and saves us, even when we may not expect it. Jesus never wearies of finding his lost sheep. Jesus wants to liberate us, teach us God’s ways, and walk with us to the festival, and banquet, of salvation!