Summary: The story of a 12 year-old boy left behind in Jerusalem by his parents? Sound familiar? Almost sounds like a Christmas classic movie! Not exactly. This is the story of the Son of God, knowing who he was and why he was here.
As I read through the account from Luke 2 which you heard this morning of how Jesus was left behind by his parents in Jerusalem, I couldn’t help but think of what has become classic Christmas movie, “Home Alone.” If you’re not familiar with the movie, it’s about a boy around the age of 10-12 years-old who is unintentionally left at home for Christmas when his large and extended family take a vacation to France. The family gets on the plane and it takes off and that’s when the mom has a feeling that she’s forgotten something, only to realize that she forgot her son, Kevin, at home. Not to ruin the ending if you haven’t seen it, but the family is eventually reunited after the mischievous little boy spends a few nights at home alone.
Well, we might call the account that we heard of this morning from Luke chapter 2, “Jerusalem Alone.” But this is not the story of some mischievous little boy surviving in the big city or negligent parents who forgot their son. This is the story of God’s Son Jesus, knowing exactly who he was and why he had come into the world, something that was important for his parents to remember, something that is important for us to stop and see this morning.
Last weekend, we also found Jesus at the temple with his parents Mary and Joseph, but he was a little over a month old at that point. Remember how they had travelled from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to present their son to the Lord and to offer a sacrifice for purification. Some time later, the family returned to Nazareth where Jesus and his family would permanently live.
Twelve years had passed and Jesus’ family made their annual trip to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover. This was a week’s long festival that was also called “The Feast of Unleavened Bread.” This was probably the largest celebrations of the three major festivals that God commanded his Old Testament people to observe each year, and rightfully so. It was the celebration of how God had rescued his people, the nation of Israel, in magnificent fashion from their centuries’ long slavery in Egypt, guiding them through the Red Sea and bringing them into the Promised Land. It was during the Passover that God’s people were reminded of God’s promise to send the Messiah, who would rescue people from the slavery of sin, and by his sacrifice make the eternal death of hell pass over us.
Every year, Mary and Joseph, along with thousands of their fellow faithful Old Testament believers, travelled from all over Israel to Jerusalem, to celebrate the Passover. But this Passover was one that Mary and Joseph would not soon forget. The festival came to an end and the family began their journey back home to Nazareth. They had travelled for nearly a day when Mary and Joseph started looking for Jesus who they had thought was travelling with their Nazarene family and friends. And that’s when panic began to set in. They couldn’t find Jesus! If you’ve ever lost sight of a child in a large crowd even for just a few moments, you know how that feels. The darting eyes, the questioning of relatives and friends if any of them had seen Jesus. And then you can’t help but imagine Mary and Joseph thinking about WHO they had lost! This was not just their son, this was the Son of God entrusted to them by God the Father, and they had lost him! This was really not good!
They started retracing their steps which led them back to Jerusalem. They searched the city for three days when they finally arrived at the temple. And there he was. We’re told, “After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:26,27). These religious experts had what would become a quite common reaction when listening to Jesus. They were amazed. That was especially understandable considering Jesus’ age. This 12 year-old boy showed such maturity in understanding and putting things together that he just wowed all that witnessed it. At first, Mary and Joseph are also caught up in the amazement at what they are seeing and hearing. But then that parent part kicked in. Frustration, relief, fear and anger all come together as Mary questions Jesus, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you?” (Luke 2:48). That word “anxiously” doesn’t do justice to what Mary was saying. It literally means anguish, a word that is sometimes even used to describe hell. In other words, “Why did you put us through this hellish experience?”