Summary: The story of Joseph and Mary searching for Jesus is an invitation to consider where your are in your journey of faith. If your relationship with God has grown stale, the good news is that Jesus is right where he is supposed to be, just waiting for you to find him.
When Jesus was 12 years old, his parents went to Jerusalem as they did every year at the feast of the Passover. When the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company, they went a day's journey, and they sought him among their relatives and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, looking for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.
The story is narrated by Luke's gospel chapter 2. This is the only canonical story of Jesus’ boyhood, accepted by early fathers to be part of Holy Scripture. Apocryphal works tell other stories that seem fanciful and out of character, such as Jesus striking down children and raising them up again. The forefathers did not choose those stories as genuine and excluded from the divine scriptures.
At certain times in life, we may find ourselves away from God and try frantically searching for Jesus. And one more thing to notice: Jesus was not lost! Jesus was with his heavenly Father. “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). That means Jesus was identifying himself as the Son of God even though He is also the son of Mary. If she had know that, she would know where Jesus would be. To Mary, Jesus is the son of Mary. But Jesus is also the Son of God. His home is where the Father is. We may find ourselves missing God’s presence in our lives and searching for him in the wrong places. We use our knowledge to search for Him where it is most convenient of most fitting. Just like the wise men searched for him in the palace, only to be surprised to find him in a carpenter’s home. Mary and Joseph were searching for Jesus in the wrong place.
Mary and Joseph were traveling away from the Temple while Jesus never left the Temple. They were traveling away from God. Jesus was staying where He was supposed to be. When we may find ourselves separated from God, remember that God has not moved. He is the same unchanging God yesterday, today and tomorrow. If we change our direction and decide to go back, God is waiting for us.
It was only when they had travelled a whole day’s journey and pitched their tents that they had realized they had lost Jesus. Just before we write them off as being bad parents by not watching their kids – we need to understand they were travelling in a large group. A group of men would travel faster and go to a camping place to make tents and prepare for the night. By evening time, the other men and women along with children will catch up. I guess Mary thought Jesus was with Joseph and Joseph thought Jesus was with Mary. So it wasn’t until evening they found that they had lost Jesus. “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 2:46,47).
We cannot take our faith for granted. Eternal vigilance is the price for faith. I guess it is part of Christian living that the longer we are Christians the greater the danger we can lose God’s presence. We take our faith for granted. Some might rely on our parents or grandparents faith. “My parents are Christians, and that is good for me.” This passage teaches us that being close to God is a personal relationship. Your parents or grandparents or husband or wife cannot take care of your faith in Jesus, or eternity for you.
We can even get caught up in doing God’s work and still drift away. The Bishop of Oxford, John Pritchard wrote in an issue of Christianity (Dec 2012) in his article named “God Lost and Found”: if you could see through the bubbles above many heads who are worshipping here, you would find rather less faith than the Pastor would like to think.” John Pritchard goes on to say: “The reality is that most of us at some stage of our Christian journey enter a grey period when the vivid awareness of God that we used to delight in has disappeared.” What was once bright and shiny is now tarnished and dull. Many keep a mask on because it would be just too embarrassing to stay home or go jogging on Sunday morning, but deep down many are going through the motions.
The famous Dutch born Catholic priest and Christian philosopher Henri Nouwen – author of the book “The Wounded Healer” who died in 1996 said this about his own spiritual journey: “After sixty-three years of life and thirty eight years of priesthood, my prayer seems as dead as a rock. The words “darkness” and “dryness” seem best to describe my prayer today”. We can be involved in Church – but then we can miss out on where Jesus is. Amid wars, destructive natural disasters and terrorist atrocities committed in the name of religion, it is not surprising that many have stopped believing in God, lost their faith and go through the physical motions like church-going but with no belief.