Summary: It's easy for us to lose sight of Jesus, but in faith, we will always know his presence with us.
Several years ago the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article on the Stages of Aging. In the article, the doctor described a case study he had presented to his students when teaching a class in medical school. He described the case study patient under his care like this:
“The patient neither speaks nor comprehends the spoken word. Sometimes she babbles incoherently for hours on end. She is disoriented about person, place, and time. She does, however, respond to her name. I have worked with her for the past six months, but she still shows complete disregard for her physical appearance and makes no effort to assist her own care. She must be fed, bathed, and clothed by others.
“Her food must be pureed. Her shirt is usually soiled from almost incessant drooling. She does not walk. Her sleep pattern is erratic. Often she wakes in the middle of the night and her screaming awakens others. Most of the time she is friendly and happy, but several times a day she gets quite agitated without apparent cause. Then she wails until someone comes to comfort her.”
After presenting the class with this challenging case, the doctor then asked his students if any of them would like to volunteer to take care of this person. No one volunteered. Then the doctor said, “I’m surprised that none of you offered to help, because actually she is my favorite patient. I get immense pleasure from taking care of her and I am learning so much from her. She has taught me a depth of gratitude I never knew before. She has taught me the spirit of unwavering trust. And she has taught me the power of unconditional love.”
Then the doctor said, “Let me show you her picture.” He pulled out the picture and passed it around. It was a photo of his six-month-old baby daughter.
I like that story for several reasons. For one thing, it shows us how essential it is to have all the facts before we make a decision. But more importantly, I think, it shows us the importance of perspective. And this story reminds us that our children have so much to teach us if we will just tune in and pay attention; even as the child Jesus had some things to teach his parents; and us too if we will tune in and pay attention.
So let’s take a closer look at what’s happening in this early passage from Luke’s gospel. As Luke opens his gospel, he has made some amazing affirmations about Jesus that help us to understand just exactly who and what Jesus was. From his infancy throughout his childhood and into adulthood, Luke shows us that this is the Christ, the Messiah, our Savior. And here, we are given this glimpse of a twelve year-old boy who confounds his parents, the religious leaders, and many others, even to this day. The point of this passage is not so much to teach us how to be better parents or how to follow God’s will, but Luke has included it here to remind us that this is the Christ: to give us perspective, understanding, and cause for faith.
Have you ever misplaced something that is very important to you? You knew you hadn’t lost it, you just could not find it. Maybe it was your wallet, a pen or your car keys. You know what I’m talking about. What do you do when that happens? First off, you don’t know there’s a problem until you need what it is you thought you had. It is not until you go to pay your dinner ticket that you reach for your wallet and it’s not there. When you are getting ready to take the number down you realize your pen has vanished in thin air. Or as you hurry out the door to go pick your child up and you discover you no longer have your keys. Then what do you do? Everything stops, doesn’t it? You freeze as you think back in your mind about what you have been doing, and then you began to retrace your steps so you can find what you have misplaced.
We’ve all been in such circumstances; perhaps we have even had that experience of losing a child, or as a child losing our parents. Until the lost is found, it’s an awful feeling no matter what. And I think we can all relate to Mary and Joseph’s panic when they searched among their family and friends only to discover that Jesus was not with them. So all of this raises an interesting issue for us this morning. We need to put ourselves in Joseph and Mary’s shoes for a moment and understand Jesus to be one of our own family; this is what Jesus desires with each of us, that we would be joined with him as one family. And the question is this: if we were to discover, like Mary and Joseph, that we had lost sight of Jesus, what would be our reaction? Would we be overcome with the same sort of panic and urgency that we feel when we lose keys, or wallets, or even our own children?