“If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. [Jeremiah 29:13-14a (NLT)]
Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him. [Psalm 105:4 (NLT)]
Jesus was lost!
As devout Jews, every year Joseph, Mary and their family made the seventy-mile trek from Nazareth to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish holidays of Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. After spending a week in the city, they gathered with others to make the three-day journey back to Nazareth. It wasn’t until that first night that they discovered Jesus was missing. At first, it may seem that Joseph and Mary were neglectful and careless parents, but their error is understandable. Traditionally, the women and children would have been in the front of the caravan while the men followed in the rear. Being twelve, Jesus was neither a young child nor a grown man; he could have been in either group. Each parent had probably assumed Jesus was with the other one. The worried parents quickly returned to Jerusalem to search for the missing boy. When they finally found Him in the temple, Jesus was surprised by their frantic search. “Why did you need to search? … Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Like Joseph and Mary, do we make incorrect assumptions about Jesus’ presence in our lives? Do we make the Pharisees’ mistake of assuming that being religious is the same as righteousness? Do we assume pardon without any penitence? Do we assume forgiveness when we won’t forgive? Do we assume we’re saved without having been transformed? Do we assume He’ll answer our prayers without our answering His call? Do we assume we’re living for Him without first having died with Him? Do we take Jesus’ presence for granted? Do we expect him to take our journey or are we taking His? It’s never Jesus who is lost but, without Him, we surely are!
Luke tells us Joseph and Mary went back to Jerusalem and three days later they found their boy. Bible scholars disagree on how long Jesus actually was missing. Some scholars say it took a day to discover his absence, a day to return to Jerusalem, and a day to find Him for a total of three days. Others, however, interpret Luke’s words to mean that after the two days of travel, Joseph and Mary searched the city for three days. Whatever way we interpret the verse, it appears that the temple was not the first place his parents looked. We now understand Jesus’ rather impertinent words to His parents. Knowing Jesus as his parents did, shouldn’t the temple have been the first place they looked?
As Joseph and Mary learned, if we discover Jesus is missing, a good place to start looking for Him is in His Father’s house.