First Mennonite Church
January 6, 2019
Who Is Missing In Your Journey?
Text: Luke 2:41-52; Psalm 127
Among many, there is a curiosity of wanting to know more about Jesus’ childhood stories. Some have come to call that period, the “Lost Years” of Jesus. Some have satisfied that curiosity in the apocryphal gospels replete with accounts of Jesus’ forming birds from clay and sending them flying into the sky or resuscitating childhood play-companions. They are fascinating stories, but void of theological value to message of Jesus’ gospel. Maybe, the only value in those stories is that they satisfy our human curiosity and expectations from someone as unique as Jesus was.
In the previous passage to ours for today is the story of Jesus’ presentation in the temple. With Joseph’s and Mary’s dedication of Jesus in the Temple, Luke says, they fulfilled “everything required by the law of the Lord.” In today’s opening passage, Luke states that Joseph and Mary went to the festival in Jerusalem every year. That means that for twelve years, Joseph, Mary, their children along with relatives have traveled to Jerusalem together. They developed a pattern of traveling together, looking after each other and especially the children among them. But as Luke recounts, on the twelfth year something pretty unexpected happened. After a day’s journey, Joseph and Mary could not find Jesus among relatives and friends. Jesus was not with the uncle and aunt he usually had traveled with. Jesus did not join the family dinner at the end of the day. Jesus had suddenly broken the usual and expected travel pattern of the family.
If any of you who are parents ever had the experience of losing one of your children even for a second, you know the agony and fear that engulfs you. You might remember the story I told you of the day we could not find Josue for about one or maybe two minutes. Although it was for a short moment, it felt like an eternity. The incident took place in Elkhart. We were housesitting for a family friend who went to Brazil for a month. This family had a large wooded backyard. With the house, they also left under our care Franz, their white poodle. Franz and Josue became good friends from day one. They played tug of war, each pulling the other from either ends of a rope. One afternoon, we suddenly realized that Josue was not in the living room. I went upstairs and he was not there. I went to the basement and he was not there either. I ran to the street side (although he never had wandered on the street) and then to the corner of the streets calling his name. We knew no matter how loud we would call his name, he could not hear us—he is deaf. We were getting frantic by that time and then we realized that Franz was not in the house either. We figured out that the only thing that could have happened is that Josue and Franz went off on a stroll in the woods, because Josue and Franz had become inseparable friends. Wherever one goes, goes the other too. Lilian and I started calling, “Franz,” “Franz,” “Franz.” And from under the trees we started hearing the rustling sound of leaves and out came Josue and Franz marching towards the house again, like if nothing had happened.
Imagine what an agonizing night Mary and Joseph might have had after realizing that Jesus was not among the traveling caravan. For as much as they had wanted to go at night, it was not wise. They had to wait until the morning to start off back to Jerusalem. Joseph and Mary finally found Jesus, discussing heavy theological stuff with the experts and, very likely, accompanied by their students. Mary was the one who voiced maybe both hers and Joseph’s frustration and fear about the incident. Mary asked, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” And just as any parent would expect from a misbehaved child, Mary and Joseph surely expected an apology, but instead got a surprising reply. “Why were you searching for me?” Jesus asked her. But even more surprising is the question that followed: “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” In other words, Jesus was telling Mary that Joseph was not his father as Mary just told him. On the other hand, Jesus was revealing his true identity, reminding his human parents of the things that had been said of him at his birth.
It is fascinating to see what Jesus’ first words are in each Gospel. In Mark, Jesus’ first words are: The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe the good news (Mark 1:15). In Mark’s gospel, the kingdom of God is a major theme in Jesus’ preaching. Amazingly, in Luke, Jesus’ first words are: Why were you searching for me? It is more amazing because this question was addressed to those who should have known him best, his parents.
The richness of this passage is so great that I would like for us to glean some thoughts from it. First, it is natural for us to wonder why Luke among all the other Gospel writers bothered himself to write something about Jesus’ young years. One plausible reason is that it was because Luke wrote to a gentile audience. In the gentile world, heroes usually have extraordinary origins. But, before their major appearance in the public realm, something rather special was also given of their youth to build up greater expectation of them once become adults. And Luke does the same in his presentation of Jesus as the Son of God. As we see, Luke’s story of the boy Jesus is loaded with theological implications about the identity and purpose of Jesus. Luke did not write this story to shame the poor parenting qualities of Joseph and Mary, nor was it to entertain his audience. Luke wrote this story in anticipation of what will follow in his gospel.
Let us continue gleaning from this passage. Once again, now that Christmas is over and the joy of celebrating the birth of Jesus is behind us, what are some unfulfilled expectations you still have about this past Christmas? Maybe, like the parents, Joseph and Mary, who did not want to see their child grow up but to keep him in the safety of home, we too would like that the whole year would keep that Christmas feeling, for its coziness, for the readiness with which people express love so freely, or maybe for the joy it revives in us of those fond memories of our childhood. But just as for Joseph and Mary, Jesus was no longer the little baby but a person who had begun to claim his identity and purpose in God’s plan for himself. He must be in the business of doing his Father’s will. We, too, need to realize that Jesus is not a baby, but our Savior and Lord who demands obedience from us. It could be that the same question Jesus asked his anxious and confused parents, he also is asking us: Why are you looking for me? It not only is a valid question but a very personal question as well. Why are you searching for Jesus? Is it only to give the assurance of eternal life? Or is it also to help you fulfill the business of God on this earth? Jesus invites us join him in doing his Father’s business. As we begin to page through each day of this year, let us be mindful that our very life has a purpose. God wants us to reveal him to the world around us. God wants our neighbors, friends and family to know that he is present in the here and now.
Another though that comes from this passage is that the whole story about Joseph’s and Mary’s journey can be an illustration of our individual Christian journey. Joseph and Mary were faithful church goers. They raised their children attending church, per se, but in the routine of attending church Jesus got left behind with their noticing it. Again, as we begin this New Year, let us not forget and leave Jesus in our rush to get our goals and resolutions accomplished. Let us not forget that even when faithfully fulfilling our religious duties and practices, we still risk leaving Jesus out of our daily lives. The words in Proverbs 16, verse three can be a useful reminder.
Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans.
The words of Psalm 127 are also a good reminder of the importance of taking God into account in everything we want to do.
1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Invite Jesus to journey with you each day. Check on him in prayer, thanksgiving, and supplication every moment during the day. Journeying with Jesus each day is a good goal or resolution to have this year. You will see how richer, deeper, and more fulfilling your life will be by having Jesus by your side every day. Amen!
 According to the Infancy Gospel of Thomas