Monday, September 17, 2018

Jesus Goes AWOL

“‘Why were you searching for me?’ he asked. 
‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’” - Luke 2:49

This past week I was thinking about my junior high years. I turned 12 a few months into seventh grade, and if I remember correctly, I didn’t accomplish very much. I got A’s and B’s in school, but so did many others. I played AYSO soccer, but so did thousands of other kids. And like most other pre-teen boys I stumbled over my own two feet, and my voice changed, and I picked on girls I liked. Nothing earth-shattering—right?

Now, consider some of the heroes of our faith in Scripture. It’s interesting that we know very little about their childhoods. We know nothing about pre-teen Noah or 7th grader Abraham or junior high Paul. We read a little bit about Samuel when he was a kid, and David might have been a teenager when he slayed Goliath, but we can’t be sure. When it comes down to it, the Bible doesn’t tell us very much about the childhood years of our Biblical heroes. But, as we see in the second chapter of Luke Jesus is an exception to the rule.

When Jesus was 12 years old, he went with his parents to the eight-day Feast of Passover. After eight days, Joseph and Mary joined a caravan and began their long road trip back home. But a funny thing happened on the way back to Nazareth: they misplaced Jesus.

In Luke 2:43-44, we read, “After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends.” Now, from our 21st century perspective, Mary and Joseph look completely negligent, don’t they? How on earth could you leave your pre-teen son in a strange city and not even realize it until the end of the day?

Well, before you call CPS on Mary and Joseph, you need to realize that at 12 years old, Jesus was less than a year away from entering Jewish manhood. So, it’s not like Mary and Joseph were leaving behind a 2nd grader. And because Mary and Joseph were traveling in a large caravan, they probably weren’t traveling side-by-side. Joseph probably assumed Jesus was with Mary and their other younger kids in the front of the caravan. But since Jesus was nearing male adulthood, Mary probably assumed Jesus was with Joseph at the back of the caravan. And their cell phone reception was really spotty, so they didn’t compare notes until the end of the day.

But what’s remarkable about this story is what they discovered when they returned to Jerusalem and found Jesus. He wasn’t in the street kicking a ball with other kids his age. He wasn’t panhandling from a food vendor in the marketplace. “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). Jerusalem’s best and brightest rabbis were blown away by Jesus’ understanding of Scripture and theology. They knew they were in the presence of some sort of child-savant with a spiritual understanding well beyond his years.

And when Mary scolded him for sending them on an anxious three-day search, Jesus’ response was a puzzler: “‘Why were you searching for me?’ he asked. ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what he was saying to them” (vs. 49-50). It wasn’t just a matter of Jesus being a child genius. Simple genius would have been easier to deal with. What Mary and Joseph couldn’t wrap their minds around was the fact that their boy was not THEIR son. He was GOD’S son. From Jesus’ perspective, he wasn’t on his way home to Nazareth, because he was already home in his Father’s house in Jerusalem.

It seems clear that when Jesus came to earth, he emptied himself of most of his eternal power. When he was a kid he wasn’t all-knowing or all-powerful. He allowed Himself to be born as a helpless baby who needed to learn how to talk and walk and obey his parents just like every other kid. But this appears to be the point in time when Jesus had an awakening—here, at the age of 12, seems to be when he realized for the first time that he was the Son of God, and His life’s purpose was to do the will of the Father. Jesus understood these realities at the age of 12. But for Mary and Joseph … that would take quite a while longer for them to grasp.

If any 12-year old was ever smart enough, spiritually mature enough and experienced enough to call the shots in his home and rule over his parents, it was Jesus. But Jesus modeled what God expects of kids and teenagers: He submitted to their authority. We’re told in verse 51, “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.” The Savior of the world humbly obeyed his parents as he grew up physically, socially and spiritually.

So if you’ve closed your ears to the truth, do what Jesus did—SIT, LISTEN, LEARN and OBEY. Let’s be honest: We’re not very good at sitting down and listening. We close our ears to others’ opinions. We close our ears to others’ needs. We close our ears to our spouses and to our kids and to our parents. We act as if we’re know-it-alls. But even Jesus wasn’t a know-it-all. He sat and listened and learned and submitted to the authorities God had placed in His life. So too should we.

Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information, visit and join us Sundays at 10 a.m.

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