Jesus was never lost. Neither was Mary or Joseph. They would have found each other in time. It just so happens that Mary and Joseph found the boy Jesus in the temple. Finding Him there, they also found out Whose Son He is.
It’s not a cat and mouse game. The account of the boy Jesus in the temple is an epiphany, a manifestation of Jesus’ divine nature as well as His human nature. There are times when Jesus quiets His divine nature and is like any normal man, without sin, of course. Then there are times when Jesus lets His divine nature shine through His human nature. The wedding at Cana is one of those times. So is the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Today we marvel at “His gracious words/Of wisdom undefiled” that we sang about in the Chief Hymn.
Jesus is listening and teaching in the temple. This is the pattern of learning sound doctrine. Too often we are teaching and talking and not listening. Jesus does both. He listens because He is a twelve-year-old boy. Granted He knows the questions and answers before they are asked, but He listens nonetheless. He is obedient to His elders.
But why is Jesus seemingly disobedient to Mary and Joseph? Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him.
If we say that Jesus is disobedient to His parents, then He’s a rebel and not the Lord. Granted Jesus says and does what seems to be rebellious things, but there’s a point behind why He says and does what He says and does. For the doctors of the Law, the point is to learn that God desires mercy and not sacrifice. Jesus does not call the righteous, but sinners. Saint Luke doesn’t give us any indication of the questions and answers Jesus and the teachers gave each other. Yet Luke does say all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
Every now and then you hear about a “Doogie Howser” sort of boy who starts college at twelve years old or even younger. You might say they are one in a million children. Even that number is perhaps too small. The boy Jesus is not “Doogie Howser”. He is the Son of God, the only-begotten Son of the Father Who was with His Father when the heavens and the earth were made. Now He’s in a temple listening and asking questions, confounding the teachers and making Mary and Joseph upset after they searched for Him for three days. Son, why have you treated us so?
Step back for a moment and put the puzzle pieces together. Mary, who treasured up all these things in her heart, forgot about all the treasures she had seen and heard eleven or twelve years before. In all the hubbub to find her Son she temporarily forgets His miraculous conception. She forgets His cousin John’s leaping in his mother’s womb in the presence of the Lord in His mother’s womb. She forgets the heavenly spectacle surrounding His birth. She also forgets the painful journey to and from Egypt to flee a bloodthirsty king. All she can think about is that her Son is lost and must be found.
He is found. In His being found, Mary and Joseph find themselves where they should be finding Him. Jesus has drawn them to Himself, just as He draws all whom the Father deigns to hear His Son. See the boy Jesus, the obedient boy Jesus, asking questions, hearing answers, and maybe giving gentle correction when a wrong answer was given. Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? Of course you knew, Mary! Like all sinners, you forgot for a moment where your Son and your Savior is found.
It’s easy to forget to remember where Jesus is found. Amid the bleak wilderness of our day-to-day struggles with sin and the flesh, we look elsewhere for comfort and for hope. We lose sight of the Savior and search for Him where He is not to be found. What is more, we might even find another savior, a false savior, someplace else.
Jesus is here, where He has always been, in His Father’s house, doing His Father’s business. His Father’s business is to suffer and die for your sin. Here in His Father’s house is where you hear about His perfect obedience to His Father and to His earthly parents. When His parents found Him, He went home with them like a Son should do. Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. Nevertheless, He goes home to Nazareth and does what He is given to do as a Son.
When the time comes for Him to begin His ministry, they will see Him Who fills the temple with His presence not with a cloud, but with flesh and blood. They will see the glory of the Lord shine before His people, healing them from every affliction and teaching them the favorable season of the Lord. The glory of the Lord has skin and bones, both of which are nailed to a tree as a perfect and holy sacrifice for your sin. The glory of the Lord rises from the dead, triumphant over Satan and death forever.
You are a partaker of this glory by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, the glory of the Lord Who fills heaven and earth with His joy and peace. You are washed in His peace, fed with His peace, and live in His peace as you leave His presence in His holy house. As you leave, Jesus goes with you into your life as you do what is given you to do. Where you fall short in fearing, loving, and trusting God above all things, Jesus’ obedience never falls short. In Him you trust. To Him you cling, in life and in death. Seek Him no more, for He is here, in His house, where He said He would be, forgiving your sin and giving you life.