I read this scripture passage with a small group of people earlier this week – the only story from Jesus’ childhood.
And perhaps you can imagine the conversation afterwards – all of a sudden we were all remembering stories about lost children, parents who lost their children, children who lost their parents
– even someone remembered the movie “Home Alone” when the whole family went on vacation and left their son at home.
I remembered the time when I was with my mother in a Target store – and got fascinated by some toy or shiny thing – and I turned around – and my mother was GONE.
Another person remembered the time her son purposely hid in a department store. She knew what was going on, and had one of the clerks make an announcement over the loudspeaker, “YOUR MOTHER IS LEAVING THE STORE RIGHT NOW” – when he suddenly darted out from a clothes rack and made a bee-line for the door.
It’s not hard to imagine why we all started thinking about these stories.
Think about it – the whole extended family and friends of Mary and Joseph go to Jerusalem every year for the Passover.
It’s a yearly road trip. And then they all return together. Except for one thing.
Jesus stays behind – and no one notices for one whole day. It’s hard to imagine.
Everyone thought someone else was watching out for Jesus. And then – when they figure out he’s missing and go back to Jerusalem – it takes three whole days before they find him in the temple, learning and asking questions. It’s the stuff of which sit-coms are made.
Including Jesus’ sort of cheeky response to his parents, “Come on mom and dad. How come you didn’t know I’d be here – in my father’s house? – attending to my father’s business?”
So it contains a lot of the elements of the stories we know and we think about lost children.
Except for one thing: Jesus isn’t lost. It’s true – his parents don’t know where he is – but he’s not lost.
At the very end of the chapter, there is a line about how Jesus continues to grow in wisdom and in stature – and I’m thinking about what it means that Jesus – the boy – is wise.
We know why Jesus – the man – is wise. We think about the wisdom of his teachings – his parables, which are like diamonds with all kinds of facets, and have the ability to get under our skin.
His teachings – which raise the bar on righteousness but also grant unbelievable mercy.
The way he answered controversial questions with a twist that confounded his critics and his enemies – and gave hope to those who followed him.
But I wonder about what made him wise – as a boy.
Of course, it had to do with how he sat in the temple with the teachers – listening and asking questions –because wisdom is not just about knowing the right answers – wisdom is about knowing the right questions, too.
And you will find that the adult Jesus also has a way of asking questions.
He asks questions of the religious leaders. He asks questions of the disciples.
He asks questions of you and me, too. “Who do you say that I am?” “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his life?” “Do you love me?”
There’s a small phrase too – never the end of the story – when Jesus goes home and “is obedient to his parents” – almost acknowledging that this act of staying behind and going to the temple was an act of disobedience.
I mean – they ARE his parents – and he didn’t say anything to them about his plans not to return to Nazareth with them.
But after this time – he goes home and is obedient – and perhaps that’s a sign of wisdom too.
He is the Son of God – but he is also the child of Mary and Joseph, living under their roof.
But most of all – Jesus was wise
Because he was never lost.
It just occurred to me recently – Mary and Joseph lost Jesus – but Jesus himself – was never lost.
He knew just where he was, and he knew what he was doing. Even more – he knew WHO he was -- as he told his parents when they were anxious about him, “Didn’t they know he had to be in his father’s house?"
And it seems to me that this is true wisdom – to know who you are, to know where you belong – to never be lost.
We – we are often lost – aren’t we – both literally – and figuratively.
How many times have I made a wrong turn, and realized that I was in an unfamiliar neighborhood?
How many times have I been distracted by some shiny object and turned around and realized that I have lost track of my traveling companions?
Just last year – when we were in Peru – we searched and searched for a church on a hillside that had a large statue of Jesus with open arms – and even though we knew we were in the neighborhood, we were lost.
But also – this – how many times do we lose sight of who we are, who we belong to, our true purpose in life?
How many times do we get lost – and by lost I mean – lose sight of our true relationship with the Father – and by whose grace it is ours? And Jesus is wise – in so many ways – he has depth of the wisdom and knowledge of scripture – he knows what is in the souls of humanity – but chiefly he is wise because he knows who he is, because he knows where he belongs, and he knows what he is here to do, and that makes everything else fall into place.
He is never lost.
And when we cling to him – and to our true identity in him – everything else falls into place – and this is the beginning of wisdom for us, too.
I heard a story once – long ago – about a man who was important in the world of business. He was on his way to a meeting, and he decided to take a short-cut. But, as it happened, he made a wrong turn, and he was lost. As he traveled down the road he saw a young boy, walking along. He stopped and shouted out, “Boy, which way to Dover?” The boy answered, “I don’t know.” Next the man asked, “Well, which way to Paynesvile?” Again, the boy answered, “I don’t know.” The man was getting angrier, and said, “Do you know where Granite is?” “I don’t know.” The boy answered. Well, finally the man was so angry that he shouted out at the boy, “You don’t know much, do you?” And then the little boy looked down the road, at a little house with a light shining in the window. “No,” he replied, “But I ain’t LOST.”*
Jesus was never lost – but he went in search of us.
And the beginning of wisdom is to know this – in his embrace, and in his mercy, we too are never lost.
When we knows his love – when we truly know what it means to be found – everything else falls into place.
*This story I found in a devotional by pastor and teacher Rev. Gerhard Frost.