Leaving Jesus behind

We have only one story of Jesus’ childhood, when he sat in the temple questioning the teachers while his parents had already started to return home. Surely every parent can identify with the multitude of emotions Joseph and Mary must have felt as they searched for their son.

Men traveled separately from women and children in those days. A twelve-year-old, one year from adulthood, could have plausibly traveled with either group. Only when they stopped for the night and families reunited did Joseph and Mary recognize that no one had seen Jesus. They had to return to Jerusalem to find him.

More than one preacher has commented about the last verse that even Jesus had to learn wisdom from his youthful carelessness.

But wait a minute. This is the incarnate Lord of the universe we’re talking about. Mary and Joseph, like good church people, went on about their business simply assuming that Jesus was with them. Isn’t it the parents’ responsibility to know where their children are? And isn’t it the church’s responsibility to follow Jesus instead of assuming he’s with them?

God is everywhere. He has promised never to leave us or forsake us. We can’t wander away from his presence. Unfortunately, we can easily lose the experience of his presence. When we leave that experience behind, it can be a long time before we notice. It can take even longer to remember where we were and what we were doing the last time we noticed him.

Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus performed a lot of his miracles when he was on his way to do something else. He frequently allowed the opportunity to minister to the needs around him to change his plans, always sensitive to the Father’s leading.

The church and its individual members too often go through worship services, Sunday school classes, and personal quiet time as a routine, assuming that Jesus is around somewhere. If Jesus pauses to go about his Father’s business and we plod along out of force of habit, we will leave him behind. Should we then scold him?

The baby in the manger has grown up. Why are we so often astonished?


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