You know, it is interesting how little the Bible tells us about the early life of Jesus; His childhood and how He grew up. And it’s interesting that the only story we have of His years as a young man tells of a time when His earthy parents lost Him; leaving Him behind in Jerusalem and not realizing it.
Luke 2:41-45 (NIV)-- 41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.
William Not in The Buggy-- Once when my then infant son was sick I took him to Walmart to pick up his medication. And I remember pushing the stroller through those sliding doors, taking the usual left and, after passing the registers on my left, I arrived at the pharmacy. There was a bit of a wait, so I just stood there, hands resting on the handle of the stroller. And on the metal bench in front of me there’s a man sitting there kinda looking at me. And suddenly it begins to dawn on me. I peer over the roof of the stroller and realize (to my horror) that he was not in the stroller. I had gotten the stroller out of the car, unfolded it, then grabbed something out of the front seat of the car, and then began to push the stroller forgetting that I had not put William inside of it. So I bolted out of there in shock, pushing an empty stroller; and I just knew that those who saw me booking it out of there with that stroller knew exactly what I had done. Now it had only been a couple minutes and the car was secure, but nevertheless I was unnerved that I could lose track of my my own child like that. I had with me what he ought to have been resting in, but did not have him.
Losing God’s Son!-- Now it is bad enough losing you own son, but Jesus was more than Mary’s son; this was God’s son! Can you imagine trying to explain to God the Father, “I’m sorry, but we lost your son!” Can you imagine the pressure they must have felt as they looked amongst themselves and then hurried back a day’s journey all the way back to Jerusalem; and then tearing through the streets looking for Him; altogether he had been separated from them for THREE DAYS!!!!!! And two questions often surface whenever we read this passage? One, how can you leave your child (especially God’s child) behind by accident and not know it? And secondly, how can you go for a full day without realizing that He is gone? How can you lose Jesus, especially when he is supposed to be the very heart of your life? But in a way, this story is a picture of what still often happens today. When Jesus is supposed to be the center of our lives, of our time; even if we are doing all the right religious things (as Joseph and Mary had been doing), it is still possible for us to lose the presence of Jesus. And this morning we will talk about how; how we can lose the presence of Jesus; what happens when we do; and how we can keep and maintain the presence of Christ in our lives. Look at…
Luke 2:41-42 (NIV)-- 41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom.
The Three Feasts-- Now ever year Jews would travel to Jerusalem (the city of God) from all over to worship God during the annual festivals that were celebrated there (Ex. 23;14-17; 34:22-23; Deut. 16:16). And there were three of them; you had Passover, Tabernacles and Pentecost. And Passover, of course, is the major one; and it celebrates when the Israelites were in Egypt and God was about to free them (Ex. 12). God tells them to sprinkle lamb’s blood on the mantles and doorposts outside their houses; and He sends the death angel to strike the firstborn of all the Egyptians. And so, when the angel of death saw the blood that covered them, it passed over and did not touch them (hence, the Pass-over).
The Lamb of God has Come!-- But Passover also looked forward to when man would once and for all be free from sin and death; when we would be covered by the blood of an even greater lamb who would free all who would receive Him from sin and eternal death and enable us to enter back into the presence of God. And this is significant because it is during this Passover that the Lamb of God comes (at last) to Jerusalem. It is a momentous time for Israel (though they don’t yet realize it); and it was a momentous time for Jesus. Even though Jesus is only 12 years old, it is a significant time in Jesus’ life because [at twelve a Jewish boy became a “son of the law” and began to observe the ordinances, putting on the phylacteries as a reminder.] So this coming to Jerusalem is significant to him as he enters into this new stage of His life.
Jesus’ Family Devoted to God-- And His parents, probably unaware of the significance of Jesus’ coming to Jerusalem during Passover of all times, are yet still very proud of Him. Now [Most families that lived some distance from Jerusalem, such as Jesus’ parents, went to only one feast a year.] And this, for Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, was Passover, which would fall in late March and early April. But only the men were required to attend; the women were not (m. Hagigah 1.1). So the fact that Mary goes with them shows the depth of their devotion to God as a family, especially considering that the trip from Nazareth normally took three days. We can clearly see that for them, worship of God was central to their lives, as verse 41 says they did this every year. Now for safety reasons, people would travel together in caravans, which gave protection. And it was part of that caravan of people (among whom were their relatives (v. 44) that they came to Jerusalem. Now we don’t know how long they stayed there in Jerusalem. But it says in verse 43…
Luke 2:43 (NIV)— 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.
Not Disobedience or Rebelliousness-- Now it was not out of disobedience or any kind of rebelliousness that Jesus remained behind. He was just so intensely interested in the services; he found Himself (as most boys of that age do) involuntarily preoccupied. And [it was owing to a simple mistaken presumption on his parents’ part (v. 44) that he was left behind.] They assumed He was with them. It says in verse 44…
Luke 2:44 (NIV)— 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends.
The Assumption of Joseph and Mary-- Now because [Joseph and Mary were traveling with a large caravan of friends and relatives from Nazareth. No doubt hundreds of people from their community went together to the feast.] And [The women usually went ahead and the men followed. <So> Joseph may have thought Jesus was with Mary and Mary that he was with Joseph.] [Men and women in such a group might have been separated by some distance, and it appears each parent thought he was with the other.] And Jesus being the age he was, you can understand their mistake; because pre-teens are often caught in between two groups. They want to roll with the guys but at the same time there is still that attachment to the mother. So Mary assumes Jesus wants to be with the men and Joseph assumes He is with His mother. But apparently, [after a day’s travel], they get together, exchange horrified glances and realize that the other spouse never had Jesus. And so they begin a frenzied search amongst their relatives in the caravan. And it says in verse 45…
Luke 2:45 (NIV)— 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.
Talking Theology— You know as a pastor I love theology, which of course is the study of God. Conversation that is theological is especially drawing to me. I love to talk theology. For me it is a holy, sacred thing to talk about God; and in fact it is the heart of the particular ministry God has led me into. But one of the scariest realities of ministry is that we can talk about Jesus and yet miss His presence. Joseph and Mary no doubt had Jesus on their minds; they were probably each talking amongst their friends about Him; did so for a day, never realizing that He was gone.
Talk Without Presence— Recently I was reading one of my favorite authors; and he said something truly remarkable. He said that [The devil was a participant in the first conversation ever held about God. It was Eve’s conversation with the serpent. <He said> Biblically, up to that point the conversations had been directly with God. <And then he said…> Throughout Scripture we find passages in which people who have lost God talk about him.]
Christ-Centered Conversation-- Now is it wrong to talk about God? Of course not. We need to talk about God. In fact, I am convinced that He needs to be brought into just about every conversation; or at least brought into control of every conversation. In fact, if you are able to carry on any kind of conversation for longer than 10 minutes without every referring to Jesus, there is probably something wrong. If you truly love Jesus, you will not be able to keep quiet about Him.
Jesus-Centered Conversation-- My Grandparents have always been like that; my Grandmother in particular. You cannot talk with her for 30 seconds without her bringing up Jesus; it is impossible. And it’s not that she’s trying to force Him into every conversation, which would be awkward. No, it’s just that she can’t help it. She’s not trying to be super-spiritual; it’s just how close she is with Jesus; they both always lived in such constant awareness of His presence, they couldn’t leave Him out. It would have been like that bad husband who brings his wife to a party and, though shaking a dozen different people’s hands, never introduces her. No, a good husband will introduce her to everyone and tell everyone about her, what a difference she has made in his life, and will want them to know her too. That’s how my grandparents were (and my Grandmother still is) about Jesus.
Talk Without Presence-- However, it is possible to talk about God without having His presence. We can miss the presence of God, thinking He is moving with us when He isn’t. That is what happened to Joseph and Mary as they returned from Jerusalem. They assumed the presence of Jesus when in fact He had left. And they had just left after having had a wonderful religious experience!!!! But they missed Jesus. And we see [they had to retrace their steps in order to find him (Luke 2:41-52).] And we can too, if we never move from talking about Him to talking with Him. And so this week I encourage you, settle for nothing less than the presence of God; come into His presence so that you also can experience His transforming power for your life. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.