Finding Jesus (Luke 2:39-52)
In my hometown, Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, there is a large festival known as “Court Days.” About 100,000 people cram into this small town to swap guns, to buy antiques, and to find that unique gift you just can’t find anywhere else. But, far and away, the best thing about Court Days is the food: elephant ears, fried mushrooms, fresh tenderloin sandwiches.
Yet, when my brother Kyle was about five, he thought this dancing monkey was the best thing at Court Days. This little monkey would dance as his owner played a tune on an accordion. The monkey would gladly take money from your fingers and would even come up and go through your pockets to see if you had any loose change.
Kyle loved watching that monkey and had repeatedly asked Mom and Dad to go back and watch the little critter. Mom and Dad promised that they would eventually take Kyle back to see the dancing monkey, but Mom wanted to look at some other things first. We left one booth and headed in one direction, but Kyle – all by himself – went to look for the monkey. I was only about 8 or 9 when this took place, but I very vividly remember Mom and Dad’s panic. Mom and I went to the State Police’s mobile command center, while Dad and Aaron, my other brother, went to look for Kyle. I remember sitting in that command center while police officers asked for Kyle’s description and offered Mom comfort. Dad finally found Kyle being held by a “Good Samaritan.” Kyle was safe and reunited with his family.
Perhaps, you’ve had a similar experience. Maybe you’ve had a panicky few moments while you’ve searched for a lost child in a supermarket. Yet, imagine Mary’s terror in this morning’s text. She had not lost just any child – as precious as they all are – she has lost JESUS! An angel had told her that she would bear the long-awaited Messiah, and she takes him to Jerusalem and loses him!
You may be sitting there, thinking, “I’d never lose Jesus! I would have kept him right with me, and he would never have gotten lost.” I’m sorry, but I don’t believe you. I’m confident there have been times you’ve lost Jesus. Maybe you were sitting in a hospital, worried that someone who means the world to you was about to leave this world, and you were thinking, “Where is God?” Maybe it was when the boss called you into his office and said that the company had to make cutbacks and you no longer had a job that you wondered where God was. Maybe your marriage was falling apart, maybe you weren’t sure how you were going to feed your children, maybe life just wasn’t going quite the way you thought it should. I know that in my own life there have been many times my faith has been tested. There have been many times that I – like Jesus on the cross – have wanted to cry out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
What do we do when we wake up and feel as though God is far, far away? Where do we find an anchor for life when life’s storms bruise and batter us?
Scripture (Luke 2:39-52)
This morning’s text provides us an anchor and here it is: Wisdom leads us to Jesus.
This text is all about wisdom: The text begins at v 40 by stating that Jesus was “filled with wisdom”; the teachers were amazed at Jesus’ understanding of the law (v 47); and v 52 states that Jesus “increased in wisdom.” Let’s take a close look at the text to see what we mean when we say Wisdom leads us to Jesus.
Luke points out that Jesus grew as other children.
That Mary goes every year to Jerusalem is a sign of her piety; women weren’t required to attend the feasts.
Jesus is twelve when this episode takes place. He isn’t required to appear before the LORD until he is thirteen. The fact that Mary and Joseph take him likely demonstrates that they really wanted to teach Jesus his obligations under the Law.
The fact that Mary and Joseph didn’t know that Jesus was with them isn’t nearly as unusual as it sounds. Large caravans in which friends, neighbors, and relatives traveled to Jerusalem together were quite common. Neighbors would watch the community children together.
Jesus is found among the teachers in the temple, asking them questions. On feasts days and special occasions, famous teachers would teach publicly and anyone who knew the Scriptures could ask questions and debate issues. The surprising thing isn’t that we find a twelve-year-old boy asking questions, but that these wise, educated men are amazed at Jesus’ “understanding and his answers.” This wasn’t just a boy who had a lot of questions, but he was One who well understood the Scriptures.
Mary wants to know why Jesus has treated her like this, because she has been searching for him in “great distress.”
Jesus appears to be just as surprised as Mary – just as amazed as the teachers of the Law – and he says, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Jesus says, “Mom, didn’t you know where to find me? Didn’t you know what I’d be doing?”
The point is: Wisdom leads us to Jesus. Mary should have been wise enough to know precisely where to find Jesus. An angel had appeared and told her that she would bear “the Son of the Most High” (Lk 1:32). As she praises God in Elizabeth’s home, Mary herself says that her Son is the fulfillment of prophecy. Mary had seen shepherds come in response to an angelic announcement and had seen magi come in response to a star. Mary had everything at her disposal to know precisely where Jesus could be found, but for whatever reason she didn’t use her wisdom. You see Wisdom leads us to Jesus.
So, what does all of this have to do with me?
When I need to find Jesus, wisdom will lead me there. If I’m sitting at a hospital about to lose the dearest in all the world, wisdom will tell me where to find Jesus. If the boss says I need to find other employment, wisdom will tell me where to find Jesus. If my marriage is coming apart, wisdom will tell me where to find Jesus.
So, what are we supposed to do? Jesus can, of course, be found in Scripture: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (Jn 5:39). Thus, if I want to know where to find Jesus when everything is falling apart, I need to know the Word of God.
Here’s what I’d like to see you do this week. Take seven of your worst fears: the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of your health, etc. Some of those fears could very well happen. I want you to take one of those fears each day, take your Bible, and find Scriptures that speak to that fear. Write those Scriptures on a piece of paper and tuck that paper somewhere safe. Then, when you face that fear in reality, you have the wisdom to lead you to Jesus.
What would this church be like if we remember – even in our darkest moments – that Wisdom leads us to Jesus? What impact might we have on the doctor if, instead of falling apart when he told us devastating news, we keep our heads and know where to find Jesus?
Many years ago, a member of the church was having heart surgery. I was there along with many other members of the congregation. The surgeon came out to tell the family that things didn’t look so good – the faulty valve had been replaced, but when they went to restart the heart, it just didn’t beat right. Before the doctor could leave, one of the members of the church jumped up and said, “Let’s pray.” You really needed to know this brother, but he wasn’t going to allow that doctor to leave without prayer – no ands, if, or buts about it! The doctor left to try to get the heart going again.
He came back a short time later to tell us that the guy was out of surgery – something the doctor never expected. The doctor said that he never stayed with families while they prayed (that, you understand, is outside the realm of medicine). But, the doctor went on to say what an impact that prayer had on him and how surprised he was to find a family in deep distress turn, not on him in anger, but on the Lord in dependence. In all disclosure, the man who had surgery died, but the point is: The family had wisdom to know where to find Jesus and impacted the doctor because of it.
What impact might you make on that boss who fires you if, instead of lashing out at him in anger, you use your wisdom to turn to Jesus?
What impact might you make on your marriage if you use wisdom to turn to Jesus?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Dale Ridge church of Christ in Roanoke, Virginia.