I want to ask a question to all the parents out there: have you ever lost your kid? Before you start to feel guilty, let me make a confession. I’ve lost my kid too. You’d think that it happened when we had three kids. You know, when we had to switch from man-to-man defense to zone coverage. But it wasn’t when we had three children. We only had one child at the time and he couldn’t even walk yet. Let me take you back to that moment.
My wife and I were living in a little three-bedroom house in Mentone California and we were just getting the hang of parenting. My son Riley was maybe 9 months old at the time. He could crawl, but not walk. So how do you lose a kid whose top speed is about 20 feet a minute? Well, before you judge, it gets worse: not only was he only crawling at the time, but we had placed him in his crib! One morning I woke up and went to check on Riley and he was gone!
My first instinct was to call out for my wife, but I knew what kind of trouble I would be in if I lost him, so instead I ran all around the house looking for him. When I didn’t find him after one lap, I broke the news to my wife. She was always better at finding things than I was, but that was typically keys or a wallet, not a toddler, so this was new ground for both of us. We both raced around the house looking then met back at the crib. Then we started to do some digging. Way down in the corner under several blankets we were able to unearth our child asleep. How lame is that? I lost my own child who couldn’t walk in his own crib! The whole episode took maybe 45 seconds to play out but I remember it to this day.
I think every parent has experienced that panic. It’s horrible, scary and frantic. If you’re a student, you know the feeling too; it’s the same feeling you get it when you can’t find your cell phone. In fact, I get it when you can’t find your cell phone. Believe it or not Jesus’ parents knew this feeling too. Not sure how you lose the savior of the world, but they did:
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.—Luke 2: 41-44
It might be hard to understand how you can lose your kid for a whole day, that is unless you have ever had a 12 year-old. Anyone who has had a pre-teen would understand why Jesus’ parents didn’t necessarily want to walk back home with their kid. I’m guessing the conversation sounded like this. “Where’s Jesus?;” “I don’t know; I thought he was with you;” “But I thought he was with you.” To which Mary would have said, “Should have known you would lose the Messiah. You lose everything.” That’s when the panic would have set in:
44 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. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.—Luke 2: 44-47
Three days. Can you imagine losing your kid for three days? Not only a kid but the Savior of the world. If you’ve ever lost your kid, here’s some encouragement for you. At least you didn’t lose the Messiah. You’ve got that going for you. Every parent in this room might not admit that they have lost a child but if they were honest they’d have to say at least they temporarily misplaced a child.
Have You Lost Jesus?
If you’re not willing to admit losing a kid or if you haven’t had any kids to lose, I think most of us could agree that we have this in common. We’ve all had times in our lives when we, like Mary and Joseph, have lost Jesus. We can’t find him. We’ve looked in the usual places, but He’s not there.
- You’re hurt and in pain and crying for an answer but you get nothing in response.
- You’re battling depression and Jesus is not there.
- You’re fighting for your marriage and there is no progress.
- Your parents are fighting and talking about divorce and you keep praying God would help them get along but it’s not happening.
- You’re struggling with finances or sickness or an injury or a child and you’ve prayed and yelled and screamed and no one was there.
- You’re heartbroken by a boyfriend or girlfriend and Jesus seems far away.
Have you been there? Christians have spent so much time looking and not finding Jesus that they have created a nickname for God. Thomas Aquinas called him Deus absconditus or “hidden god.” That name became so common it has it’s own wikipedia page.
Hide and Seek
Today I want to talk about a simple step that Joseph and Mary used to find Jesus that we can use as well.
Joseph and Mary found themselves in a scary, panic situation as parents. We’ve misplaced the Messiah. And not just for a few minutes. It was three days. Israel Child Protective Services was on the way to their house. That’s a pretty major mistake, but Mary and Joseph made one good decision that was key to finding Jesus. It’s turns out it’s the Bible’s answer to how we can find Jesus as well. Are you ready for it? Here it is. The key to finding Jesus: When Jesus was lost, they started seeking.
They frantically started looking. In the words of Joseph and Mary they were “anxiously searching” for Jesus. The Bible makes it pretty clear that if you are having a hard time finding Jesus, our first step is to start seeking. Over and over and over the Bible tells us that seeking leads to finding.
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord. —Jeremiah 29:11-14
Jesus talks about all the things we worry about including food and clothes and then he says this:
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.–Matthew 6:33
Then He says this:
7 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.– Matthew 7:7,8
Who’s Hiding from Whom?
The Bible is pretty clear that if you seek you will find. If you anxiously search for Jesus you’ll find him. He’ll turn up. So if that’s true, why is it that so many people feel like they can’t find Jesus? I have a thought on that. Are you having a difficult finding Jesus because He is hiding, or are you having a difficult time finding Jesus because you are hiding?
It is in our nature to hide. Always has been. John Ortberg put it like this:
“This is my story. I hide because I don’t want to be exposed in my fallenness, my darkness. I hide because I’m afraid if the truth about me is known, I will never be loved. I hide from other people. I hide from God. I hide from truth – in a sense, I hide even from myself.”
We hide. We are good at hiding:
- The couple whose marriage has gone cold learns to hide. They haven’t been emotionally connected for years and have not laughed together or made love for longer than they can remember. They learn to hide.
- The person who feels like work is a boring and draining and unfulfilling is hiding. He’s hiding in work conversations. Maybe even hiding in a bottle to dull the pain.
- The parents whose kid is struggling is hiding. In a world of people whose kids are off to this college or graduating with honors, their child is still trying to find her way. So they hide.
- The student who’s trying to find an identity checks out the party scene. All the cool people are there. They don’t really want to drink and have sex, but it seems like everyone is finding their identity in those actions, so they join. It’s not really them, but they do it. They are hiding.
We are chronic hiders. Maybe the reason when it seems like God is hiding from you, you are actually the one who is hiding. You’re hiding your mistakes and your fears and your depression.
Where I Found Jesus
Turns out you’re not seeking, your hiding. I know this is an oversimplification of a complicated issue. I’m guessing there are people reading this who really have sought Jesus, but still feel like he’s gone missing. It sounds like my answer is “just look harder.” I don’t want to downplay the difficulty of your situation. All I can tell you is that the more I look for Jesus in my life the more I find him in my life. And He’s not always in the obvious places. Look back at the situation with Joseph and Mary. When they found Jesus, this is what he said:
49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.—Luke 2: 49-50
In other words, “Duh, of course I was at the temple.” Most pastors would use this situation to tell you that you’ll find Jesus in church. So I will too. It seemed obvious to Jesus. But not Mary and Joseph. They still didn’t get it after he told them. I’m not sure we will ever completely figure out the best places to find Jesus. I just know that hiders stay hidden, but seekers find.
In 2017, I can tell you that I found Jesus in some pretty unusual places. To give you a few examples, this year I found Jesus in a law office and a hospital room and in a wheel chair. These weren’t obvious places, at least not to me. They might have been obvious to God, but I was just as clueless as Mary and Joseph. Each of these situations taught me that the more I seek Jesus the more I can see him all around me.
If you look, Jesus can be found in all kinds of places. He can be found in courthouses and cubicles and soccer fields. Keep looking. Seekers find. I believe if you start looking you’ll realize that Jesus wasn’t lost after all.