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Have You Seen My Son

Luke 2:41-52

The Rev. Jon Roberts

3 January


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; 43 and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; 47 and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” 49 And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.


Jesus in the Temple by Heinrich Hofman, 1881

Have you seen my son?
I don’t know where he has gone.
Have you seen my son?
He must be somewhere all alone. [1]

The McCallister family had been planning and waiting for a very special Christmas vacation, where they would leave their home in the Chicago suburbs and go to Paris…France. Kevin was the youngest of five siblings and was eight years old at the time. With mom and dad reviewing every detail for the nth time, all everyone had to do, was to go to sleep, wake up early and head to the airport. The checklist of items was detailed and Kevin’s mother, although anxious and frazzled, was ready to start checking things off. Everyone set their alarms, but something happened that night. The power went out. Fortunately, mom and dad woke up, but only with thirty minutes to get ready. They made as much noise as they could, ordered children to grab their luggage and go get in the taxi. What a mad rush. Off they went to the airport, through the terminal, onto the plane and across the Atlantic. Dad, the children, were fast asleep, but mom was restless. She just knew something was missing from the list but she couldn’t put her finger on it; and then it hit her…”Kevin!” she shouted with horror. They left eight year old Kevin behind. Half way across the ocean and in the height of the busiest travel season in Europe, it would be quite the tale of their reunion. Kevin slept in and when realizing he was “Home Alone” he began to enjoy his independence. He did so until later, when in the movie he was under siege by two burglars, attempting to rob his house, with him in it. The story goes on, and ultimately the bad guys go to jail and the mother reunites with her dear son, but you begin to wonder what a parent must go through, when they can’t find their son.

Have you seen my son? I’m not sure where he has gone.
Have you seen my son? I’m afraid he must be somewhere all alone.
Mary and Joseph could easily be saying the same words as they made their annual return to Nazareth from Jerusalem during the Passover, the busiest travel time for Jews into the Holy City. Jesus was a bit older than Kevin. He was twelve. Still, how did Mary and Joseph manage to get all the way back home and not find Jesus until three days later? When they opened the door, put away their luggage, prepared a meal and set the table for all the children (Yes, Jesus had siblings), one seat, for the eldest was missing. It would have been nice for the older son to ask his father, Joseph, “Hey dad, I need to stay in Jerusalem a while longer. Is that OK?” Maybe he could have sent word to a relative to pass along to the caravan, so that at least they would not be so shocked he was missing and filled with anxiety, as it says in the narrative. There are a few other things worth pointing out as well, such as his response to where he told his parents he happened to be all this time, “His father’s house.” Wasn’t Joseph his father? Notice that Mary hid these things in her heart. Joseph may have been put off by this response and Mary felt she could not discuss with him due to the frustration and possible anger he showed. Then again, how could Joseph argue, knowing the Father in heaven was supreme? Once they returned home, you will also notice it says that Jesus remained obedient to them. Obviously he did, because we do not pick up on his life again, from any of the Evangelists until he turns thirty years of age. He remained by his father’s side, in the carpentry shop all that time, until his Galilean ministry.

The Lucan narrative, like the one from Matthew, is interested in the origin of Christ; of his birth and childhood. Mark and John do not illustrate this past. There must, therefore, be some religious value to this inclusion and why Luke, alone, tells this particular story. Luke, you may recall was a physician. In his own rite of passage, there was a formative process to becoming one specialized in medicine, just as we have such educational requirements today. He would have been most interested in how Jesus of Nazareth would have cultivated his knowledge of the stories of the Old Testament, how he became versed and skilled in the art of didactic and reason. This story in Luke shows every reason why Jesus should not be a rabbi. He had no formal education. He was the son of a carpenter, most likely all the way until Joseph’s death and perhaps succeeded by the next sibling, James, perhaps. How was he able at the age of twelve, able to converse with scholarly wisdom inside the Temple of Jerusalem, of all places. This was not a small parish in the suburbs. This was the cathedral where the brightest were being formed. Caiphas, Annas and Nicodemus, at this time would be advancing in their rabbinical seniority, and Jesus spoke with them. A child, not a pupil; not an apprentice, not anybody who is anybody, came into the Temple and discussed the mysteries of God with the best and most powerful religious leaders. That, in its own right, makes the story a miracle, but wait, there’s more.

The religious value does have an application for each of us. Let us think about it in this way. How important is the Church to Christ? Apparently the Son of God was willing and continues to be willing, to live inside the Father’s house. We should not be shocked to learn he is here. What should shock us is that many times we are negligent in leaving him here. The church represents our self-acclaimed brain center where knowledge and wisdom reside. This is the temple of Jerusalem. It is the importance of our intellect to which we desire to know the Father. Faith is something we take away from that experience, with us to the outskirts, of our earthly pilgrimage, to the house of our earthly parent. This is the land of Nazareth. It is along this path, when things may become dark and desolate; when we grow anxious, wondering where Jesus is in our lives. That is when we make our pilgrimage of return back into the parts of our thinking where we need revelation and insight. This is the importance of coming to church; hearing God’s Word and receiving the Father’s grace in the sacrament. In my Father’s house, there are many rooms. Jesus travels from one to the other, but due to our lack of faith, our inability at times to reason or willingness to learn, he escapes us. Will you call out to him? Will you search your heart and your mind to discover Jesus, God’s Son, each and every day?

Have you seen God’s Son?
Do you know where he has gone?
Have you seen God’s Son,
When you were afraid and all alone?

From the father’s house of knowledge and wisdom in Jerusalem, may he travel with you, strengthening your faith along your way, to your house in Nazareth. You are never home alone.
[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] Luke 2:41-52
[3] Raymond Brown, Christ in the Gospels of the Liturgical Year, Liturgical Press, 2008, pp. 43-49.

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