Finding Jesus Again in ’23

When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:48-49).

There was a time when parents allowed their kids to have free reign of the neighborhood, often not hearing from them for hours at a time. They may not have known precisely where their child was – but they knew the neighborhood and they knew the neighbors. A child’s extended absence was no cause for alarm.       

That kind of thing is probably what was happening in Luke 2:41-52. Mary and Joseph had taken their twelve-year old son to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When it was all over, they set out for the eighty-mile trip back to Nazareth, assuming that Jesus was among their friends and relatives, never imagining that he had stayed behind in Jerusalem.

They traveled a full day before they discovered that he was nowhere to be seen.  

Three Long Days in Jerusalem

If you’re a parent (or even if you aren’t) you don’t have to work too hard to imagine the panic that Mary and Joseph felt as they made that day-long trip back to Jerusalem. That journey took hours – and once there, they had no idea where he was. I once lost my son at a park for what was probably less than thirty minutes. I played the worst-case scenario in my mind, convinced the police would soon need to be called. Mary and Joseph’s agitated search lasted far longer than mine.     

After three days, Mary and Joseph found their son in the Temple. He was sitting among the teachers talking theology and offering commentary on scriptural texts. Mary was clearly perturbed. “Young man, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been half out of our minds looking for you” (Luke 2:48 The Message).

Jesus’s answer to his mother is the climactic moment of the story, confronting us with who this boy is. “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Losing Jesus

As a new year begins, you may be asking questions of Jesus. Your questions may sound very much like the questions Mary and Joseph had as they paced the streets of Jerusalem for three days, making anxious inquiry of anyone who might have seen their son.

Where is he?

Why is he doing this to us?

What is he up to?

Yesterday we observed that the start of a new year seems to hold out promise and possibility and hope for new beginnings. Today, we take a moment to acknowledge that such is not always the case. The hurts and struggles and fears of 2022 are still alive and well in 2023. Not unlike Mary and Joseph, some of you have possibly “lost Jesus” – not as a matter of conscious rejection. You simply looked around, and he was nowhere to be seen.

Our Frantic Search

After their three-day search, when they finally locate their son, Jesus’ parents reprimand him as any parent would do. “Why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” (2:48). Note that word in the NIV translation: “Anxiously” searching. The ESV says “searching for you in great distress.” The NLT uses the word “frantic.”

The moment is striking in that Jesus does not share their anxiety. He is not frantic. He is not distressed. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (2:49). The Greek of Luke 2:49 doesn’t give the noun, so translators render the phrase “my Father’s house” or “my Father’s business.” Both merit our reflection.

Jesus is in the right place, doing exactly what he needs to be doing.

The same can be said for you today. Jesus is not lost. He is not anxious or frantic about the things that concern you. In this very moment he is in the presence of the Father, and by the Spirit he does the Father’s work. That’s not always easy for us to see or believe. 

Here’s a suggestion for this year: If you’ve struggled to find Jesus, maybe a place to begin searching is simply by following his example. Jesus, of course, is never confined to a building – but there’s something significant about being “in the father’s house.”

Your search may take longer than three days. But keep looking. Jesus isn’t lost. And until you find him again, he is right where he needs to be, doing exactly what he needs to be doing.


Lord Jesus, sometimes we lose sight of you, and in that moment our fears escalate. Give the grace we need to seek you, knowing that you will to be found by us. You are not frantic. You are not lost. Do your good work in us in the days of this coming year. Amen.  

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