Few experiences in life are more horrifying than the moment when a child cannot be located. Single seconds drag on like hours while the frantic searching ensues.
Just imagine three days.
That is exactly what Mary and Joseph faced when their child went missing in Luke 2:41-52. Lose someone’s dog? Awkward. Lose the Son of God, the Savior of the world? Unimaginable.
They lost Jesus. So do we. We look up on whatever road we are traveling to realize we feel distant from Him. This is not really about losing salvation, but more so about losing closeness or communication.
Here are a few ways we can tend to lose Jesus in our lives and religious practices:
We Lose Jesus in Familiar Places.
Mary and Joseph’s family trip to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover was something they had done together for years. It was a familiar journey, and they lost Jesus when they assumed things were just as they always had been.
Similarly, Jesus is often easily lost in our normal day-to-day routine. Busyness, stress and the daily grind can overcast our spiritual awareness like highway hypnosis.
We Lose Jesus When We Allow Religious Routines to Trump Relationship.
Mary and Joseph lost Jesus not just in their routine, but in their holy routine. They were in God’s chosen city to offer sacrifices of worship—doing the right things for the right reasons.
The only catch was this: while they were doing good things for God, God was no longer traveling with them.
We need holy routines, but we must not let them take the place of actually interacting with Jesus.
We Lose Jesus in Assumptions.
Luke 2:43-44 tells us that “His parents didn’t miss Him at first, because they assumed He was among the other travelers.”
It’s easy to assume that Jesus will be where He has always been. Jesus’ nature, goodness and Kingdom principles never change, but that does not mean that He is stagnant, predictable, or stationary.
Tradition and repetition—both old and new—can lead us to godly practices curiously devoid of God. When we let assumptions replace what Jesus is actually saying or doing now, we actually stop being followers of Jesus. We start trying to lead instead.
The good news was that when Mary and Joseph figured out Jesus was missing, they changed directions to seek Him. They didn’t just continue the way they were going and hope He would turn up. They went back to look for Him.
Here are a few places where Jesus was found by Mary and Joseph—and where we can also find Him:
We Find Jesus in Holy Places.
Sometimes we assume just because we lost Jesus in a holy place that He cannot be found there again. Many people refuse to look for Him near anything religious because religion, or holy places, seemingly inflicted their wounds in the first place.
The problem lies in the definition of holy place. “Holy” actually means separate or set apart. Holiness cannot be achieved; it can only be entered into when we set ourselves apart unto God’s pleasure instead of our own. The holiest place you can offer is your own heart surrendered to Him. “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me” (Jeremiah 29:13).
We Find Jesus When We’re Desperate.
Just because Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple does not mean that the lesson is that everyone needs to simply go to church to find Him. They spent three days in Jerusalem and never thought of checking the temple, which more likely indicates they were coming to tell God that they had blown it. They had exhausted every option. And in their moment of deepest brokenness, they found the very One they were most desperate for.
Like it or not, this is a theme in Scripture. Casual seeking rarely finds Him. He is found by those who are desperate—near to broken hearts and contrite spirits (Psalm 34:18).
We Find Jesus in Service.
Jesus acted surprised that they were surprised to find him where he was. “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (v. 49)
We should look for Jesus not because He is hiding, but because He is moving. This motion will always lead to the place where the business of the Father is being carried out—where God’s truth is being spoken, where needs are being met, where broken hearts are being mended, where godly relationships are deepened, where widows and orphans are cared for.
When Jesus feels distant, you will generally sense him closer when you search for the business of his Father.
John Driver is a pastor, speaker and author, penning books with Tim Hawkins and Reggie Dabbs. He is the creator and president of Ignition7, a global video discipleship initiative. Find him on Twitter @John_Driver.