Where To Find Him When You Find Him Missing

Bible Book: Luke  2 : 41-49
Subject: Jesus, Finding; Renewal, Spiritual

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 797,500 children were reported missing in a single year. Some 200,000 of those were abducted by someone within their family. 58,000 of them were abducted by someone outside of their family.i

At the close of Luke chapter two, we find a story involving a missing child. The child in question was not just any child, however. This missing child was none other than the only born Son of God. As you read this interesting story, you realize that even though Mary and Joseph could not find Him, the Lord Jesus wasn’t really lost at all. He was safe and secure in His Father’s house. This particular passage is one of the most intriguing and important texts in the New Testament. It is significant for a couple of reasons.

First of all, in this text, we have the first recorded words from the mouth of the Lord Jesus. He asked His mother, “How is it that ye sought me? [Do you not understand] that I must be about my Father's business?”

This story is significant also because it gives us our only glimpse into the life of our Lord prior to the beginning of His ministry at 30 years of age. With that being said, the story itself has in it some wonderful lessons for those, who like Mary and Joseph find the Lord Jesus missing from their lives.

There are times when we assume we are near the Lord, only to find that we have left Him at some point in our journey.

As we examine this story, there are three truths we draw from it that help us to find Him when we find Him missing. First of all, there is a truth here that deals with the issue of:

I. Leaving without the Lord Jesus

I read a story once about a couple that were standing in line at the airport getting ready to fly out on vacation, when the husband said, “I wish I had brought the piano.” The wife said, “The piano? Why do we need the piano?” The husband said, “We don’t. But our tickets are on the piano.”

As we go through life, there are times that we set out on our path and forget the most important thing. That was certainly the case with Mary and Joseph in Luke 2.

The whole family had visited the great city of Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Luke tells us in verse 43, “And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.”

Joseph and Mary left without their son. In so doing, they remind us of those who venture out in life without the presence of the Lord going with them. Notice a couple of things we learn from Mary and Joseph about leaving without the Lord Jesus. First of all, notice with me:

A. Their Supposition

Look with me at verse 4There Luke explains why Mary and Joseph left Jerusalem without the Lord Jesus. It says, “But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey…”

It is likely that the family had traveled in a large caravan of people from Nazareth, and Mary and Joseph just assumed that their Son was somewhere with the group.

Mary and Joseph remind us of the danger of supposition and assumption when it comes to the Christian life. It is dangerous to assume and suppose things about the Lord Jesus.

The Christian life is not lived based upon suppositions, but rather upon convictions. We live for the Lord, and walk with Him based upon what we know to be true; not what we assume.

There are many that assume and suppose that because they attend church regularly, the Lord is therefore with them. Others assume and suppose that because their morality is a step above their neighbor’s, it is somehow an evidence of a right relationship with God.

There are many churches that assume and suppose that Christ is with them as they gather on the Lord’s Day. However, for many of them, as in the book of Revelation, Christ is standing on the outside knocking.

In much the same way, don’t just suppose He is in the company of your home, simply because you call yourself a Christian. You can attend church, and still raise a pagan family. Don’t assume Christ is present and active in your life.

Notice something else we draw from Mary and Joseph, and their leaving without the Lord Jesus. Notice not only their supposition, but notice also further:

B. Their Separation

Because Mary and Joseph did not make sure their Son was with them, they traveled an entire day’s journey, and separated themselves from the presence of the Lord.

There is a very interesting principle illustrated in this scene. What we have here is a picture of the difference between relationship and fellowship.

Though they were separated by distance, Jesus was still Mary’s Son. The relationship was intact. However, she could not speak to Him. She could not hear His voice. She could not touch Him. Was there a relationship? Yes. Was there fellowship? No.

In much the same way, we as believers can set out in the journey of life, assuming the Lord Jesus is with us, only to find out that somewhere we have left Him.

He is still our Savior. We are still Christians. The relationship has not changed. However, we cannot communicate with Him as we once did. We don’t hear His voice, or sense His touch as we had when we were close to Him.

Is that your story? There was a time when you walked with the Lord every day. You read His Word and talked with Him in prayer. Now, it has been weeks, months, or even years since you were truly close to Him. There is a separation. You have a relationship with Christ; but no fellowship.

The boy’s parents say it was a complete accident. Michael Emanuel’s sixth birthday party at a Chucky Cheese in Boca Raton, FL was over, and all the kids piled into cars and left, with the exception of one – Michael, the birthday boy. His mom told the police that there were twelve kids at the party, and Michael was simply overlooked, even though they didn’t realize he was missing until the next day. The Department of Children’s Services is looking into the case.

I don’t think that most Christians intend to leave without the Lord Jesus. However, like Mary and Joseph, through negligence and supposition they find themselves separated from Him, and though they still have a relationship with Him, they are far from having fellowship with Him.

Notice another truth we see in this story. There is not only something here dealing with the issue of leaving without the Lord Jesus, but we find also secondly, something about:

II. Looking for the Lord Jesus

In the text in verse 44, it says, “…and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance…” Mary and Joseph still assumed Jesus was somewhere in the group, but when they hadn’t seen or heard from him in a while, they began to look for Him.

Perhaps like Mary and Joseph, you have been traveling along in life, assuming everything is alright between you and the Lord, but right now you realize that you haven’t heard His voice in a while. You haven’t sensed His presence for some time. Perhaps, like Mary and Joseph, you are beginning to wonder where He is.

If that is the case in your life, then like Mary and Joseph, you may need to begin looking for Him. From this passage, we learn that looking for the Lord Jesus involves a couple of things. First of all:

A. It Involves a Review

Mary and Joseph had assumed that their Son was somewhere in the group with which they were traveling. When they begin to wonder about Him, they immediately checked among their fellow travelers to find out if what they had assumed was true.

May I say to you, if it has been a while sense you felt the presence of the Lord in your life, perhaps like Mary and Joseph, you need to review your situation, and see if everything is right with your Lord.

In 2 Corinthians 13:5, the Apostle Paul offers this injunction. He says, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves…”

There is wisdom in frequently and honestly evaluating the condition of your spiritual life. Taking account of your spiritual condition and the health of your relationship to the Lord is critical.

You say, “Oh, preacher, everything is alright between me and the Lord.” I say to you, really? When was the last time you honestly reviewed your Christian life?

You may assume and suppose that you are where you need to be in your relationship with Christ, but like Mary and Joseph, as you begin to look for Him, you may find that you are farther away than you had ever imagined.

In July of last year, Parade magazine ran an article entitled “Why You Need a Routine Physical (Even If You Feel Fine)”. The article was written by a doctor who claimed that routine physicals were important because they helped doctors catch diseases in early stages. Major killers like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer can be present long before they show symptoms, and if they are caught early, they can be treated more effectively.

Spiritually speaking, you may feel fine. You may assume that you are close to the Lord Jesus. However, a routine review of your Christian life may prove otherwise.

Ask yourself, “When was the last time I felt the Lord dealing with me about something?” “When was the last time His Word really spoke to my heart?” “How long has it been since I shared the gospel with someone?” These types of questions can help you to review your life as you look for the Lord Jesus.

Notice something else we find here about looking for the Lord. Notice not only that looking for Him involves a review, but notice also further that:

B. It Involves a Return

Look with me at verse 4Luke says, “And when they found him not…” What sad words! They searched for Him, but He was not where they had supposed him to be.

What do you do when you can’t find Him in your life? What do you do when you realize that somewhere you have left the Lord Jesus? The answer is found in that same verse. Luke says, “And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.”

There it is. You will find Him where you left Him; where you lost Him. He will be in the last place in which you communed with Him, and had contact with Him.

When you find Him missing, go back to the last place He spoke to you, and you will likely find Him there. Recall and return to the place where you last felt His touch, and sensed His presence, and there you will doubtless find Him.

Maybe it was an altar where you made a commitment to Him. Maybe it was the chair in your home where you used to sit down with His Word and commune with Him.

Mary and Joseph had left Him in Jerusalem. When they realized where they had left Him, they returned to that place.

Revelation 2:5 says, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works…”

When a person suffers a spinal injury, they often have to learn how to do certain tasks all over again. They have to retrain their legs how to walk. They have to learn again how to hold things with their hands.

It may be that in your search for the Lord, you may have to go back to some basic exercises in your Christian life. You may have to return to the first things in order to find him. Looking for Him often involves a return.

Notice another truth we draw from this story. We learn something not only about leaving without the Lord Jesus, and looking for the Lord Jesus, but notice with me also something about:

III. Learning from the Lord Jesus

Luke tells us that when Mary and Joseph found the son they had left behind, Mary said to Him in verse 48, “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.”

In her panicked state, Mary tried to correct her Son, but instead of teaching Him, she got a lesson herself. The Lord Jesus looked at her and said, “Why have you been searching for me? Didn’t you know that I would be involved in the things of my Father?”

In the Lord’s subtle rebuke, we find a couple of lessons for our own lives. First of all, there is a lesson to be found in:

A. Where He Was Discovered

In verse 46, Luke says, “And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple…” Is there not at least some significance in the fact that they found in the house of God?

If you are looking for the Lord Jesus, where are you more likely to find Him than in the House of God?

You are certainly more likely to find the Lord Jesus in church than you are on the lake, at the ball field, or beside your bed.

I don’t want to overstress this particular point, but those who are searching for the Lord Jesus, and trying to restore fellowship with Him ought to attend the services where He is worshipped, and therefore is likely to be present.

In a groundbreaking new study, this year the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released its findings on U.S. religion. Over 35,000 Americans from all walks of life were surveyed, and among many other things, it was found that while 71% of Americans say that are “absolutely certain” that God exists, only 39% say they attend worship services every week.

We live in a day in which church attendance is in rapid decline, and increasingly people put less importance upon being faithful to church.

However, the trends of our culture do not change the clear mandate of Scripture. As believers, we are not to “forsake the assembling of ourselves together.”

If you are looking for the Lord Jesus, get your Bible and go to church. The house of God is always a good place to find the Son of God. He is more likely to be found among His people than in any other place.

Notice another lesson we learn from the Lord Jesus and His answer to Mary. We learn something not only from where he was discovered, but we also learn a lesson from:

B. What He Was Doing

The adolescent Jesus, no less divine than when He hung on the cross, looked at His mother and said, “Why are you searching for me? Didn’t you know that I would be involved in the business of my Father?”

Obviously, Jesus wasn’t referring to Joseph, and the work of carpentry. The Lord Jesus was referring to His heavenly Father, and the business of spiritual things.

When they found the Lord Jesus, He was not only in the Temple, but He was involved in the work of His Father.

If you want to get close to the Lord Jesus, and stay in His presence, then spend your life involved in the work of the Kingdom.

The Lord Jesus is in the business of reaching lost. If you want to stay close to Him, get involved in sharing the gospel with the lost.

The Lord Jesus is in the business of loving and leading His Church. If you want to stay close to Him, love His people and serve His Church.

Several years ago I was leaving the Tivoli Theatre in Downtown Chattanooga, after a classical music performance by Chattanooga’s symphony orchestra. As I was leaving, I saw a fellow I recognized, but he was totally out of place. This guy was a professional redneck who liked Copenhagen Snuff, guns, hunting, and camouflage. He was one of the last people I expected to see at a classical concert. That night he was wearing a coat and tie, and had apparently sat through the entire concert. We said “Hello”, and then I asked him, “What are you doing here?” Then, he introduced me to his wife. He said, “I came with her.”

Immediately I realized that my friend was not a fan of the symphony as much as he was a fan of his wife. He wanted to be with her, and on that particular evening, that meant that he was going to the symphony.

Those who love the Lord Jesus, will love what He loves as well. To be with Him, is to be about the business of His Father.


In Psalm 51, David records the heartfelt confession of his sin. He admits his rebellion and failure, and in the 12th verse of that Psalm, David says, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation…”

David did not ask that his salvation be restored, but that the “joy” of his salvation be returned. Mary and Joseph had not lost their role as parents, but for those few moments when they were separated from their son, the joy of being parents was replaced by the agony of finding their only Son missing.

There are times when Christians realize that somewhere, and some point, they have let something come between them and their Lord.

They have left without their Savior, and now as they look for Him in their lives, they find Him missing. For those souls, Mary and Joseph offer a wonderful example.

Go back to where you left Him. Return to that place of closeness and communion and you will surely find Him again.

i How Many Children are Reported Missing Each Year?, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Website, 7/17/08, http://www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/PageServlet? LanguageCountry=en_US&PageId=2810

ii Only in Florida: Parents realize they left son in Chucky Cheese, 7/17/08, http://www.techsupportforum.com/relaxation-room/offline/103878-only-florida-parents-realize-next- day-they-left-son-chuck-e-cheese.html

iii Rosenfeld, Dr. Isadore, Why You Need a Routine Physical Even If You Feel Fine, Parade, 7/17/08, http://www.parade.com/articles/editions/2007/edition_07-29-2007/Routine_Tests