Have you lost Jesus?

When Jesus was 12 years old, his parents lost Him. It was a busy time of the year and they were in a big city and I’m sure they thought He was with somebody else… but they lost Jesus. Here’s the story.

“And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. 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. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:42-49)

I preached from this passage this last Sunday. The obvious central truth is that Jesus is God’s Son. However, a great spiritual application in the passage is that a Christian can “lose” Jesus. Of course, by that I don’t mean a Christian can lose salvation. That’s not about what I’m talking. I’m talking about a Christian getting out of fellowship with his Lord.

It was a busy time. Estimates are that 200,000 pilgrims packed out the walled city of Jerusalem every Passover. Like most devout Jews, Jesus’ parents went every year. They had the right priorities and established regular habits of worship. But as their caravan traveled back, they realized Jesus was missing and went back to find Him.

We may want to reflect on whether we have taken Jesus for granted; if Mary and Joseph could do it, there is every reason to suppose that we can too. We must not assume he is accompanying us as we go off on our own business. But if and when we sense the lack of His presence, we must be prepared to hunt for Him, to search for Him in prayer, in the scriptures, in the church, and not to give up until we find him again. 

Some interesting thoughts make this story even more personal…

  • Mary lost Jesus at a religious meeting. She didn’t lose Jesus Christ in a dance hall or a beer joint; she lost Him at the Temple. You can be in the middle of a church service or revival meeting and be out of fellowship with your Saviour.
  • She lost Him; He didn’t lose her. He knew right where His parents were. The problem was theirs, not His.
  • She lost Him in one day. You can do something in 24 hours that will mess you up for three days or three weeks or three months or three years. You can do something in a day for which you will reap the consequences for years to come, like David did with Bathsheba.
  • She lost Him and she didn’t even know it. She thought He was with the kinfolk or off playing with His friends, and He was back in Jerusalem. You can lose fellowship with the Lord by you going one way while He goes another. I have seen that happen. The person hadn’t a clue that he was out of fellowship with God; he just went right on in the same rut he had been in for years.
  • Losing her Son brought her fear and sorrow. Mary was a good mother; there’s no doubt about that. When she discovered Jesus was missing, she was worried to death and looked all over the place for Him. Does it bother you that you might have lost Jesus?

Similar to this story is one at the end of Luke’s Gospel about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). Jesus had died and risen but not everyone knew it. Two distraught disciples were walking and Jesus came up to them and carried on a conversation. But they didn’t recognize Him. So, in the story of Jesus as a 12 year old, Mary and Joseph lost Jesus but didn’t know it. The story of the 2 disciples tells us that they thought had lost Jesus but didn’t know He was with them.  You might call the pair of stories something like, “Finding the Jesus you thought you’d lost.’

These stories were possibly written for people who may have some idea of Jesus but find He is more elusive than they had imagined. They don’t know where He is. Finding him will involve a surprise. Jesus doesn’t do or say what Mary and Joseph, or the two on the road, were expecting. It’s like us. When we relax and think we’ve understood Him, he will be ahead or behind, while we go on without thinking of him.

If you discover that Jesus isn’t near you, I hope you will turn to Him. He is closer than you think.


One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”