Lost in Jerusalem?

Enjoying the freedom of now being considered men within Jewish society, a group of young Galileans decide to go down to the market together and take in the sights in the early hours of the morning. They know their parents and family members aren’t planning on leaving until tomorrow, but they still want to get back before the crowds begin to cover the streets. Passover week has just ended and millions of pilgrims are still present in the great city of Jerusalem. In addition to avoiding the crowds, the young men are also hungry and looking forward to getting back and enjoying the breakfast their mothers’ are preparing. 

As they make their way back from the market they pass a street that leads to the massive temple built by Herod for the Jewish people. Suddenly one of the members of the group, a young man of twelve years old, slows downs and turns to look up the street and through the doorway into the temple. He pauses, sensing something stirring within his soul. His cousins and friends don’t even notice and continue on their way to the inn, but his eyes are intensely fixed on the temple. He was looking forward to breakfast as well, but he consciously makes a choice to follow another longing in his heart. He walks through the gates and into the outer courts, the crowds around him seem hushed in comparison to the voice that calls him in. He looks around at the people and hears the Torah being read by an elderly scribe. He remembers the lamb that he and his family brought to be slaughtered here, in this same temple, only days earlier. A vivid flashback of its throat being slit and the blood running down its body sends a shiver up his spine and causes his heart to race. 

Meanwhile, back at the inn where his family members are staying, the older men are noticing the color of the morning sky. “It appears the storm in the north has lifted. Perhaps we can leave this morning as we had first planned.” The others agree. “We’ll gather our things and leave as soon as the young men come back from the market. They shouldn’t be long now.” The young men arrive back at the inn and are informed that the caravan is leaving for Nazareth. As they quickly pack their few belongings one of their aunts brings them a basket of bread and some dried figs.

Back at the temple, the twelve-year-old Galilean is intently listening to the reading of the Scriptures, it’s a portion from the prophet Isaiah speaking about the Servant of the Lord; 

“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
    I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
    a light for the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind..." 

The young man notices the crowds are growing and decides to head back to the inn. He leaves the temple and makes his way through the crowded streets. Arriving at the inn where his extended family had been staying he finds it empty. The innkeeper has already locked the door and is nowhere to be found. 

It's now late in the evening, having traveled all day, his mother realizes that she hasn’t seen her oldest. She’s never had to worry much about him, he’s always been responsible and obedient. She begins searching for him among their relatives and friends. But when she can’t find him, panic starts to rise within her. She nearly runs into her husband who has also been searching the caravan and hasn’t found him either. “We have to go back to the Holy City.” she urges. “Mary, you know we can’t travel at night. Let us pray for him and in the morning we will return to the city. We will trust the Lord to protect him.” 

Early in the morning, Joseph and Mary leave their younger children in the protection of the caravan and head back to Jerusalem. Without any children slowing them down, they arrive in the late afternoon and begin searching the city. One night passes, and still, there is no sign of their son. They ask everyone they can think of, the innkeeper, the neighbors who live nearby, the vendors in the marketplace, yet no one has seen him. Another night passes, they don’t know where else to look. They both have a growing fear that something horrible has happened to him. There were so many people in the city, beggars, thieves, Roman soldiers, people from all over the world. He could have been kidnapped and taken anywhere, they think to themselves, neither wanting to say it out loud. Joseph, seeing the anguish in his wife’s face, says to her, “Let’s go to the temple and ask the priest to pray for us, that the Lord would help us to find him.” Mary readily agrees and the couple makes their way to the temple.  

Entering into the outer courts they see a group of teachers and scribes huddled together. They seem to be listening to someone of great interest. “Let’s ask them to pray for our son!” says Mary and together they approach the group. As they get closer they are surprised to hear the voice of a younger man, a familiar voice. They walk even closer and look through the teachers to see no other than their son. They are so astonished that for a moment they can’t even move. For the scribes have begun asking him questions and they seem amazed at his answers.

Mary runs towards her son. She wants to throw her arms around him, but at the same time, she feels embarrassed and upset by the whole situation. “Son,” she says, stopping just before him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I” she says looking back at Joseph, “have been frantic, searching everywhere for you.” The twelve-year-old looks up at his mother, with a gentle smile and yet with boldness in his eyes and says “But why did you need to search? Didn’t you know that I would have to be getting involved in” he pauses for a second and looks towards the heavens, “in my Father’s work?” Mary and Joseph exchange a confused glance and stand there, unable to respond. Then the 12-year-old, Jesus, gets up and embraces his mother and his earthly father, Joseph. Together they make their way out of the city and begin the journey back to their home in Nazareth. Mary will never forget this day, it has been marked on her heart and will remain there even as her son matures and grows; continually seeking His Father's will above all else.

(Adapted from Luke 2:40-52)

Nathan Cedarland is a servant-leader of Kaleo Grays Harbor, a church plant in Aberdeen, WA. He is passionate about God, his family (his wife Julissa and their five kids), his church family, equipping the Spanish-speaking Church throughout the Americas, and film-making.


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