2nd Sunday after Epiphany January 20, 2019


The Search for Jesus

Luke 2:41-52

Scripture Readings

Ecclesiastes 12:1-7
Romans 12:1-5


95, 133, Worship Supplement 702 (TLH alt. 129), 30

Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted

Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up according to the custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing Him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for Him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for Him. After three days they found Him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. And when His parents saw Him, they were astonished. And His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us so? Behold, Your father and I have been searching for You in great distress.” And He said to them, “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that He spoke to them. And He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And His mother treasured all up all these things in her heart.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (ESV)


  1. The UN-surprising find of Mary and Joseph
  2. The UN-surprising place we find Him

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus,

There are few things as frustrating as losing something important to you. When we lose a phone number, it’s annoying but it doesn’t really affect our day that much. When we lose a credit card, then we begin to panic a little—but thankfully we can call the 1-800-number to cancel the card before someone else piles up debt for us. However, we lose a child or can’t find our parents in crowded shopping mall, THEN fear and panic really begins to set in.

Well what about Jesus? In our text we hear that Mary and Joseph lost track of twelve-year-old Jesus. While we might be shocked that Mary and Joseph would ever do something like that with the Savior of the World, we sometimes lose track of Jesus too. We get distracted and drawn away by the business of our daily life and we lose track of Him. So let’s consider this morning “the search for Jesus” and as we do, we shouldn’t be surprised where we find Him.


Let’s begin first with Mary and Joseph’s search for 12 year-old Jesus. The Jewish festival of Passover was a very important festival. Passover was a reminder of how God delivered the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt. It was to be celebrated each year and the Law of Moses required that, in particular, the men of the family were to attend the festival.

In Luke 2, we hear how Mary and Joseph faithfully attended the Passover in Jerusalem each year. And when the boy Jesus was 12 years old, He went along too.

At the end of the Passover Feast, Mary and Joseph left the hustling and bustling city of Jerusalem and made their way back to Nazareth. For the whole first day of their trip they made assumptions that parents of a 12 year old just shouldn’t make. You see, the young boy Jesus had always— literally—been the perfect child. They never had to worry about Him or discipline Him. So as they leave Jerusalem, they just assumed Jesus knew that and was with friends or relatives leaving the city.

It wasn’t until the end of the first day of travel that they began to search for Jesus and realized He wasn’t with the group. So they returned to Jerusalem. One can only imagine the frustration and fear they felt. Perhaps they worried that someone took His life. After all, as a baby King Herod tried to kill Him.

After another day of travel back to Jerusalem and a day of searching, they finally found Jesus. They found Jesus in a place that should not have surprised them—but it did. Scripture tells us that they were astonished where they found Jesus and what they found Him doing. He is sitting among the trained teachers of the Law, respectfully listening to them and asking them questions about God’s Word. Young Jesus’ reply to His mother’s distress is not disrespectful to her, but reminding her of why He was born. Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?

Now, remember who Jesus is. He is the all-knowing Son of God. As God He knows Scripture inside and out. Yet, in becoming Man to be our Savior, Jesus humbled Himself. He did not make use of His divine omniscience as some sort of super-child but was like us in every way. As true Man, His body and His mind needed to grow and develop like any twelve-year-old. And the focus of His learning was the Word of God. If Mary and Joseph would have kept in mind who Jesus was, it would not have surprised them to find Him in His Father’s house, hearing and learning His Father’s Word.

This is what we call the ACTIVE OBEDIENCE of Christ. Even from youth, Jesus was ACTIVELY OBEYING the will of God the Father. Jesus was keeping the 3rd Commandment by gladly hearing and learning God’s Word, and He was doing it for us who so often neglect and ignore it. He was asking questions to dig deeper and learn more, for we who so take it for granted and let it go in one ear and out the other. And all this, even from age 12.

Young Jesus was also keeping the 4th Commandment for us as well. We read in verse 51 that the eternal, almighty Son of God willingly submitted Himself to Mary and Joseph. From youth, He honored His mother and step-father as our Substitute for the times we despised and dishonored our parents and superiors. It is amazing to see young Jesus like this, yet it should not surprise us to find this about our Savior.


How do you think Mary and Joseph felt those three days as they searched for young Jesus? I can imagine there was probably a great deal of fear, but also some frustration. We hear that frustration from Mary in verse 48. Son, why have you treated us son? Behold, Your father and I have been searching for You in great distress. Mary almost blames Jesus for this distress, while Mary and Joseph should never have left Jerusalem without making sure the Messiah was in the group.

When is the last time you felt like you couldn’t find Jesus? Maybe you were wrapped up in some deep and painful problem. Maybe you had been drawn further and further away from the Lord with sinful behavior. Or maybe you just got so busy living life that you assumed Jesus would be by your side even though you had no time for Him. Regardless of how or why, there are times when Jesus seems so far away from us and we feel like we can’t find Him. Maybe Jesus seems far away from you right now.

Don’t be surprised where you can find Jesus. In Acts 17, Paul says that the Lordis not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:26) The Almighty has not made Himself inaccessible. Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. Jesus isn’t far from us. He can be found. And we find Him in much the same way as Mary and Joseph found 12 year-old Jesus.

We find in Jesus right here in the Father’s house—in church. Listen to what Jesus has promised us, For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. (Mt 16:20) Jesus has promised that when we assemble together in His name, that He Himself is present right here with us. When it seems like we have lost Jesus, the last place we might look should be one of the first places we run to—assembled in His name in the Lord’s House. In a day when worship services are said to be boring and out of touch with the needs of the today’s people, we must not forget that Jesus has promised He Himself will be present here with us—even as He is right now!

Next, remember what young Jesus was doing at the Temple? He was in His Father’s house hearing and learning the Word of God. This too reminds us of where we can find Jesus—in His Word. And truly, that is the first place we should go. The Word of God is where Jesus reveals Himself to us. It is in the Word that He lovingly corrects His wayward children with His Law and heals us with His gospel. In His Word He condemns our sins and promises forgiveness and life for all who live and believe in Him. In His Word we find Jesus whose love for each one of us was so great that He was willing to be born, laid in a manger, and go through puberty as a 12 year old boy. In His Word we find Jesus willing to lay down His life on the cross in order to rescue our souls from hell. It is Jesus who has said of His Word, If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (Jn 8:31-32) We can find Jesus in His Word.

Finally, Jesus has promised that we can find Him in His Sacraments. The Sacraments are the sacred acts that Jesus Himself instituted. The first one where most of us first found Jesus was Holy Baptism. The Apostle Paul writes to the Galatians of baptism, For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Gal 3:27) Whether it is an infant or an adult, Jesus is there in baptism covering us with His holiness and righteousness, and washing away our sins.

We can also find Jesus in Holy Communion. The reason we call it “communion” is because Jesus actually “communes” with us. Jesus says of the bread which we break, this is MY BODY which is broken for you. (1 Cor 11:24) Of the wine, Jesus says, this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Mt 26:27-28) Again, this is not merely a symbol or representation of what was given and shed on the cross of Calvary. In, with, and under the wine, the communicant receives Jesus—His true blood, shed on Calvary’s cross to purchase our salvation.

Jesus told His mother and step-father that they should have known exactly where to find Him. Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house? This is where He needed to be, doing the work which His heavenly Father sent Him to do. He came to be our righteousness for us and to save us from our sins. You and I should not be surprised where to find Jesus. Our Savior who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a lowly manger as a baby, has wrapped Himself in Word and Sacrament. As we assembling in His name, He is here with us to bless and lead us. As we hear and learn His Word, He abides with us. He comes to us personally in holy Baptism and in Lord’s Supper. Thanks be to our Savior Jesus who hasn’t hidden Himself from us but has told us where we can find Him! Amen.

—Pastor Nathan Pfeiffer

Berea Ev. Lutheran Church
Inver Grove Heights, MN

Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.