The Time Joseph & Mary Lost Jesus

Pic quote Luke 2 v 49

Our daughter turned eleven years old this year, so this section of Scripture really hits home with me in a new way at this time in my life.  We also have an eight year old son.  A lost child is a parent’s worst fear.  To be in a crowded place and lose sight of your child for even a moment or to even think for a moment that they are lost is a sickening feeling.  It happened to us this summer at Disneyland when my son ran off and I lost sight of him in a thick crowd for just a few seconds.  I called his name so loud that people turned to look and my son came running out of the crowd to me.  When Jesus was only twelve years old Joseph and Mary lost him for not just a few seconds, but for several days in Jerusalem!  He wasn’t really lost because Jesus was already fulfilling His mission from God, but His parents did not understand that yet.  Where they finally found Him shows us that Jesus was no ordinary child and it reveals His power, wisdom, and authority.

I cannot imagine losing our kids in a crowded city.  They are smart and capable and I have no doubt that they would get help, but we all know how wicked this world is and it can be deadly to children who are alone.  If a child goes missing for several days, it does not usually end up well.  This is the reality of the fallen world we live in.

Joseph and Mary must have been worried sick, but when Jesus went missing, nothing bad happened to Him.  He was kept perfectly safe and He managed just fine on His own.  Of course His parents were an anxious mess like any parent would be frantically looking for their lost child, but Jesus was never in any danger.  So, where did Jesus go and what was He doing?  The answer to that is in the Book of Luke.

“Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover.  When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom.  After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.  Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day.  Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends.”

Luke 2:41-44

If you are parent, at this point you might be thinking, “how do you leave to go on a trip and forget your kid, then travel for an entire day without ever seeing Him?!”  It looks terribly irresponsible, but keep in mind God was at work.  There was a purpose for what Jesus was doing and it was going to end up recorded for all time.  It seems as though God did something to allow Joseph and Mary to travel on without Him in peace.  I am not going to try and guess what God did, but whatever happened they traveled on for a day without their Son.

Jerusalem in our time is about 91 miles away from Nazareth by car.  It would not have been an easy journey by foot.  In my research I found that it would have taken them anywhere from two to five days to walk home.  I don’t know how far they could travel in one day, but they must have been many miles away by the time they figured out Jesus was not with them.

Jerusalem map

“When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.  After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.”

Luke 2:45-47

Many people know about Jesus in the temple as a young boy, but not much attention is paid to the fact He was away from His parents and missing for four days.  He wasn’t with them for a whole day of travel, then they had to come back and didn’t find Him until three days after that!  When I read about this, my mind is filled with questions.  What was He doing for those four days?  That’s a good amount of time.  A lot can happen in one day, let alone four!  Where did He sleep for three nights?  What did He eat and who fed Him?  We know God took care of Him and He was safe.  How blessed the people were who must have cared for Him during that time!  I wonder who the people were that made Him meals?  Did He stay at the temple that whole time and even sleep there, or was He staying with a righteous family who helped Him?

We don’t know, but whatever happened over those days and nights Joseph and Mary found Him safe amazing the teachers of the Law with His understanding of Scripture and His answers.  He was amazing them because Jesus is the Word!  He is the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us!  Everything was made through Him and He is full of grace and truth!  He is the life and the light and He was shining on them!

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”

John 1:1-5

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1:14

That is why Jesus was amazing them!  They could not imagine how well He knew the Scriptures!  Jesus is the Living Word of God!  Jesus was with God in the beginning when He created everything through Him!  Hallelujah!

His parents react like most parents would react and they question Him, but the answer He gives is unlike any answer any human child has ever given.

“When his parents saw him, they were astonished.  His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this?  Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked.  “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”  But they did not understand what he was saying to them.”

Luke 2:48-50

His parents must have been so relieved to find Him and I would have said a similar thing.  “Why did you do this?!” and “What were you thinking?!” would be what I would most likely ask my kids.  I would also be filled with joy at finding them and wrap them in a big hug.  His parents could not answer His amazing questions.  They did not understand that He is God in human flesh and that He came to die for our sins and He was in the midst of that mission even then.  They didn’t understand the power and wisdom their young Son had.  In that moment He was confirming that He was God’s Son, the One and Only who was before time.  He was in His Father’s house and He was at peace and protected.  Even though His parents did not understand, Jesus honored His father and mother and went back home with them to Nazareth.

“Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.  But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.  And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

Luke 2:51-52

Just imagine what Joseph and Mary told their family and friends when they got back home!  That was quite a family memory!  It was not yet His time at the young age of twelve, but He would come back to Jerusalem to fulfill His mission at the age of thirty-three where He would say “It is finished” while upon that cross!  Thank You Jesus for loving us so much that you died for us!  Thank You for forgiving us!  You are the reason we celebrate at Christmas and every day of the year!

Grace and peace to you all!  Have a blessed and very Merry Christmas!

Author: Ryan Callahan

Hello, and welcome to my site! I am an independent Christian author (One Man's Very Strange Supernatural Life), blogger, and evangelist for Jesus. My main goal with this blog is to help people come to know Jesus, help people understand the Bible, and to minister to a lost and hurting world. This site is about hope, new beginnings, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love! I'm glad you are here, God bless you! Copyright © 2023 Ryan Callahan. All rights reserved.

23 thoughts on “The Time Joseph & Mary Lost Jesus”

  1. Ryan, what a blessing to see the thought you put into this post. I have asked similar questions, but not to the depth that you have.
    I have often wondered at what age Jesus knew He was the Messiah. He would have had access and studied the available prophecies, but still, it is wonderful to think of all these things concerning our Lord and Savior. Thank you for the emphasis on this story for our meditation. You are a blessing. Blessings to you and your family.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The perspective through Mary and Joseph as parents made this time in Jesus’ life become so real for me! To read about him as a young boy, so loved and still cared for by his parents, yet he has this amazing wisdom and begins to tell the world and his parents, who he is…God’s son, Jesus, our Lord and Savior! But then, he honors his parents and goes back home with them as any 12 year child would. I don’t know why this made me smile so! Jesus is just awesome!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Love this Ryan. Yes, as a parent with a child lost for days … oh my! I join you in wonder about what Jesus was up to in their absence, seemed already at 12 The Word did not need his earth parents as much as His Father in Heaven. Shall we all be so wise? Grace and peace to you, brother.

    Liked by 1 person

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