41Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it (Luke 2:41-43).
At the Passover celebration in Jerusalem mentioned above, Jesus was just twelve years old when He had it in His heart to begin to be about His Father's business. Nowadays, a Jewish boy has their Bar Mitzvah, their celebration of becoming a man, at 13. The Jews did not determine the age for boys to become men until many years later, so the Passover mentioned above could have been Christ's coming of age. After the Feast was over and the massive caravan of people began the trek back the 80-mile journey to Nazareth, His parents assumed He was with others. The three to four-day trip from Nazareth for the three major feasts in Jerusalem was highly communal and a bonding experience for communities like Nazareth.
The whole community went a day's journey before Joseph and Mary began to wonder where Jesus was (v. 44). When He didn’t come to the tent that first night, I can imagine that Joseph and Mary were beside themselves with worry. They had lost Jesus, the Son of God! It took them another day’s journey to get back to Jerusalem. Where would they look for Him? They spent the third day looking wherever they thought He could be. Finally, they found Him in the Temple precincts with the intellectuals or teachers of Israel, asking them questions that provoked new conclusions on Scripture.
Many Christians experience times when the close presence of God lifts from our lives, and it seems like we lost God along the way. Often it’s due to a wrong turning in our lives. We thought the Lord was with us, but He hadn't come to our tent; he had other things in mind. When that happens, it is good to stop and reflect on where you were when you last enjoyed walking with Him. What was it that caused you to lose the sense of His presence? Of course, if you are a Christian, Scripture is clear that God is with us always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:28); what we are talking about is His intimate presence or the anointing of the Spirit.
It is not always a result of sin that causes us to sense distance from God. At times, it can be a lesson that the Lord is teaching us. When I came to Christ, my joy overflowed at the feelings of the closeness of the Holy Spirit. As time went on, though, the feelings dissipated. All of my plans were not the Lord’s plans. When you sign up to be a follower of the Lord Jesus, you are no longer the director of your life. The Lord is the Shepherd, and it is we who are the sheep. We are to follow Him, and He will lead us into pleasant pastures. We don't invite Him to walk along with us, He is the Shepherd, and we follow. This kind of life will not always be easy, but it will be fulfilling, especially when we arrive at our real home. Then, we'll see what God has been building in us and through us. This life is not all there is. C.S. Lewis once said,
"When I invited Jesus into my life, I thought He would put up some wallpaper and hang a few pictures. But He started knocking out walls and adding on rooms. I said, “I was expecting a nice cottage.” But He said, “I'm making a palace in which to live.”
Like Jesus with Joseph and Mary, the Lord often has plans that are different from our programs. He wants to grow us up in the faith and not rely on feelings of His closeness. Can I ask you, dear friend, did Christ go in a different direction, and you are still wondering where He went? Go back to where you lost His presence, repent over any sin, and draw near to the Lord. Keith Thomas.