Home Alone 3 - Lost in Jerusalem
Christmas has come and gone - it’s like a whirlwind, isn’t it. It’s mayhem and busyness and then it’s gone with a wake of destruction. At least, that’s what it’s like in our house.
But even though Christmas is over, up to the New Year we still have Christmas movies on TV.
As a child, I waited with eager anticipation for the double edition of the Radio Times and I carefully went through each page circling which films to watch and to tape. And it wasn’t just films about Christmas that I liked. There were many blockbusters that were shown at Christmas too, like Star Wars, Back to the Future and so on.
One of Kate’s favourite Christmas films is Home Alone. Do you remember that film? Where a boy called Kevin is somehow left at home while his parents fly to France for Christmas, and he has to fend for himself and deal with burglars until they get back.
And then there was the sequel - Home Alone 2, lost in New York, when he gets left in New York. There have been others in the franchise too.
But, since Christmas is over and yet the blockbusters are still on TV, today, since we’re in between Christmas and New Year, we’re going to look at another ‘Home Alone’ story.
I’m calling it Home Alone 3 - lost in Jerusalem.
Cos we’re at that limbo period between Christmas day and New Year’s day. And we’ve been going through our advent series, as we always do, but now Christmas has come and gone but the New Year hasn’t started yet, so what do I speak on?
That’s why I’ve picked Home Alone 3 - the story of Jesus as a child being left behind in Jerusalem - cos this is the only story between Jesus as a baby and Jesus as an adult.
And it’s good to spend some time on this, because when Jesus was a baby he couldn’t walk or talk or think like an adult. And when Jesus was an adult, which is 95% of the gospel story, he can think beyond any human and he knows who he is and why he’s here...
So there must have been a point in Jesus’ life, between baby and adult when he REALISES who he is and why he is here… There must be a point when the penny drops for him.
And while we don’t know when that point is exactly, in our passage today he’s come to that point of realisation…but his parents haven’t.
So let’s dive in and see what the passage says to us today.
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.
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 custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it,
Now, to go from Nazareth to Jerusalem was about a 3-day journey. Jewish men were required to go by Jewish law, but women didn’t have to, although they often did go.
Now Jesus was 12 years old at this point and he goes with his parents to Jerusalem to celebrate the passover.
But, as you can see from the text, he stays behind when his parents are returning home - another 3-day journey.
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 you’ve gotta wonder how did his parents not know he stayed. In fact, as verse 44 says, HOW does it take them a whole day to realise? I mean, you’re looking after the Son of God, you’d think you’d take a bit more care.
Well, commentators have suggested that children sometimes go with a different group or if Mary thinks Jesus is with Joseph and Joseph thinks he with Mary then you might not realise that he’s missing until night. Cos the women were sent on first cos they were slower. The men packed up and left later and they caught up with the women at night when they set up camp to sleep. So it would have taken a day to realise that Jesus wasn’t there.
What astounds me is that they searched for him for 3 days before going to the temple to look for him.
Now, what this is telling us is that Mary and Joseph have somehow perhaps lost sight who Jesus is. And verse 50 backs that up when they don’t understand Jesus’ response to them.
Cos think about it - Mary was told by an angel that she would bear God’s Son. Joseph was told the same about Mary. Mary is his birth mother but it’s not a normal conception and Joseph isn’t even his father.
HOWEVER, that was 12 years ago. And the Son of God, who can’t walk or talk or crawl is probably just like any other baby and probably just like any other child. So after 12 years of taking care of this boy, you might kinda lose sight of the words of the angel that this is the Son of God. It MIGHT NOT be foremost in your mind - cos he’s possibly just like any other boy.
But he’s NOT just any other boy - he’s Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And Mary and Joseph are going to be reminded of this.
Cos look at the number of times the word ‘parent’s occurs - 3 times...
Now, before we move on to the next verse, in this passage, the word ‘parent’s occurs 3 times....
V41 - his parents went to Jerusalem.
V43 - his parents didn’t know he stayed behind.
V48 - his parents saw him...
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 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 notice what Mary says - your FATHER AND I have been searching for you in great distress.
And notice what Mary says - your FATHER AND I have been searching for you in great distress.
And the emphasis from the text is that Mary and Joseph are Jesus’ PARENTS, and Joseph is is FATHER.
Now, Jesus wasn’t a bad boy, he was doing what he came to earth to do. But HIS PARENTS had possibly lost sight of his mission - why else would it take 3 days before looking in the temple.
And the word, ‘distress’ is from the Greek word that signifies betrayal - to Joseph, Jesus had betrayed the calling that was his as a son of Joseph.
And so Mary and Joseph were felt betrayed by Jesus because they are his PARENTS. And to make matters worse, Jesus responds with something that would have felt like a bucket of iced water on their face…
And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
If they HADN’T lost sight of this then they
In other words, ‘you’re NOT really my parents, and Joseph, you’re NOT my father.’
Jesus essentially replies in true Star Wars fashion… ‘you’re NOT my father.’
Now that must have hurt. That must have cut Joseph to the core…You’d think he’d remember, ‘oh yea, my boy is the Son of God - he’s not really mine’, but no...
And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.
But, in time, he would... and so would Mary, cos she treasured these things up in her heart.
So I can only imagine that Joseph was hurt by this.
And Jesus’ words, “I must be in my Father’s House” can also be translated as.... ‘I must be about my Father’s business’.
All of which means that Jesus NOW knows WHO he is and WHY he is here. And while his parents might be shocked with the realisation or the reminder that Jesus isn’t ‘their boy’ - that’s the reality of the situation....Joseph, you’re NOT my father and I’m NOT going to be doing your business. I have a heavenly Father and I must be about HIS business.
And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
What’s nice about this passage is that Jesus submits to them - despite his self-awareness and the fact that they have been reminded of their place, Jesus still obeys the 5th commandment and submits to his parents.
See, Jesus has realised who he is and why he is here. He is the Son of God and he has a mission to do. But I really do think his parents had lost sight of that - 12 years of nothing miraculous that we know of - probably just another ordinary boy, and so they EXPECTED Jesus to be a certain way or to ACT a certain way. But this is a stark reminder to them that...
Jesus is God’s Son and he is here to do God’s work.
What struck me about this passage is how this almost parallels the church today - and we can learn a lot from this, both the leaders of the church and the members. If were were to recast the roles in this story then the congregation would be Mary and Joseph and the Church itself would be Jesus - cos the church IS the Body of Christ on earth.
And ‘tradition’ or ‘traditionalism’ are the 12 years from Jesus’ as a baby to a child.
And what’s happened is that traditionalism - doing things cos that’s how they’ve always been done, or doing things for the sake of doing them has served to make the congregation kinda lose sight of the purpose of the church. We’ve forgotten WHO the church is and WHY the church is here. And so we’ve kinda forgotten that the church is the body of Christ and it has a mission.
And we, the congregations come to the church, like Mary and Joseph, expecting the church to be a certain way or to do things a certain way, and when it doesn’t we get annoyed or angry, POSSIBLY because we’ve lost sight of who the church is and why the church is here.
And so we can be a bit like Mary and Joseph saying, ‘why are you doing this, or why are you doing it like that’.
But the leaders of our churches need to grasp the mission and the purpose of the church in order to reply like Jesus did - ‘Why are you so annoyed? Did you not know that we must be about God’s business?’
What I fear has happened is that perhaps, in some ways, the church has lost its identity - that it’s become a place of programmes and social activities, and none of these are bad things in and of themselves. However, if that’s all that the church is about, then it’s lost its identity. It’s not aware of who it is and why it is here. It’s like baby Jesus.
And if the congregations in the churches are happy with programmes and doing things cos that’s the way we’ve always done it, or if they’re happy doing things for the sake of doing them, then the congregations have become like Mary and Joseph - the time and tradition has made them forget that Jesus isn’t ‘their boy’. And likewise, the church isn’t ‘our boy’ either.
What needs to happen in our country, is that the leaders of the churches need to grasp the vision that the church IS the body of Christ - that we’re not a community centre or a social club - that we have a mission to build up the body of believers, to send them out into the world and tell others of Jesus, to bring all people of all nations into our doors and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, do our bit for the kingdom of God. In other words, that we must be about our Father’s business.
What also needs to happen is that the congregations in this country need to have the bucket of cold water thrown on them to remind them of this fact - that programmes for the sake of programmes or tradition for the sake of tradition is NOT what the church is about.
Cos in some places within our denomination, it’s like the congregations in our churches are coming to the church, like Joseph, saying ‘you’re my son so do what I want you to do.’ But the church needs to realise WHO it is and WHY it’s here - it the body of Christ and it has a mission to extend the kingdom of God - and therefore the church needs to stand up to these congregations and say, ‘you’re NOT my father, and I’m not doing YOUR business. I’ve a heavenly Father and I must be about HIS business.’
But we can be different! In fact, I WANT to be different. Cos so often I’ve been conditioned by tradition or traditionalism. And there are times when I have lost sight of WHO the church is and WHY it is here.
SO I’m going to make you a promise… and it comes from a conversation I had with a good friend of mine, Jonny. Let me tell you the conversation and I’ll tell you my promise. Now I don’t remember all the details but the point is the same though...
So here’s what I’m going to promise YOU for this next year - and it comes from a conversation I had with a good friend of mine, Jonny. Let me tell you the conversation and I’ll tell you my promise. Now I don’t remember all the details but the point is the same though...
Jonny was talking with a guy in his church who was saying that the union flag should be flown at remembrance Sunday outside the church. Now, I know this is a really contentious issue in this land, but Jonny knew the guy and he knew that he had a sense of humour, so he said this to him (tongue in cheek, but with a point)...
‘Tell me, how would that extend Christ’s kingdom?’
His point was that a union flag flying outside a church COULD send a message to the Irish community that they aren’t welcome here and that doesn’t benefit the kingdom of God nor does it bring him glory.
And that got me thinking - Jonny’s question was SPOT ON.
It made me realise that there are so many things we do in church out of tradition, but does it glorify God? Does it benefit the kingdom?
It then got me thinking about our family service.... When the date of the family service was discussed, a choice had to be made - do we have it on the 24th cos it’s the Sunday before Christmas and that’s the way we’ve always done it, or do we move it forward a week to the 17th?
And the thought behind the decision was that, firstly, the band wasn’t available on the 24th (from what I’m aware), but that people have family commitments and other things on Christmas eve that there would be a BETTER ATTENDANCE on the 17th. In other words...
What benefits the kingdom of God more?
And having more people worshiping God and sitting under his word and hearing the message will be more beneficial to the kingdom of God, which is why the date was changed. Now, I was just a bystander in that decision, but it’s hard to argue with that rationale.
Now something like that happens when the leaders of the church grasp the vision of WHO the church is and WHY it is here. If the leaders were just a social committee then there would have perhaps been a different decision. But they’re not!
Do you see what I’m getting at?
So here’s my promise to you - A new year’s resolution, if you will.
As much as I have a say in anything that this church does, every decision I make will be filtered through these two questions. The first question is based on Question 1 of the Shorter Catechism - what is man’s chief end? To glorify God and enjoy him forever. The second question is based on my conversation with Jonny. So here are the questions that I will filter everything through...
How does this glorify God?
How does this benefit the kingdom of God? Or what benefits the kingdom of God more?
That way I can stay faithful to the purpose and mission of the church - who it is and why it’s here.
But I need YOU to remember that we’re not simply a place that runs programmes - that we should reflect on why we do what we do. We need to remember that we’re the body of Christ and we have a purpose and a mission - and that our mission is to extend the kingdom of God, to build it up and to glorify God in doing so. I need YOU to buy into this vision too.
Congregations that don’t have that vision could be annoyed when a church is kingdom focused and challenges traditionalism. So I want you to grasp that vision too.
And as we’re getting new elders soon, my prayer for the elders of this church is that they, too, will grasp the vision of the church. Maybe it’s time to sit down and draw up a new mission statement for Hillhall - to have a 5-year vision or something like that. Cos working towards something like that helps us to ask these questions of the things we do - How does this help us in our 5-year vision?
Cos the days of doing things cos that’s they way they’ve always been done needs to come to an end. We need to do things because it benefits the kingdom of God and because it brings God all the glory.
If we all buy into this it will transform this church. And, by the way, I’m not talking about music in any way shape or form here - I’m simply talking about how we operate as a church. In the things we do and the way we do them.
But with the new year around the corner - literally - maybe this is a resolution that we can work on together - to be a kingdom-focused church, working always for the benefit of God’s kingdom and to give God the glory.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Wouldn’t it be great if we did the same?