Previously, we have considered lessons from this incident regarding the importance of establishing and maintaining good family habits, and the pattern the Lord provides of submitting to His parents, even when they may not have been right. There is now another important lesson in family living to consider from this incident in the early life of our Lord in Joseph and Mary’s family.
Mistaken Confidence Regarding Our Children’s Whereabouts
None of us would dare suggest that the Lord’s earthly parents were negligent in raising their children. They had each received direct communication from heaven regarding the birth of their firstborn, and no doubt they recognized their solemn responsibility to fulfill parental duties in raising their family. Yet in this incident they made a dangerous assumption regarding their firstborn son. Luke says “The child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and His mother knew not of it. But they, supposing Him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey” (vv 43-44).
They thought they were responsible parents. Not for a moment did they entertain the thought that their son was not with them. They were quite confident in their sub-conscious belief that He was right where He was supposed to be – in the company traveling home to Nazareth! Joseph was likely with a large group of men – relatives, friends, business associates, neighbors – all walking and talking together and enjoying one another’s company along the journey. Mary would likely have been in a similar group with the women from the community. Both of them possibly assumed that Jesus was with the other – or possibly thought that He was playing with the other children as part of the large caravan. But the fact was – they were wrong! He wasn’t with them at all!
Do you have children in their late pre-teen or early teenage years? If so, I would respectfully ask you to stop just now and ask yourself “Where are they?” “Who are they with?” “What are their interests?” “How do they spend their time?”
One of the great dangers we face as families today is that as parents we are so taken up with the demands of daily living that we may have little involvement in our children’s lives – we’re just too busy. There is little real communication with them, and little in the way of mutual involvement in wholesome activities. There is a real danger that we think that they “are with us” when in fact they may be far, far away from us in terms of their interests, activities, social circles, and spiritual outlook. If, as a parent, I am too busy to be actively involved in my children’s upbringing, then I am far, far busier than God ever intended me to be!
One of my greatest responsibilities in life is the molding, shaping, and training of the young lives God has entrusted to my care in my family. Children are a “heritage from the Lord” (Ps 127:3 ESV) and we have only a few fleeting years to raise them for God’s glory – years that will never be repeated. We get only one shot at this monumental task. Let us approach it with the concern, diligence, commitment, and focus that it demands.
There is another more sinister dimension to this issue in our modern age. When many of us were children and our parents faced the question “Do you know where your children are?” the issues were generally fairly literal and straightforward. In today’s world, however, there is a vast, sinister, “virtual world” that poses incredible dangers to our children, threatening to engulf them and capture their minds while they are sitting in our own homes. It is difficult to over-emphasize the dangers that the Internet and its virtual world represent to family life in our generation. It is beyond the scope of this article to delve into this in any detail, but I would strongly urge every parent to rigidly control their children’s access to the Internet, and implement accountability tools to diligently monitor all activity and provide accurate logs and documentation of where they go, with whom they’re interacting, and what they are being exposed to. Excellent software solutions exist to provide this level of transparency and accountability. Allowing our children Internet access in the absence of these types of controls may be one of the gravest mistakes we could make in their childhood years.
Immediate Action to Reestablish Contact with Our Children
To Joseph and Mary’s credit, as soon as they discovered their mistaken assumption, they took drastic action to find and reclaim their son! The narrative is stark and simple: “When they found Him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking Him” (Luke 2:45), but all of us as parents can doubtless feel the chest-tightening, heart-pounding anxiety that must have gripped them as they frantically retraced their steps to Jerusalem searching for their missing son. When they finally found Him, Mary gives us a glimpse into their anguish when she says to her firstborn “Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing” (Luke 2:48 ESV).
Maybe there is a parent reading these words, and as you take stock of your family life, these issues cause troubling questions in your mind. Has life gotten so busy and stress-filled that a significant distance has begun to develop between you and your children? Is it possible that as you consider your current family situation, there are nagging doubts as to your children’s whereabouts – either literally or in terms of Internet exposure and interaction? The easy answer is to console yourself by saying “Aw! They’re good kids. I’m sure they’re not into anything they shouldn’t be!” But therein lies the great danger – Joseph and Mary “supposed that He was with them” – but they were wrong! Do not make false assumptions in this critical area of family life. Take action now, whatever the current situation, and ensure that you are not unintentionally allowing your children to be exposed to material, influences, interactions, or activities that may seriously scar them for life!
It is my humble prayer that we may all learn some of these lessons from this rare glimpse into the early life of Jesus’ earthly family. Family life is under intense attack in our generation – and there is no greater preservative than to have our perspectives and convictions founded securely in Scriptural principles and practices.