First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, January 09, 2022)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“On the Road without Jesus!”
Deuteronomy 6:10-12; Luke 2:41-52
The story we just read from Luke’s gospel is probably the only account the gospels tell about Christ’s childhood and youth years. The Bible doesn’t say much about the early years of Christ. There is silence in the Scriptures basically from the birth of Jesus until His baptism and the beginning of His public ministry at the age of 30.
In today’s story Jesus is on a trip with his parents. He is 12 years old, and it’s Passover time. As devout Jews, Mary and Joseph decided to make the trip from Nazareth to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover at the Temple. A good time was spent by everyone and it’s time to go home.
As it was the custom of those days, the family left with a large group of travelers where men form one group, women form another, and children spent most of their time playing games around the caravan. The group got about a day away, then Mary and Joseph realized that they were living every parents’ nightmare: they had left their son back in Jerusalem. Jesus was missing.
Can you imagine what it was like in that moment? “I thought you had him, Mary.” “No, I thought you had him, Joseph!” Mary and Joseph had to go back and check all the rest stops. And then they rushed back to the city and for three days, three whole days, they looked around Jerusalem; the hotel, the restaurant, relatives’ homes … And then, finally, they went back to the Temple. And there was Jesus … sitting in the midst of the rabbis and scholars, asking questions and giving answers.
As we reflect on this story today, I want to share two short observations as we enter this New Year.
First: Don’t Hit the Road without Jesus
I believe that the temptation of all time is to leave Jesus behind; to hit the road without him. “Do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,” is a warning that we see over and over in the Book of Deuteronomy. I truly believe that the temptation of all time is to plan and Jesus is not included in our plans. The temptation of all time is to budget and God’s kingdom is not a line in our budgets. The temptation of all time is to plan your week and there is no time for Jesus.
The real tragedy is to keep going when Jesus is missing of our lives. Luke tells us that Jesus’ parents went a day’s journey assuming that he was in the group of travelers. Writing to the nation of Israel, the Prophet Hosea lamented the fact that they have gotten weak without even knowing it. In Hosea 7:9, he says: “Foreigners sap his strength, but he does not realize it. His hair is sprinkled with gray, but he does not notice.” The same thing is said of Samson. Samson – a man who has always enjoyed the presence and the strength of the Lord – because of his disobedience, the Spirit of God departed him. In Judges 16:20 we read: “Then Delilah called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him.” May we never lose sight of Jesus this year.
Second: Do Not Look for Jesus in the Wrong Places
Beware of looking for Jesus in all the wrong places. Luke tells us that Jesus was 12 years old when His parents left Him behind. Luke also tells us in Luke 2:46, “After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” It took Mary and Joseph three full days to find Jesus. “After three days they found him in the temple,” Luke says. I understand that Jerusalem gets crazy during the Passover with people coming from all over the world to celebrate the Feast of Passover, but I think Mary and Joseph should’ve known better. They should’ve guessed where Jesus was.
Like the Magi, Joseph and Mary looked for Jesus in all the wrong places. The Magi looked for the newborn king where kings should be born, the palace of Herod. The trap of looking for Jesus in all the wrong places is a dangerous one. Think about how much energy and time we waste when we look for Jesus in the wrong places. Are we looking for God in the right places?
So as we enter 2022, I believe we need to wrestle with an important question; a question that will be like our compass this year. Where do we find Jesus in the world today? Brothers and sisters in Christ, let me remind you that Jesus is found in this gathering. He is present among us. May we never forsake this gathering. He is found in the faithful study of His Word, the Bible. Read your Bible daily. Jesus is also found in the life of service. Christ is found in feeding the hungry; in giving drink to the thirsty; in clothing the naked; in visiting and checking on the sick; in sheltering the homeless. Christ is found in showing hospitality to a stranger; in a moment that you spare of your time to pray with someone; in an act of mercy and a gesture of love; and in helping the weak and helpless.
Friends, as we enter the New Year, I encourage not to leave Jesus behind; not to hit the road without Jesus. Don’t hit the road without Jesus. Make sure He is at the center of your life this year. Make sure He is the captain of your ship. Let’s make every day count this year. A day that we do not get the chance to commune with Jesus is not worth living. A day that we do not get to do something for the glory of God is not worth living. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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