Grades 3-6 Lesson for Sunday School:
The Life of Jesus Christ: Lost!
Author’s Notes: This week we are beginning a new series on the life of Christ, taken from the four New Testament Gospels. In past lessons, we’ve already looked at His birth, the visit from the wisemen, and his family’s flight into Egypt. So we’ll be jumping in, today, at the next Biblically recorded event in the life of Jesus, His visit to the Temple at age twelve. Since He would only have been a little older than most of your students, it should be interesting for them to see how Jesus’ lived when he was about their age.
Have any of you ever gotten lost? Or has there ever been a time when your parents couldn’t find you, or one of your brothers or sisters? (allow the students some time to share their experiences with the class) If so, how did your parents react when they realized one of their children was missing? How long did they have to search before they found you (or your brother or sister)? What was their first reaction when they found you? Were they angry or relieved? Or perhaps a little of both?
There can be many different circumstances that lead to a child being lost. We sometimes hear tragic news of a child that’s been taken away by a stranger. Other times, it’s merely a case of a family in a large crowd, and they just become separated for a time. Sometimes a child will wander off, knowing full well where they’re headed, but just won’t think to tell someone else where they are going.
But regardless of the circumstances, losing a child is very terrifying for a parent. And it was an experience Mary and Joseph went through when Jesus was twelve years old. We’ll look at the Bible story in just a moment.
But first, let’s consider a question: if you could go any place you wanted to right now, where would it be? (allow the students to consider the question, then ask each one to share a response) In our lesson today, we’re going to find Jesus in the place he wanted to be, more than any other. The problem was, his earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, didn’t understand His longing to be there. Let’s find out where He went, and why. Today’s memory verse comes from today’s Scripture passage, and explains to Jesus’ parents and to us just what He was thinking.
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?” Luke 2:49
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank you for revealing Yourself to us, through Your Word. Help us, today, as we begin our study on the life of Your Son, Jesus, to be ready to listen and learn, so we can come to know You better; and so we can learn to be just like Jesus. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: The Life of Jesus Christ: Lost! (Luke 2:41-52)
(a family celebration)
Does your family ever take trips together? If so, where do you go and what do you like to do? Do you go the same place every year?
For a Jewish family, there were three times a year that God had told them to go to Jerusalem and celebrate special Feasts that He had established. Only the men were commanded to go, but many times the entire family went along. Let’s open our Scripture passage today to Luke 2, and find where Jesus’ family was headed, and why.
41Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
42And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
This would have been a very exciting time for the family. The trip from Nazareth to Jerusalem is about 65 miles. They were most likely walking in a very large group, as all of Israel was commanded to go up to Jerusalem for this Feast. The trip itself would have been a time for catching up on news with family and friends. And the children were likely to spend the time together playing games along the way, sometimes running ahead or lingering a little ways behind.
When they arrived in Jerusalem, there would have been some solemn business to attend to, as the feast commemorated the Israelites’ release from captivity in Egypt, and the Lord’s passing over the Jewish firstborn, when the Egyptian sons died. Jesus’ family probably stayed in Jerusalem for the entire week-long celebration.
Then, when the feast ended, the entire company that traveled to Jerusalem together would once again gather to head back home. It was not safe for anyone to travel alone, as the roads were sometimes hot spots for thieves. And that is where we find Mary and Joseph, in the next few verses.
43And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
44But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
(a family scare)
It would not have been unusual, when traveling with such a large group, probably many of them extended family members, for parents to not see their children during the day. Verse 44 tells us that Mary and Joseph just assumed that Jesus was somewhere in their group of family and friends. Perhaps that’s where He most often was when they traveled. But not this time. At the end of their first traveling day, Mary and Joseph began to look for Jesus among their company, as the group would have been settling down for the night. But Verse 43 tells us that Jesus had stayed behind in Jerusalem, not joining the caravan as it departed.
Mary and Joseph had no way of knowing this. The only thing they knew, now, was that they couldn’t find Jesus; they had lost Him! What do you think they might have been thinking as they began to search frantically for Him?
Verse 45 tells us that Mary and Joseph realized they had no choice. They had to return to Jerusalem to look for their missing Son. “And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.” (verse 45) And that would have presented a whole new list of possible things to worry about.
And these questions wouldn’t be answered quickly. Mary and Joseph worried for three days before they finally found Jesus, safe and warm, and not a bit upset at being left behind. That’s a very long time for a parent not to know where their child is.
Would anyone like to guess at where they might have looked for him? Our passage doesn’t tell us. But we know they must have been looking for quite a while. (allow the students to suggest where they think Mary and Joseph might have gone looking for Jesus)
If you were missing, where do you think your parents would go first to look for you? Perhaps at a friend’s house, or school, or the local playground? Let’s take a look at where Mary and Joseph found Jesus, and what He was doing there.
(a family reunion)
46And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
47And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
Finally Mary and Joseph found their boy. Where did they find Him? And what was He doing? He was at the house of His Heavenly Father, sharing a wisdom beyond His years with some of the most knowledgeable men of His time. But this must not have been the first place they had looked. Listen to Mary’s response upon seeing Him:
48And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
How does Mary sound, to you? Does she sound relieved to have finally found her Son? Or do we maybe hear a bit of frustration in Mary’s question? No doubt she was happy to have finally found Jesus. But she also wanted to know what in the world He was thinking, putting them through such an awful ordeal.
Do you think Jesus knew all along that Mary and Joseph were looking for Him? He is God, after all, even though He’d only been living on Earth for twelve years. Certainly He knew. So why would He let them go through all that heartache? (allow the students to share their thoughts)
Let’s listen to Jesus’ response to Mary, and see if we can pick up any clues as to what He might have been thinking in staying behind without telling His parents.
49And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?
50And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
Of all the places Jesus could have chosen to be, where is the one place He wanted to be most? Yes, in His Father’s house doing His Father’s business. Of course, Jesus was not speaking of Joseph, here, but of His Father in Heaven. So even at the age of twelve, Jesus clearly understood who He truly was, and who His real Father was. And even at such a young age, it was His desire to already be seeking and serving God the Father. Maybe He wanted to be sure that Mary and Joseph fully understood, as well.
If Jesus had told Mary and Joseph of His desire to stay behind and spend time in the Temple, it isn’t likely they would have understood, anyway. Verse 50 tells us that they were confused by Jesus’ response to them. Perhaps that indicates that up until now, Jesus had lived a pretty normal, human life. And they didn’t expect Him to take on the role He had been sent for until sometime later.
But the twelve year-old Jesus we find here was already driven to be in His Father’s house, sharing His uncanny wisdom and knowledge of God and His Word with the most highly respected teachers of that time. He was already wanting to minister to and teach those around Him.
However, in Mary and Joseph’s eyes, Jesus was still a child. And their fear over losing Him may have kept them from seeing His full potential, even now. So they insisted on His coming home with them. And He was now faced with the choice of fulfilling His own desires or obeying His earthly parents. Jesus chose to do what the Bible tells us children should do…obey their parents.
51And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
Jesus fulfilled His temporary role as Mary and Joseph’s son, and respectfully did what they asked. And did you notice what happened in Mary’s heart? As she had time to reflect on all that had happened over those three difficult days, she began to realize that it was all part of God’s plan. She had responded the same way earlier in Luke 2, when the shepherds came to see Jesus, as a baby in the manger. That moment, along with finding Him in the Temple with the teachers would be stored away in her heart, as Jesus grew and began His public ministry.
A great mystery in the minds of many Christians is what Jesus was like, and what He did between this event when He was twelve, and the start of His public ministry at the age of thirty. The Bible is virtually silent on these years. But we can be sure that as He continued to live with Mary and Joseph, He remained a loving, respectful, and obedient son. The final verse of our passage sheds just a little more light on these silent years.
52And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
Jesus continued to grow into a wise young man who won the favor of both the people He encountered, as well as God, His Heavenly Father. But today’s passage is proof that we don’t need to be an adult to have our priorities in order, and have our hearts and minds set on God, and His will.
Remember that even at age twelve, Jesus was already choosing to spend His time with His heavenly Father. And at the same time, He was an obedient, respectful son. If we could interview the people you spend time with every day, and ask God, Himself, would any of them say of you that you are growing in wisdom and favor? Would they say that your priorities are to spend time listening to your teachers, as well as sharing the wisdom you’ve been given? Could they say you are an obedient and respectful member of your family? These are qualities that Jesus displayed when He was only a little older than most of you. And these are qualities that our Heavenly Father longs to see in each of us.
As we go home this week, let’s spend some time thinking about Jesus’ example as a son who lived in a way that was pleasing to God and man; and consider how we might be like Him whether at home, school, church or in whatever circumstances we may find ourselves.
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for including this account of Jesus as a child, in Your Word. There is so much we can learn just by following His example as Mary and Joseph’s son, and Yours. Help us to remember that we can be just like Jesus, in obeying our parents, and spending more time with You, even this week. Amen.
Closing Comments/ Activity:
Being lost and separated from our family can be a very scary thing. But being lost, and separated from God for eternity would be the greatest tragedy of all. If you have not repented of your sin, and asked Jesus to save you, then you are lost from God. He describes Himself as a Shepherd searching for His lost sheep. If that’s you today, won’t you consider letting Him find you and bring you into His sheepfold? Then you will be found, in Him, forever!
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. Jesus’ family celebrated Passover in Jerusalem every year. (true)
2. Jesus’ parents immediately realized that Jesus was not with them. (false – they didn’t know)
3. The group traveled an entire day before they realized Jesus was not there. (true)
4. When Mary and Joseph could not find Jesus, they returned to Jerusalem to look for Him. (true)
5. Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. (false – at the temple)
6. Jesus said He “must be about His Father’s business.” (true)
Lisa DeVinney, November 2021