Where Is Jesus?

The Bible gives us little information on Jesus’ boyhood and growing-up years. Luke does tell us that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

Matthew tells us that when the baby was still very small, Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt where they remained until Herod died. Then they started back and settled in Nazareth where Jesus spent his boyhood years in the carpenter shop with Joseph.

In today’s text, St. Luke gives us a view of Jesus as a twelve-year-old boy. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were on their way back to Nazareth after celebrating the Passover. As the day went on, Mary and Joseph realized they had not seen Jesus and so became very concerned. They searched for three days before finally finding him in the temple with the rabbinical scholars, asking questions and giving answers. The scholars were all amazed at his knowledge. However, when Mary saw him, she had some harsh words for him. Out of fear mixed with anger she asked, “Jesus, why did you do this to us? We have been very afraid. We searched for three days and couldn’t find you.”

Jesus answered, “Why were you searching for me? Don’t you know I must be about my Father’s business?” That question and its answer is the thought I use for today in this marvelous text.

Don’t you agree, friend, that many times in life we ask the same question under different circumstances? Where are you, Jesus? I need some answers.

For the unbeliever, he may have learned something about Jesus in Sunday school, but isn’t too interested in him today. He has no personal relationship with the Lord.

Then something terrible happens, and the unbeliever asks a Christian friend or relative, “Now where is your Jesus? Why does he let this happen?”

He also may ask, Why does God permit wars to happen? Why are these terrible murders happening right in our own little community? Where are you, Jesus? I thought you had a Jesus who could give you all the answers.

What about those who do trust Jesus as their Savior and Lord? What are the answers to their searching and asking, Where are you, Jesus?

Why do you suppose Mary and Joseph had to hunt for Jesus for three days? If they had gone immediately to the temple, they would have found him the first hour of the day. However, they were looking in the wrong places.

If you want this question answered Ð Where are you, Jesus? Ð the place to go is your Bible where you will find answers. If perhaps you don’t know your way around the Bible and do not read it daily, then seek out somebody who can help you. Why not your pastor?

As a pastor, I loved it when people came to my study and asked for help finding answers in the Bible. Time after time we found those answers, because Jesus wants us to know what his will is, and he wants to share it with us in a kind and loving way. We can find those words of Jesus in the sacraments, during prayer time, and in the most basic place of all Ð the Bible.

What are the circumstances of your life when you are asking that question, Where is Jesus? Let’s say that you are thirty years of age and don’t really know what to do with your life. You are well trained. You’ve received much education and training but do not know what to do with it. As a committed Christian, your first allegiance is to Jesus Christ. In prayer ask him where he wants you to live your life. Then watch for his guidance and follow him as he leads you to it.

If you are eighty years of age, you have another kind of question. The body is wearing out and physically speaking, you are not in the best shape. Where are you, Jesus, to guide me and direct me? I need a word from you.

Nearly every day I go to the dining room at a care center to be with my wife. I eat a sandwich and drink a cup of coffee with many people who are simply a delight. Some, like me, are there visiting a loved one who is afflicted in one way or another. Often, if you listen carefully, you will hear the cries of those whose bodies are broken: Where are you, Jesus? What about me?

I think of one man who sat at the head of the table. He is a friend who belongs to the congregation I used to serve. As I sat with him one day, I asked “John, how goes it?”

“Not good, pastor. Not good.”

Then came the time when he could not pick up his fork or his knife, and he went where somebody could feed him. Now I learned the other day that he did not want to come out of his room at all. John was asking, Where are you, Jesus? Must I continue here for a long time? My life is over, isn’t it? Is there something more for me to do? Where are you, Jesus?

So we can go back to the scriptures to see if Jesus is listening or not. When talking with an 80-year-old person who has real questions about his future, the quality of his life, or being able to do something for God and for humanity, I would first go to Psalm 90:10. “The length of our days is seventy years Ð or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass and we fly away.”

Does Jesus have answers? Has he forsaken you? No. In his word he said that the length of our life is three score and ten; that is seventy. Four score years Ð that’s 80. What he is saying is that whether it is 70, 80, 90, or 110 years, ultimately this body is mortal and it is going to die. As you pass three score years and ten, you realize you are living on a bonus, for you were never intended to live here any longer.

In Hebrews 13:14, we find Jesus again talking to the person who is old. His body is wearing out, and he is asking, Where are you, Jesus? Jesus says, “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.”

What is Jesus saying to us as we look for answers in the span of our life? He is simply saying that we’re not going to stay here long. These years fly by, and then we have to go. It does not matter where we are, how much power we have, or how much money we have accumulated. We’ve got to go! That’s simply it.

And so we pray the Holy Spirit will take these words from Psalms and from Hebrews, let them become truths in our lives, and learn to make the best out of the time we have. If we can help somebody and serve the Lord Jesus, then we should do that. But we’ve got to get rid of the foolish idea that we have endless days on this earth. And believing that the latest shot, miracle medicine, or surefire surgery can give us a new lease on life so we can get back out on the golf course or some other activity, is utter foolishness. That is not negativism; it is reality and the answer comes from Jesus Christ himself.

Listen to these words if you are thirty. You say to yourself, I have a good education. I’m an intelligent person, but I don’t know what to do with my life. Could it be that Jesus is saying, I gave you many talents, and you have done your part in developing them. But now I have a few words for you. Make your life count for me. Remember that I said to go and make disciples of all nations. That meant you. Whether you are highly involved in the business world, the political world, the world of arts or science, use those talents I have given you and permitted you to develop. But remember that if at any time you have to compromise your convictions, get out of that job. It is not for you!

Do you understand this, friend? Jesus is the answer. Whether we’re 18, 19, 80, or 85, are we honestly searching for him in the right places?

Mary was asking the question in honesty, for her little boy was missing and she went seeking him. More often than not, we do not have the answers. Remember that when we seek him, go to the right place. That is the Word of God.

Make it your new year’s resolution to spend some time every day in that Word, and soon you will pick up answers that mold and shape your life according to his will.

Don’t Stop at the Crib

Soon Christians will celebrate the birth of Jesus. The Christmas season is an emotional time of year. What joy for the newlyweds who are celebrating their first Christmas together or for the new parents who just had their first child! On the other hand, for some the Christmas holidays are difficult. Perhaps a loved one is gone and it’s not quite the same without them. It’s tough.

Yes, Christmas can be an emotional time of the year.

We find the Christmas Gospel is found in Luke 2. Whether you are reviewing the story or the Holy Spirit is using it to make an impact on you for the first time, know this: On that night in Bethlehem, God came into the world. That is the basic truth of the Christian faith. When you become a Christian, this truth becomes a focal part of your faith.

I love to read this paragraph from Tom Wright, the British theologian. He writes, “The birth of this little boy is the beginning of confrontation between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world.”

Augustus never heard of Jesus of Nazareth, but within a century or so his successes in Rome had not only heard about him, they were taking steps to obliterate him and his followers. Within three centuries, the emperor himself, Constantine, became a Christian. Since then the message of Jesus Christ has been going into this world, millions of people have received him as their Savior and their Lord, and their lives have been changed as Jesus entered into their very being.

Kingdoms of this world have fallen, and we know not how many more will fall in the future. But this we do know: the kingdom of our God, which began in Bethlehem’s manger on that first Christmas, continues to be among us. People of every nation and walk of life claim Jesus as their Savior and Lord. The kingdom of God was brought into this world in the babe of Bethlehem’s manger.

The verse that catches my eye right now are these words: “Do not be afraid, for behold I bring you good news. There is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”

Wouldn’t you admit that it’s difficult to not to have moments of real fear? However, our Lord says, “Do not be afraid. I am with you. I will not spare you from these difficulties, but I will walk with you.”

That is the message that comes from that Christ child as he grew up. It is also the message we talked about during the Advent season. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He came to give us life and have it abundantly.

Television brings some terrible things into our homes on a daily basis. We see the results of the drug culture. We learn about a mother who decides to kill herself and her two small children. The depravity of man is all around us.

We thank God for medical science and all they are able to do. Many of us live on into our 80s and some into their 90s. Often we spend must those last days in a home for the aged. Does that thought make you afraid?

I go in and out of one of those homes daily to see my wife. As I walk among the residents, I see some poor souls just waiting to leave this world. Selfishly I can’t help but ask if that the way that I will end. It can put fear in your heart. And in the middle of all this, Jesus says to us, “Don’t be afraid. I will take care of you. I will take care of your loved one. I will not remove these tedious days, but I will be with you.”

That is the Christmas gospel. It comes from the lips of that little child who was born in Bethlehem’s manger. And so we can join with the angels of old and say, “Glory be to God in the highest.” Our life may not be exactly what we want on this earth, but it can be mighty good for we have a Savior who walks with us.

This is the message that has been given to the Church to take to this world. May the Church be anxious to get this great message out, that God has come to this world. May our nation realize that only Christ is the final solution. And may that also be true in our lives.

I Came to Give You an Abundant Life

In the Advent season our hearts are being prepared for Christmas and the coming of the Christ Child, who is the God incarnate. Let me take one verse from our text to discuss, where Jesus says, “I came to give you an abundant life” (John 10:10).

There are two masters who want to control our lives. One is Satan, who seeks to destroy our lives. The other is Jesus, who wants to give us an abundant life.

Satan, from the beginning of humankind, has wanted to destroy the relationship that we can have with our Creator, and he has weapons that are often very successful in accomplishing this purpose. One such weapon appeals to our flesh. It is the falsehood that materialism is the source of all happiness. That happiness is related to the stock market, certificates of deposit, bank accounts, property and insurance programs. The more you have, the happier you will be.

A second weapon is the counsel, “Don’t take God’s Word too seriously.” Another way of saying this is, “You need a Christianity that is adjustable to the present-day culture.” This voice would tell you that your parents and grandparents did not have the same beliefs that you have and your children will have beliefs that are different from yours. For example, the ordination of gay people would never have been acceptable to Christians fifty years ago because it is contrary to the teachings of God’s Word. Today, this practice is acceptable in many mainline denominations because of the feeling that there are times when the law of God must be adjusted to the culture of which we are a part.

Experience has taught us that violating God’s Word never leads to lasting happiness. Once again read Jesus’ words: “I have come that you may have life and have it to the fullest” (John 10:10). He likens our relationship with Him to that of a shepherd and the sheep. This relationship is personal: “The watchman opens the gate for the shepherd, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all of his own, he goes on ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:3-4).

The Bible promises a full life if we will follow God’s voice, which has been recorded in the Scriptures. We hear Jesus saying, “Come and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). You have a full life when your sins of the past have been forgiven by Christ. No more guilt. You have a full life when you seek to live according to His voice.

It’s a full life when you can join St. Paul, who said, “It is a small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. I do not even judge myself. It is the Lord who judges” (I Corinthians 4:3-4). While we do not want to go out of our way to offend someone, neither do we have to be possessed by the fear, “What will he or she think of me?” Having this freedom is living life to the fullest.

It’s Christmas and your family is enjoying time together. A loved one has died during the year and there is an empty place at the table, as well as in your heart, for that person who meant so much to you. But when the Christmas Gospel is read in your family circle and you are reminded that “Christ the Savior has been born” you are comforted to know that your departed loved one lives with Christ in the heavenly home. This knowledge is living life to the fullest.

Maybe Christmas will be spent in your son or daughter’s home this year. Traditionally the children came to your home; now they are changing the tradition and inviting you to come and be with them. What a joy! You see that they have established their home on Christ and that they have a Christian home. The joy of seeing the faith passed on to another generation is living life to the fullest.

St. Paul summarizes his full life well. From his imprisonment, Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi, “For to me, to live is Christ”Ñit’s excitingÑ”and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

So when you view the manger scene again this year, just remember why He came.

Why Did I Come

If I am correct in my thinking, many people do not give much spiritual thought as to what Christmas is all about. The holiday is reduced to the celebration of traditions. But for those of us who identify ourselves as Christians, Christmas is an opportunity to explore Jesus’ answer to the question, “Why did you come to this earth, Jesus?”

His answer is clear: “I came to seek and to save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10).

Jesus was trying to pay a visit to Jericho. There was great excitement in the town. The man who performed great miracles and was a great preacher was going to be in their midst. Perhaps some of the more important people in Jericho would try to have a special meeting with Him, but this was not on Jesus’ agenda. Rather, He went over to a sycamore tree that Zacchaeus, a short man, had climbed in order to see Jesus when He passed by. Zacchaeus was hated by the townspeople because he was a tax collector. Many felt he had stolen from them, and he probably had.

“Zacchaeus,” Jesus said to the man, “come down immediately. I must stay in your house today” (Luke 19:5).

The shocked crowd muttered, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner” (Luke 19:7).

Zacchaeus, very surprised that Jesus would spend time with him, took Jesus to his big, beautiful home. Now while I take some liberties with the text, let your imagination go so that this story might take on new meaning.

Jesus walks into the house and is introduced to Zacchaeus’ wife. She too is surprised to think that a well-known holy man like Jesus would spend time with an ungodly and disliked person such as her husband. But after the introductions, Zacchaeus ushers Jesus into the living room, where they sit and visit about the matters of the day. Soon the servants call them to the dinner table. I have the feeling Jesus probably enjoyed a good meal, though his favorite cook was over in Bethany, a woman named Martha who fed him well whenever she had a chance.

But Jesus is not in Jericho to chat or eat. He has a mission to perform, so he asks Zacchaeus if they can move to another room where they might have a private and personal conversation.

Jesus asks Zacchaeus about his life, saying, “I got the impression that while you might be the richest man in town, you were not the most loved person to walk the streets. Why is that, Zacchaeus?”

“Well,” Zacchaeus replies, “these people are jealous of my success. They accuse me of overcharging and cheating them in the taxes they must pay to the Roman government. I’ll admit the government permits me to charge whatever I like as long as Caesar gets what he wants.”

“Then is there some truth that you have taken advantage of these people?”

“Well, perhaps I have been a bit greedy,” Zacchaeus admits, “but what I have done is legal.”

“That might be true,” Jesus tells the tax collector, “but I wonder if God doesn’t call it sin, taking from the poor who can hardly feed and clothe their children while you live in luxury. Sin, Zacchaeus.”

With that, the Lord asks if he may retire to the guest bedroom.

In the morning, Jesus sits with his new friend, Zacchaeus, and thanks him for breakfast and the use of a beautiful and comfortable bedroom where he had slept soundly.

Hearing this, Zacchaeus replies, “I am glad you slept well. I have not slept a wink. Jesus, I have done wrong. I have stolen from others. We have all this money and all these material possessions, but still we are not really happy. Jesus, you have changed my life. I need you as my Savior and I want to repay these people what I have taken from them.”

Jesus now notices that a crowd has already gathered outside to see Him. He takes Zacchaeus by the hand, stands before the gathered townspeople and says, “Listen, Zacchaeus has something he wants to tell you.”

It is now Zacchaeus speaks those famous words: “Look Lord! Here and now I give half my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody from anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8).

Hearing Zacchaeus’ public confession, Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which is lost” (Luke 19:9-10).

That is why Jesus came into the world. He gives us hope no matter what our situation might be right now, no matter what wrongs we have committed.

Jesus Christ wants to sit down with us in the comfortable living room of our hearts and talk with us. He will listen to our stories and hear our confessions.

Now in Advent we celebrate the first coming of our Lord. The cradle at Bethlehem is a special reminder of His coming. He knocks at our heart’s door and asks if He might come to live in us. Zacchaeus is our example of what Jesus can do in a person’s life. No wonder Paul wrote, “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away. The new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Does He live in your life? If you answer yes, rejoice! For all is well no matter what your earthly conditions are like. He is coming soon. This time when He comes, He will bring all His children into their heavenly habitation.

It would be sad to go through another Christmas without knowing why He came.