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 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 they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. (Luke 2:46-50 ESV)
In the movie, Forest Gump, Lieutenant Dan is annoyed with people asking him if he had found Jesus. When he asks Forest, the response he gets is, “I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for Him.” We laugh, but ironically, the pagan writers of Hollywood may have accidentally hit on something important. Perhaps the best question I can ask from this passage is, “Why go to church?”
The setting or timing is right after the Passover, the families are traveling back home from Jerusalem in a large group. Jesus’ parents don’t worry about Him for a full day, supposing He is with friends or relatives; they’ve given Him some freedom. When they realize He’s not with them, they head back to Jerusalem, and spend three days seeking Him. That’s where we pick up this passage.
Why Did Jesus’ Parents Go To Church?
In this account, we see that Jesus’ parents went to the Temple to find Him, eventually. But they were there initially to worship with a huge number of people at the Passover. So really they were there to worship according to tradition. Along the way, they lost Jesus their son. Eventually they returned to find Jesus the Son of God. Notice how everyone is astonished or amazed or confused by Jesus.
From this I learn that it’s not wrong to go to church to worship with others, even traditionally, because I may also find Jesus there. That may sound silly, but think about it: am I more likely to find Jesus in a church or a group of drunk campers, or grumpy parents at a ball field, or in a sports event, or wherever I choose to be instead of church? It shouldn’t surprise us that going to church makes us more likely to ‘find Jesus’. Most of the time, for most people, Jesus is more likely to be found in church than anywhere else. Okay, so why all the excuses to not go?
Why Did The Teachers Go To Church?
Jesus’ parents found Him among the teachers in the Temple. For the record, due to the sheer size of the Jewish Temple, it could have taken three days just to search the Temple. But Jesus was among those there to teach Scripture. With Jesus, these teachers found themselves learning instead. It says they were essentially out of their minds because of Jesus. His questions and answers were so shocking to them they couldn’t comprehend them coming from a twelve-year-old boy. How were they to know they were talking with the Author?
I think the lesson here is that I should go to church ready to learn. The danger is in thinking I already know everything, or at least more than everyone else. What if I find Jesus there? The reason that’s so dangerous is such an attitude insulates me from His presence. It’s never people I seek, but our Maker, the One speaking through them. These teachers went to teach, which was the right thing to do. But then they learned instead, which was the best thing that could happen. If I’m not open to being taught, then I probably won’t find Jesus. I should show up prepared to be amazed!
Why Did Jesus Go To Church?
When Jesus answered Mary, He says something profound that’s difficult to render in English very well. Different translations will read differently here. Most have either ‘had to be’ or ‘must be’ in the Temple (or ‘business’ in the KJV or NKJV). In either case, the point Jesus makes is that it was necessary for Him to be there. Why did Jesus go to the Temple? Because He had to. And not from some external motivator, but He couldn’t be anywhere else because of Himself. He was drawn to the Temple. But for what? I think the King James Version is on to something here. I think Jesus was drawn to the Temple because that’s where God ‘conducts business’.
Why am I not compelled to go to church? I am to an extent, but so much of my compulsion comes from external motivation. I want to receive a good feeling, I want to be with people, I want to ‘hang out’, whatever. Honestly, I don’t feel compelled to go to meet Jesus, at least not often enough. I mean I bring it up here, and, yeah, for the next few weeks I will. But what about after that? Jesus found teachers willing to learn. If He showed up at my church, would He find them there? Would I be among them? Is it worth it to be anywhere else and miss the ‘business’ of my Master? What could possibly be better than His business?
What I learn from this view through the knothole is that I need to go church; I don’t have to, I need to. Not because others want me to, I need to go to church because I desperately want to. I also learn that I want to go to church to find Jesus. I suspect most people are like Forest Gump, and don’t know they need to be looking for Him. Jesus’ question to Mary about why she was looking for Him had to with them looking anywhere but church. I think He would ask us that same thing today. So where will you be this Sunday?
That’s my view through the knothole, what’s yours?