48 Hours Mystery: When Jesus Went Missing

Regis Nicoll
Regis Nicoll

Luke’s account of the Holy Family’s trip to Jerusalem at Passover reads like a modern-day mystery-thriller: A family leaves town for a weeklong festival, only to find their young son missing on their return trip home. Was he lost, injured, or kidnapped? Over the next two days, the parents backtrack, frantically retracing their steps, searching everywhere until they find their boy among a group of adults he has rapt in amazement.

Therein is a profound mystery that chafes against modern sensibilities and, yet, is foundational to the Christian faith.

God’s unnecessary?

The head-numbing achievements of science and technology over the last century have beguiled man to believe that his capacity for knowledge is unlimited, he is his own “savior,” and God is unnecessary, both as an explanation for the universe and as a cure for what ails it. Consider the recent news piece that carried the sensational title, “HISTORIC DISCOVERY: Physicists ‘Prove’ God DIDN’T Create the Universe” (caps in original).

Well, the physicists did no such thing. Rather, they made the philosophically and empirically fallacious argument that since the negative gravitational energy of the universe and its positive matter energy balance out to zero, the universe isnothing. But not nothing that came from nothing; nothing that came from something—something, of course, other than God.

Against such sophistry stands the historical testimony about the Incarnation.

The apostle John wrote about the Word through whom “all things were made” and who made His dwelling among us. Of Him, Paul says, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” And the author of Hebrews writes that He “is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.”

The biblical record identifies Jesus as the Maker and Upholder of the universe, but tells us little about His earthly life.

Biographical gaps

After Jesus’s birth, Luke records the events surrounding His circumcision at eight days old, then completely passes over the next twelve years of His life. What happened during that biographical gap? Or the 18 or so years after the Holy Family’s trip to Jerusalem?

The short answer is that we don’t know. One thing we do know is that Jesus didn’t perform any miracles, like bringing clay birds to life, as claimed in the so-called “lost gospels,” because the apostle John states that Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana.

Like Luke, John is silent about Jesus prior to His public ministry. Matthew reports that some months after His birth, Jesus was visited by Magi from the east, then was spirited off to Egypt by His parents to escape the sword of Herod. Matthew and Mark reveal that Jesus worked as a carpenter and had brothers and sisters.

That’s the sum of what is recorded about Jesus prior to His baptism at the riverJordan. And yet the scant information that is recorded in Luke reveals something of profound significance about Him, and us. Continue reading here. 

Originally published February 15, 2016.

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