Quest for the Historical Jesus

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Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 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.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. – Luke 2:41-52

High Castle | Anweiler, Germany | December 2021

Wikipedia mentions three “quest[s] for the historical Jesus.” These are “academic efforts to determine what words and actions, if any, may be attributed to Jesus, and to use the findings to provide portraits of the historical Jesus.” The idea is at least somewhat interesting, but certainly does not reflect a high regard for the truthfulness of the Bible. From my perspective it treats gaps or omissions between the accounts as though they are contradictions – which they are most assuredly not. 

For example, Matthew records Jesus’ flight to Egypt and the visit of the Magi. The other gospel writers do not. That’s not a contradiction. That’s simply an editorial choice. God used each of the gospel writers – replete with their unique personalities and perspectives – to paint a portrait of Jesus. Matthew shows how Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. Mark shows the urgency of preaching the gospel. Luke has miracles and shows Jesus as Savior. John shows again and again that Jesus is the Son of God. None of these contradict the others. They complement each other. They give us a more wholistic picture of Jesus. 

Mary and Joseph are on a quest for the missing Jesus. And think of it: they’ve lost the Savior! They’ve lost the Son of God! They’ve lost the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies, hopes, and dreams. They’ve lost the one who preaches the gospel to those who are in need (that’s us, by the way!). And they are urgently trying to find him. 

They are trying to find him because they have a responsibility for his care. They have been entrusted with this child. He is part of their family, and as such they must raise him, provide for his needs, teach, and direct him until that time comes for him to leave home and strike out on his own. 

We need to find Jesus for a different reason. We have been entrusted with him. We have been given the privilege of holding him in our hearts. And we are responsible for letting others know who he is and what he has done for them and for the sake of the whole world. But we need to find Jesus for our sakes as well. We need Jesus. We need his mercy and love. We need his grace and forgiveness. We need his word of grace and truth. We need his salvation.

That truth comes more and more clear to me every day: I need Jesus. I need to find him in my heart. I need him in my mind. I need him in my life. For there are so many distractions, doubts, and detractors from Jesus’ grace and truth. We’re told all too often that we don’t really need to comply with God’s ways; we can choose our own path. Because of that, there is little need for grace. And while Jesus may teach about love, in the minds of the world, his definition of love is far too narrow. 

Then there’s my own sinful flesh. This is “the good I would do, I do not do” (Romans 7) battle that seems to rear its ugly head all too often. It’s all too easy to hide Jesus in the folds of a busy life, opportunities for self-indulgence, and the blindness to my own faults, or  the slippery slope of life on my own. Where’s Jesus? Who cares; I’d just as soon that he stays over there in a corner, and does not bother me. 

So where’s Jesus in those moments? He’s in the disturbing, nagging voice of my conscience. He’s in the dark moments of a sleepless night. He’s in his Word. He’s with his people. He’s in his Father’s house.

This is the reason for regular worship. This is why I write this blog. This is why we read the Bible. This is why we pray. For we all need Jesus. And, thankfully, he’s right here for us. He has come to us, and continues to do so through his word, and through the sacraments. He sends his Holy Spirit to us to call us back again and again to himself. 

Martin Luther famously said, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ called us to repent, he meant that the entire life of the believer should be one of repentance.” And when we repent, we will discover that Jesus has already come to us, is waiting for us, and has open arms (think the cross!) and an open heart. Just like Jesus’ parents discovered that he was not lost at all, we will discover that he has never abandoned us. We’ve abandoned him. Thank God he’s ready to be found, and welcomes us back into his heart whenever we repent.

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