“They began to search for him among their relatives and friends.” – Luke 2:44
In this story, Jesus’ family (Mary, Joseph, and siblings) are on a trip home to Nazareth. They had been in Jerusalem for a national celebration called Passover, so they would have been traveling back with lots of people. A good comparison for us might be July 4th – think of crowds walking back to their cars after fireworks or a parade and you’ll get an idea of the scene along the road outside Jerusalem. Jesus’ family, along with other relatives and families, was in this crowd when they realized Jesus wasn’t with them. At first, they assumed he was just somewhere in the masses, but that night when they stopped to rest, they couldn’t find him (ever get separated from your parents in the mall or a big crowd and they freaked out?) So they searched for him among family and friends. They eventually found him (we’ll see what happened then later this week), but this specific part of the story tells us something simple but significant – Jesus had friends that he hung out with!
We see this clearly in the story as Jesus’ parents look for him. When they couldn’t find him initially, they assumed he was somewhere in the group. Have you ever been at a school function, church activity, or sports event where your parents and your friends were all there? If your parents can’t find you, what do they usually assume: That you’re somewhere hanging out with your friends! “Oh she’s probably just with Haley and they’re off getting snacks.” “Oh he’s around here somewhere with Dylan, probably throwing the football.” They don’t worry because they know you have familiar friends you’re probably spending time with and you’ll catch up to your parents later. I get the impression Jesus’ mom and dad thought the same thing, possibly saying something like, “He’s somewhere with Gideon and Joshua, probably seeing who’s the fastest runner.” When they did start to worry, they began looking among those people, asking cousins and neighbors if they’d seen him. Maybe they tracked down his best buddy from Nazareth or his cousin, “Has Jesus been hanging out with you?” I know some of this is using a little imagination, but the Bible tells us they “looked among their relatives and acquaintances” for Jesus. Why? Because those are people they knew Jesus would likely hang out with – cousins, neighbors, classmates – his friends!
One of God’s greatest gifts is friends. The writer of Proverbs filled it with advice on how to have great friendships, and often reminded readers of the importance of good friends. While we have to imagine a little bit what Jesus’ middle school years were like, we do see that friends were a part of it. Every Tuesday in this book we’ll talk about friendships and all that God has to say about making friends, keeping them, and even losing them. We’ll begin our look at friendship with two simple but incredible things about friends from this story in Luke 2:
1. You’re meant to have friends! – Jesus did. God created us that way!
2. You’re meant to have new and expanding friendships as you get older. In middle school, you’ll begin to choose friends your parents may or may not know. You might have a teammate or classmate with whom you didn’t grow up but form a new friendship with. That is normal and good. Although Jesus’ parents seemed to know the people in this story, we see that they were comfortable with Jesus being with his friends outside their direct supervision. He could interact with his friends without them hovering close by. In elementary school, you and your friends were likely never very far from your parents, even if you didn’t realize it, but in middle school, that changes, and with that change comes exciting new privileges, as well as a whole new set of challenges, dangers, and adventures.
And we’ll talk about all that! But today, just thank God for friends and ask for wisdom to both be a good friend and to choose good ones for yourself.