Jeep Wrangler, 2003 Sport; 4 wheel drive linkage missing _could my mechanic have caused this?

So, last year, I needed to have the clutch replaced in my wrangler. There was one part that needed to be replaced, which was on back-order for some time, but I finally got it back after about 2 months, with a new clutch. Just last month, I was returning from visiting my Dad out in the suburbs and it was snowing so I pulled over and I tried to engage my 4-wheel drive using the separate 4WD lever. When I pulled up on the lever, there was no tension in it at all and the 4WD would not engage. This is over 8 months after the clutch was replaced, but the first time that I needed to use the 4-wheel drive since I got it back (as far as I can remember?). My question is, is this something that could have happened while the clutch was being replaced? There was never a time when I tried to use the 4WD and it didn’t feel like it broke or anything weird happened when I pulled up on the lever. So I’m wondering if the mechanic just didn’t put this part back on - or even if it has to be taken apart at all during replacement of the clutch. ??

I don’t have any experience with the last-gen Wranglers, but on my JK, there’s a little plastic bushing between the shifter fork and the cable linkage that’s prone to breaking or popping off, resulting in the symptoms you describe. I bought 4 spares (at about 50 cents each) just in case it happens on the trail and I can’t get it out of 4wd. My guess would be that happened, and it’s a coincidence - they shouldn’t have touched that when they replaced your clutch.

Wait, now that I think about it, doesn’t the TJ have the electronic shifter rather than a physical linkage? My '98 Cherokee was like that.

They either forgot to connect the shift lever back onto the trunnion, or the shift linkage onto the shift lever on the transfer case.

A quick look under the vehicle should reveal what wasn’t reconnected.