Monday, January 03, 2011
Sermon - Luke 2:41-52 - Christmas 2
January 2nd, 2011
“It is Necessary”
It's a week and a day after Christmas and already Jesus is 12. That's because the New Testament isn't too concerned about the details of his childhood. We are simply told that Jesus was an obedient son. The next we see of him he is 30, and his public ministry begins.
But there's more to this account of the boy Jesus in the temple than to satisfy some of our curiosity about those years between his birth and public ministry. Luke isn't trying to write a biography of Jesus life, but instead to tell us a Gospel account – what is the good news of Jesus Christ? And to that end, this story of Jesus at 12 in the temple – it points toward that good news.
There are some clues here that connect this account with Jesus' later life and deeds – and especially, his passion.
For one, these events take place in Jerusalem – which is where the story of Jesus' work and life begins and ends. It all happens in close proximity to the Passover feast – where the lamb is slain as a sacrifice for sin. So the true Lamb of God would shed his blood, here, as a sacrifice for all sin.
The temple takes center stage, there, and in Jesus' work. For he would cleanse it, teach in it, and destroy the temple of his body to rebuild it in three days. The temple, the house of God, was the place where God dwelt with man. Jesus is the true temple, the ultimate dwelling of God with man. God and man united in one person. God with us, Emmanuel. Old Simeon sings when the “Light to the Gentiles” and the “Glory of Israel” is brought to the temple as an infant. And when the God-man is crucified, the temple curtain is torn in two.
There's a little three-letter Greek word, which means “it is necessary”. Luke uses that word in today's reading, when Jesus says, “it is necessary for me to be in my Father's house”. The same word appears when Jesus speaks of the necessity of him going up to Jerusalem, to suffer and die and rise again. It is necessary. It was a must, for us.
Mary and Joseph would lose their son and find him on the third day, just as in his death he was lost to Mary only for three days, and rose to life on the third. There another Mary would be asked, “why are you looking for Jesus?”
Jesus has work to do. Even at 12, he knew who he was, and he knew where he would be going. In his Father's house, and about his Father's business. Not his will, but the Father's would be done. The obedient son of Joseph and Mary is the obedient Eternal son of God.
For our part, we are disobedient sons and daughters. We disobey our Heavenly Father, and we disregard his earthly representatives – parents and other authorities. We are not about our Father's business as we should be, and we are not in our Father's house as often or as faithfully as he would have us. We are sinners, after all. And in our sins, we are really lost, and do need to be found.
Like Mary and Joseph, and so many other students of the wise Teacher, we don't always understand very well what Jesus is talking about. We hear what we want to hear – even from God's Word. Jesus wants to talk suffering and death. He wants to point us to the cross. But like so many others, we want success and glory instead.
But only in his cross do we find what we need – access to the Father's house in heaven. It's not just the thief next to Jesus there that receives the promise of a place in paradise – but all people who believe in Christ – for us he prepares a place. For us he will come back, to take us home.
From that cross flow all the gifts of God's grace, and we receive them in the Word of God, and in his Sacraments. Baptismal water which makes us his children. Words of teaching which create and nurture faith. Bread and wine that are the true body and blood of the Lamb – and that truly take away sins. And we find all of these, in God's house. And he comes to us here, in this place, and brings us to his Father through these means of grace.
Even as a 12 year old, Jesus is doing things for his people, being who he is, our Savior. Teaching, Amazing, pointing to the cross. Submitting to his parents, in fulfillment of the law – for us. Submitting to his Father, in fulfillment of all righteousness – for us.
Take a page from Mary, who treasured up all these things in her heart. Treasure up the birth and life and work and teachings of Jesus. Sit at the feet of the great teacher, whose wisdom surpasses even Solomon's.
And marvel with the scribes and chief priests, and be amazed with Joseph and Mary. Appreciate all that he is and does for you, the poor sinner. And see how he points you again and again to his cross and resurrection. Amen.