Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Second Sunday after Christmas

Second Sunday after Christmas (B)
January 4, 2009
Text: Luke 2:40-52

Beloved in the Lord, when you need Jesus, where do you look for Him? Where should you look for Him? Where should you expect to find Him? One thing is for sure, Mary gets the answer to this question precisely wrong in our text this morning. So much for any idea that St. Mary has any sort of claim to perfection. She’s just as lost as the rest of us. When she needs Jesus, she goes looking in all the wrong places. Twelve-year-old Jesus and His family had gone up to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, as was their custom. And as was common at the time, a large party of friends and relatives from Nazareth made the trek together. So it was that when they left the Holy City, they suspected Jesus to be somewhere among the crowd. Thus we should not be puzzled that they traveled for a day without worrying that they hadn’t seen Him. Besides, Jesus, being without sin, had NEVER misbehaved. His parents NEVER had to worry about Him. They were NEVER disappointed in Him. He ALWAYS pleased them. But after that day, Mary and Joseph begin to worry. After looking for Him to no avial, they begin to imagine the worst. Maybe He’s lost. Maybe they had left Him behind. Maybe He’s been kidnapped. They begin to search for Jesus among their relatives and acquaintances. Their anxiety increases with every passing moment. You parents who have experienced that moment of panic when your child perhaps wanders out of sight at the grocery store know what I’m talking about. Where is Jesus? Mary and Joseph begin to make their way back to Jerusalem. Remember, they had already traveled a day’s journey away from the city. When they arrive, they search the city and the Temple precincts for three days. They leave no stone unturned. One can only imagine the grief and worry in their hearts. But as it happens, they should not have been worried. They should have known that Jesus’ heavenly Father would not allow Him to be lost before the appointed time when He would save His people from their sins. And they should have known that in the meantime, Jesus would be in His Father’s house, about His Father’s business. They should have known right where Jesus would be. He would be in the Temple, the dwelling place of God with men, immersed in the Word of God, immersed in the Holy Scriptures.

Imagine the relief Mary and Joseph felt when they found Jesus sitting at the feet of the Rabbis, listening to them expound the Holy Scriptures, and asking them questions. Yet Mary thought that for the first time Jesus had sinned against her and Joseph. “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress” (Luke 2:48; ESV). Now, one can understand, perhaps, Mary’s scolding. One cannot help but be sympathetic to the ordeal Mary has just been through. But Mary should have known better. Her desperation exhibits a certain weakness of faith, a sinful doubt. Jesus corrects her… “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (v. 49). “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (NKJV). Jesus had not sinned against His earthly parents. He was right where He should be. He was immersed in the Word of His Father.

Jesus was sitting at the feet of the Rabbis, learning about the Passover. It may seem strange to us that the Son of God had to learn about the Passover, had to increase in wisdom, but remember, according to His human nature and in His state of humiliation, Jesus did not always or fully use His divine powers. He became one with us in the fullest sense, and that means He limited Himself in His human nature so that He had to learn like the rest of us. And even so, He was filled with wisdom, a star pupil, so that the Rabbis and Jesus’ fellow students were amazed at His understanding and His answers. But here in the Temple, Jesus is learning about His role as the fulfillment of the Passover, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Remember the story of the Passover. The people of God, Israel, had been enslaved in Egypt. For over four hundred years they had cried to God for deliverance. Then God sent Moses to lead His people on an exodus out of Egypt. But Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let them go. Despite nine previous plagues God had sent upon the people of Egypt, plagues including all the water in Egypt being turned to blood, infestations of frogs, gnats, and flies, the death of all the Egyptian livestock, boils, hail that fell with fire and killed every living thing it struck, locusts, and thick darkness, despite all of this, Pharaoh refused to free the children of Israel from their bondage. And so a tenth plague was proclaimed: “every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on the throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. There shall be a cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again. But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel” (Ex. 11:5-7; ESV). That night the angel of death passed over Egypt and killed every firstborn of man and cattle. But the Israelites were given protection. Each household, or several smaller households together, were to gather and kill a lamb. They were to paint the lamb’s blood on the doorposts and lintels of their houses and eat the lamb together, along with unleavened bread, wine, and bitter herbs. They were to be dressed and ready to travel. And the angel of death would not touch them. They were protected by the blood. So in the aftermath, Pharaoh commanded that Israel leave. The Egyptians were so eager to have them gone that they gave them silver and gold and clothing, anything, just get out of here. So the people of Israel left their slavery in Egypt behind and set their faces toward the Promised Land.

The Feast of the Passover was a celebration of this event Israel’s history and in the history of our salvation. But it finds its fulfillment, its ultimate meaning, in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus is the firstborn who dies to free His new Israel, the Church. His blood is painted on the doorposts and lintels of our hearts so that we don’t have to die. We eat the true Passover Lamb in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper as He comes to us with His true body and blood. In fact, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper on the night of the Passover celebration. Even as we experience the bitter herbs of the cross and suffering in this life, Jesus leads us in exodus from our slavery to sin, death, and the devil. He leads us to the Promised Land, to fellowship with God, to the forgiveness of sins, salvation, heaven, and the resurrection. As twelve-year-old Jesus sits at the feet of the Rabbis in the Temple, He is learning what it means to be the Savior of the world. He is learning what it means for Him to be the Passover Lamb of God. He is in His Father’s house, learning about His Father’s business, the Father’s business of salvation from sin. Jesus is immersed in the Holy Scriptures which testify about Himself! Where else would He be? Mary had heard the testimony of the Angel Gabriel, the shepherds, the wise men, old Simeon and Anna in the Temple. She knew the Law and the Prophets which were all about her Son. She knew her Son had come to save His people from their sins. So when she couldn’t find Him among her friends and relatives on the way back to Nazareth, she should have known right where to find Him: In His Father’s house, about His Father’s business.

So back to the original question, when you need Jesus, where do you look for Him? In your heart? In your feelings? In nature? In the love of your friends and family members? If so, like St. Mary, you’re looking in all the wrong places. You will only find Jesus in these things if you first find Him in His Word, revealed for you as your Savior. Jesus is immersed in the Word. He’s right where St. Mary found Him, about His Father’s business, immersed in Scripture, where He is revealed as the Passover Lamb who takes away your sin, redeems you, leads you out of captivity to sin, death, and the devil, and brings you into the Promised Land. Where should you look for Jesus when you need Him? Where should you always expect to find Him? In His Word! In the Scriptures! In preaching, in absolution, in the Word connected to visible elements, to water in Baptism, to bread and wine which are His true body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. You should expect to find Him in liturgy and hymn where the Word of God is put directly into your mouth. In the Word you possess Jesus and He possesses you so that you have all the benefits of His life, His death, His resurrection. He deals with you in no other way. But this is a good thing, for you always know exactly where to find Him, exactly where He has promised to be, always, for you, with His forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Jesus’ mother and His step-father, Joseph, did not immediately understand what Jesus meant when He said, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (v. 49). But we are told that Mary in particular, and probably Joseph, too, did what faith should always do when instructed by the Word of the Lord. She treasured up all these things in her heart (v. 51). Note this very carefully. That’s what we ought to do with the Word of God, even when we don’t understand it. Recognizing that Jesus is immersed in the Word of God, that He is the Word of God made flesh, and that He comes to us with all His gifts in His Word, we ought always and at all times to treasure His Word and ponder it in our hearts. So, too, note carefully what Jesus does at the end of our text. He goes back to Nazareth with His parents and is submissive to them. He fulfills the Fourth Commandment. Of course, this is an example for us to follow, especially you children. Honor your father and your mother. Fear and love God so that you do not despise or anger your parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them. But Jesus’ obedience is so much more than just an example for us. Here He is fulfilling the Law of God in our place. That’s what He came to do. He came to fulfill the Fourth Commandment for us who cannot fulfill it. He came to fulfill all the Commandments for us sinners. He came to do what we could not do. And He came to die for our sins, to pay the penalty for our disobedience, on the cross. He is our Passover Lamb who has been sacrificed. And so, too, He is risen from the dead, lives, and reigns to all eternity. And all of this He generously gives us, all His righteousness He credits to our account. How? You know the answer. In His Word. In His Promise. It is why He was sent. It is His Father’s business. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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