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 05, 2014

Second Sunday after Christmas


Second Sunday after Christmas (A)
January 5, 2014
Text: Luke 2:40-52

            Where do you expect to find Jesus?  Where are you looking for Him?  Mary and Joseph were looking for Jesus in all the wrong places.  They had gone up to Jerusalem, as was their custom, for the great Feast of Passover.  On the way home from the Feast, they assumed the twelve year old boy, Jesus, to be somewhere among the company of travelers.  Now, this was not all that strange.  Groups of pilgrims traveling to and from Jerusalem for holy days often traveled in companies of relatives and fellow villagers so as to provide support and protection for one another against the perils of the road.  Everybody took care of everybody else.  Children played with one another along the way.  The adults looked out for all the kids, regardless of who were their parents.  Mary and Joseph were not concerned about Jesus until, upon reaching the agreed upon resting place at the end of the day’s journey, He didn’t turn up with the other kids.  No one remembered seeing Him along the way.  And you can almost feel the terror beginning to grip His mother’s heart as she realizes… “He’s lost.  My precious baby boy is lost on the streets of the city.”  And the sword prophesied by Simeon in the Temple begins to make its pointed blade felt in Mary’s soul.  Back to Jerusalem they run, searching anxiously.  Where could He be?  For three days they search.  They look everywhere.  Except where they should be looking.  Except where they should know Him to be.  After three days they find Him in the Temple, “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46; ESV).  The Rabbi sits humbly among the rabbis, soaking in the Word of God concerning Himself, gently teaching the teachers by His probing questions.  And all who hear Him are amazed. 
            So are Mary and Joseph.  In fact, they are astonished.  They can hardly believe their eyes and ears.  Mary, still full of the anxiety of the search, rebukes Him.  Son, why have you treated us so?  Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress” (v. 48).  Now, why the distress?  Mary had forgotten.  She betrays herself by her words.  She forgets who is really Jesus’ Father.  It’s not Joseph.  She forgets who her Son really is.  He is the Son of God.  He is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (v. 34).  And so, He is right where He is supposed to be, in His Father’s House, about His Father’s business, the business of saving the world, the business of saving Mary and Joseph and the teachers of the Law, the business of saving you.  Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?  Now, you should know there is some difficulty with the translation of this verse.  The words could be translated as we have them in the ESV: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?  Or, they could be translated, “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?  But either way we translate it, the point is well taken.  Jesus is God’s Son, and He has divine, saving work to do.  As God’s true Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, He must be in the Temple, the place of sacrifice, imparting the gift of His sacrifice by His divine Word.  Where else would He be but where His Word is, and where the sacrifice of atonement is to be made for sinners?  The Son is in His Father’s House.  The Son is doing His Father’s business.
            So again, where are you looking for Jesus?  Where do you expect to find Him?  The fact of the matter is that, like Mary and Joseph, you and I are always looking for Him in all the wrong places.  You look for Jesus in your heart, and you may even think you find Him there, but what does Jesus say fills your heart?  Evil thoughts: Murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander (Matt. 15:19).  Those are not Jesus.  You look for Jesus in your thoughts and feelings, but all that is said of your heart applies to those, as well.  You look for Jesus in your job or in your wealth, thinking that success is the mark of God’s favor toward you, but the fact is that many pious Christians suffer want while the wicked prosper.  So you must either despair of God’s love if you lack, or live securely in arrogance and pride when you are full.  You look for Jesus in your good works, but let us ask: What good works are those?  How do you define them?  Are they actually good?  How do you know?  Were they commanded by God?  Why did you do them?  Out of godly, self-sacrificing love?  Or to impress?  Or to feel good about yourself?  Or to somehow make up for the bad things you’ve done?  You and I must confess with the Prophet Isaiah that our righteous deeds are as filthy rags before God (Is. 64:6).  They are not righteous at all.  They are full of sin and wicked motivations, proceeding out of our evil hearts.  All of this being the case, how foolish of us when we say things like, “I can worship Jesus at home in my recliner chair, or at the cabin, or on the lake,” or whatever other silly things we say.  That is like Mary and Joseph refusing to go search for Jesus in the Temple because they can look for Him just fine in all the other places they want to go, thank you very much.  The question is not where you can worship Him, or where you can seek Him, or where you can do anything.  The question is where He is for you.  The question is where He is doing the Father’s business of saving you and giving you the gifts of the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation.
            You search and you search wherever you will, but you come up empty every time.  And so your Lord Jesus says to you this morning, “Why are you searching for me there?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s House?”  Beloved, He’s here!  He’s right here!  You know that, but you act like you don’t.  You know that, but you so often forget.  I know.  I do, too.  And we’re in good company.  Mary and Joseph forgot.  But there is Jesus, right where He’s supposed to be, in His Father’s House, doing His Father’s business, where the Word is being proclaimed, where the sacrifice is on the altar for the forgiveness of sins.
            Yes, Jesus is right where He’s promised to be for you.  Here, in God’s House, the holy Christian Church.  Here, in His Word preached, His Absolution declared, His Scriptures heard and pondered.  Here, at His altar, where the sacrifice of His Body and Blood for your sins is now given to you, put right in your mouth, for the forgiveness of your sins and to give you eternal life.  Right here, in font, pulpit, and altar, Christ is present for you.  Why do you look for Him anywhere else?  Have you ever cried out to God, “Where are you?”  Here is His answer.  He’s right here in His Father’s House.  Have you ever said to God, “If only you would appear, then I could really know you love me and your promises are true”?  Well, here He is, in His holy Word and Sacraments, here in the flesh, speaking to you in His voice, giving the very body born of Mary, the very blood shed on the cross, risen from the dead, to you and for you, that you may know His love and the fulfillment of all of His promises.  Here in the means of grace which He dispenses in the Church He is giving you His righteousness, His fulfilling of the Law, His fulfilling of the 4th Commandment toward Mary and Joseph, wiping out all your transgressions against this Commandment and every Commandment, applying His obedience to your account.  Here in the means of grace He is slathering His blood all over you, applying the atonement of His cross to you, taking you into His death and making it your own.  And then raising you from the dead to live a new life in Him, a life that is eternal, a life that is full with the fullness of Jesus Christ.  Here the verdict of Judgment Day has already been pronounced: Forgiven, righteous, holy.  Because of Christ.  And now, because of that, you can go and do good works for your neighbor, because all your wicked and sinful motivations are covered in His blood.  All thought of merit is cast aside.  You don’t do them for reward.  You do them because the reward is already yours in Christ, on account of Christ.  In fact, He’s in them for your neighbor, because you have received Him right here where He’s promised to be for you. 
            The whole world is looking for what you have.  But they don’t know what they’re looking for, and they’re looking in all the wrong places.  As a result, they’re finding all the wrong things, false gods, false christs, illusions that claim to bring peace and fulfillment by satisfying fleshly lust.  It’s a ruse of the devil.  Don’t fall for it.  By grace, the Holy Spirit has brought you here to find Jesus in the place to which He’s attached Himself for you: His Father’s House, doing the business of His Father, saving you.  The Holy Spirit led Mary and Joseph to the Temple to find the Savior, sitting amongst the teachers, buried in the Scriptures.  For three days their boy was lost.  Now He was found.  For three days their boy would be lost to the grave.  But on the third day, He would be found risen and living, making all things new.  Now this risen and living Lord Jesus Christ is with you always to the end of the age.  But not just in general, an unseen presence, somewhere out there.  I suppose He is that, but that isn’t much comfort.  No, He’s with you in specific, in the concrete, in a very specific and tangible place.  He’s buried for you in the Scriptures.  He’s in His Word.  He’s in the font.  He’s in the Sacrament of the Altar.  Which is to say, He’s in His Church.  Beloved, don’t look for Him anywhere else.  Here, in the Father’s House, you have the real deal.  Christ, for you.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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