Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan
- Name: Rev. Jonathon T. Krenz
- Location: Dorr, Michigan
Sunday, January 26, 2014
January 26, 2014
Text: Matt. 4:12-25
What the Prophet Isaiah writes of the world of his time is just as true of the world in our time: “behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples” (Is. 60:2; ESV). It is the darkness of unbelief. It is the darkness of sin and death. It is the darkness of demonic deception. The whole world was plunged head-long into that darkness when our first parents, Adam and Eve, took that first forbidden taste. And you know that darkness. For it is not just out there, in the world, in the terror and tragedies reported on the evening news. It is in you. It is in your heart and soul. It is in your mind and body. It is in your thoughts and desires, your words and your deeds. It is the siren song of the unbelieving world. It is your own sinful flesh. It leads you by the hand down its dark paths. It turns you inward. It turns you away from others. It wreaks havoc on your relationships. It hurts others. It destroys you. And worst of all, it separates you from God. And so you hate that darkness with every fiber of the new creation that is you in Baptism. But you cannot free yourself from its enveloping grip. There is no light within you that can dispel it. The light must come from outside of you. The only Light that can dispel this darkness is Jesus Christ, the Light of the world.
And He comes. That is the great Good News proclaimed by the Prophet Isaiah, and fulfilled by Jesus in our Holy Gospel: “the people dwelling in darkness,” that’s you and me, “have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,” again, you and me, “on them a light has dawned” (Matt. 4:16). The Light is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, coming into the world, in the flesh, born of the Virgin Mary, coming right into our darkness and bearing it, bearing our sin, bearing our death, bearing our brokenness, and taking it to the cross to nail it there, killing it, and burying it in His tomb forever. Jesus Christ is the only Light that can dispel the darkness once and for all. As St. John writes, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). So victorious is our Lord Jesus over the darkness that He marches freely and willingly right into the darkness of death for you and for me, and that darkness cannot contain Him. Even there the Light dispels the darkness, for Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. And He will raise you, too, on the Last Day, in your body, and in the meantime, He gives you eternal life now, in your Baptism into Him.
It’s not just that the Light came into the darkness long ago, when Christ was born, when He was visibly present in His earthly ministry. That is certainly true, and it is true on a cosmic level. That is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. But so also Jesus Christ, your Light, comes to you right here and now, today, in the very midst of your darkness. He does it in His Word preached. In fact, that is how He spread His Light in His earthly ministry, as recorded in our Holy Gospel. What did Jesus do in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy? He began to preach. That is what St. Matthew tells us: “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matt. 4:17). Repent, which is to say, confess that you are in darkness and unable to do anything about it. Confess your sin. Confess your doubt. Confess your dying and death. And then know for certain this glorious Good News that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. Not just near, as some English translations have it. That gives the impression that it isn’t quite here yet. No, the Kingdom is at hand, the Kingdom has arrived, it is upon you, it is right here, right now, in the flesh, in the person of the Savior who preaches and is preached. So for you in your darkness, the cure for your darkness is right here where Jesus is preached for the forgiveness of your sins.
So often when we feel the pervasive and engulfing darkness all around us, the devil deceives us so that we think the last place we should be is at Church. Maybe he has convinced us that we aren’t worthy to be here, as if the Church were anything other than a hospital for sinners, as if it is only the healthy who need a physician and not the sick, as if the Savior came only to call the righteous (whoever they are) and not sinners. Or perhaps the devil has convinced us that being at Church won’t really help anyway, as if the Church is some dispensary of advice that may or may not apply instead of the House of God where the living Lord Jesus Christ is really present for us with His Word and with His Body and Blood, to forgive our sins, to heal our very real maladies, and to give us life eternal and abundant. Maybe we are afraid that Church will make us feel bad about ourselves, because we know that the Word of God has this way of exposing our sin, dragging it out of the darkness, shining the Light of Christ upon it, so that it must be dealt with in repentance and the blood-soaked forgiveness of our crucified Savior. The devil twists this in our minds into bad news instead of good. Because it is a painful experience. Like life-saving surgery, it is always good news when it can be performed, but it isn’t a pleasant experience. The plain fact is that, though we loathe the darkness, we are, by nature, more comfortable in the dark than in the light, as St. John puts it in his Gospel: “this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).
But this is the radical thing that Jesus does when He is in our midst. He takes the darkness and makes it light. And that is to create something out of nothing. What is darkness? It is not a substance. It is rather an absence, an absence of light. Light is something. Light is made of particles. Light is made of rays. And where there is light, there is no darkness. The two do not go together. You cannot have nothing where there is something. Darkness only exists where light is deficient or not present. So when the perfect Light that is Jesus Christ comes into your darkness, the darkness cannot abide. It’s gone. Where there was nothing, there is now something. Where there was sin, there is now righteousness. Where there was Judgment, there is now forgiveness. Where there was death, there is now life. Where the devil once reigned, the Kingdom of heaven is at hand in the person of Jesus, who has snatched you from the devil and made you His own to live under Him in His Kingdom. And this has far reaching consequences for all the places the darkness has wreaked havoc and destruction in your life. This Light now claims your heart and soul, your mind and body for Himself. As He called Andrew and Simon, James and John, to be His disciples, to follow Him, so He calls you to be His disciples, to follow Him, to hear and believe His preaching and teaching, and to confess His Name as fishers of men. He reconciles you to God. As Jesus went about healing diseases and afflictions and casting out demons, so He brings health and healing to you, spiritually now, and maybe even physically, although that is not the promise… The promise is complete spiritual and Physical restoration and healing in the Resurrection of the dead. And, of course, where Jesus is, the demons must flee. If you acknowledge that the devil and his demons are real, and if you know that they delight to bring you into this darkness, then I’ll tell you this: You must come to Church when they are oppressing you. You must flee to the Word of Christ and His Sacrament when the darkness envelops you. There is no other place to be than where Christ is for you! For there the demons and the darkness cannot abide.
For this Light brings you out of the darkness, out of yourself, and turns you (repents you!) toward God in faith in His mercy, and toward your neighbor in love. That means it will even help you in your relationships. The Light of Christ turns a husband toward his wife in such a way that he gives himself up for her, as Christ gave Himself up into death for the Church in love. It turns a wife toward her husband in such a way that she willingly submits to him in love and humility, as the Church submits to Christ. It turns the hearts of parents toward their children, and children toward their parents. It turns your heart to forgive as you have been forgiven. It turns your heart to mercy, as you have been shown mercy. Because where all these things did not exist in the nothingness that is the darkness, they now exist in the very real something that is the Light of Christ, which is His gift to you.
So, beloved, Good News this morning: “the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light [Christ!], and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light [Christ!] has dawned.” It is happening right now in the preaching, and it will happen in a few moments in the Holy Supper. Christ, your Light, now rises upon you. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sunday, January 19, 2014
Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Second Sunday after the Epiphany (A)
January 19, 2014
Text: John 1:29-42a
“The next day [John] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29; ESV). It is the culmination of John’s ministry, the pinnacle, the goal of all his preaching and teaching and baptizing in his prophetic ministry. It is revealed to him by God: “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (v. 33), the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, the Son of God. And in our Lord’s Baptism in the Jordan River, that is precisely what happened, as we heard last week. The heavens were opened, the Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove, and the voice of the Father spoke: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Jesus is it, the One promised by God, the One prophesied in all the Scriptures. The Old Testament has come to an end. The New Testament has come in the flesh to make His dwelling among us (John 1:14). He has come to be the sacrifice for our sin. John points his bony finger at Jesus and preaches: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
What does John mean when he calls Jesus the “Lamb of God”? This is to say that Jesus is the culmination and fulfillment of all the Old Testament sacrifices. Jesus is the once for all sacrifice for sin. Whereas those Old Testament sacrifices of bulls and goats and pigeons and sheep had to be offered again and again, the once for all sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross has made atonement for all our sins. The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way: “every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet” (Heb. 10:11-13). All the other sacrifices pointed to this once for all sacrifice of Jesus. It was not the sacrifice of animals that actually made atonement to God for sin. Rather, in those sacrifices, the people of God received the once for all sacrifice of Christ sacramentally. That is to say, the blood of those sacrifices on the altar connected God’s people to the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the altar of the cross.
There were many types of sacrifice in the Old Testament. There were the peace offerings: thank offerings, votive offerings, free-will offerings. There were atonement offerings, called guilt offerings and sin offerings. There was the scapegoat, over which the sins of the people were confessed on the Day of Atonement, and the goat was sent away from the camp bearing those sins, out into the wilderness. And, of course, there was the Passover Lamb. You remember how it happened. The children of Israel were slaves in Egypt, but God sent His servant Moses to preach to Pharaoh: “Let my people go” (Ex. 5:1)! But Pharaoh hardened his heart. God sent ten plagues, the tenth the most terrifying, the death of every first born of man and beast in all Egypt, from the firstborn slave to the firstborn of Pharaoh. But Israel was commanded that each family take a sheep and slaughter it and paint its blood on the doorposts and lintels of their dwellings. And as they were safe in their blood-spattered dwellings, eating the lamb with unleavened bread and wine and bitter herbs, the angel of death passed over. Covered by the blood of the lamb, the children of Israel did not die, but lived. And the next day they marched out of Egypt, out of slavery, on their way to the Promised Land.
John proclaims that Jesus is our Passover Lamb and our Scapegoat. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The people came to John in the Jordan, confessing their sins, and receiving a Baptism of repentance and forgiveness. So you are baptized, and you confess your sins. Jesus, as our Scapegoat, takes all of that sin into Himself in His Baptism and bears it. He takes it away. And where does He take it? Outside the city, outside Jerusalem, to Calvary, to the cross, where, on the day the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed, He was sacrificed on the cross to make atonement. For you. For me. For the whole world (yes, this is the universal atonement!). For the forgiveness of sins. And now His blood marks the doorposts and lintels of our hearts. Safe inside the blood spattered Church, we eat the Lamb of God, His true Body and Blood, under unleavened bread and wine, and yes, the bitter herbs of the suffering our Lord lays upon us in this life. This meal strengthens us to endure that bitterness. And the angel of death passes over. Covered by the Blood of the Lamb, the new Israel, the children of God here in the holy Church, do not die, but live. And we march out of our slavery to sin, death, and the devil, through the wilderness earthly life in this fallen flesh and this fallen world, on into the Promised Land of heaven and the resurrection on the Last Day.
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The Blood of Jesus brings about the covenant, the New Testament in His Blood, the forgiveness of sins. The Blood of Jesus cleanses us. The Blood of Jesus purifies. The Blood of Jesus is the payment price to purchase us for God. The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way: “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22). St. Peter writes: “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19). And St. Paul writes that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,” a baptismal bath in His blood, “so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27).
But why is it necessary, this bloody sacrifice of the Lamb of God to make all of this our reality? Sin is not just some minor offense, a little bump in the road of our relationship to God, an insignificant impediment on our way to living a good life. Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Sin is not just the bad things you do or the good things you fail to do, what we call in theology “actual sins.” It is a corruption buried deep in your very nature, what we call in theology “original sin.” It is a condition, the cause of all actual sins, a terminal disease, separating you from God, separating you from one another, leading to death and finally to hell. So you can’t just commit yourself to a reformation of life. You can’t just try really hard not to sin and make it all better. You don’t just have a headache, you have a brain tumor, and you can’t cure it with Tylenol. Something radical must take place. Sin demands a death. Sin demands blood. And so the Son of God takes on flesh and blood that He might give it up into death for you. Nothing less than the Blood of God is required to save you from sin and its wages. And that is what your Lord Jesus gives for you on the cross, and to you here in His Word and Sacrament.
St. John points his disciples and us to the only One who can save us, to Christ, to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And now that is the whole duty of the Church and of every Christian preacher, of every Christian, in fact, to point people to the Lamb of God who takes away their sin. John points Andrew and another disciples, probably John the Evangelist, our author, to Jesus and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36). Andrew finds his brother Simon Peter, and what does he do? He points Simon to Jesus. “We have found the Messiah” (v. 41). And so these who have been pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away their sins become Jesus’ disciples. Here we have our whole evangelism program. We don’t need slick campaigns, clever gimmicks, or special effects. Our solemn duty is to point to Jesus and declare, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away your sin. The results are up to God. We have one message. There is really only one sermon. It is Christ crucified for sinners. It is Christ crucified for you. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Baptism of Our Lord
January 12, 2014
Text: Matt. 3:13-17
As our Lord steps into the Jordan River to be baptized, like a divine sponge, He soaks up all of our sin and wretchedness, our disease and death, our pain and sorrow. He takes it all into Himself, into His flesh, into His soul, to be borne to Calvary. And in exchange, He has given us His righteousness, His healing, His life, His joy, His heaven. He has left it to be found in the water joined to His Word. By His Baptism in the Jordan River, He has sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin (Luther’s Flood Prayer). So you see, here in Baptism a great exchange takes place. In His Baptism, Jesus takes upon Himself all that belongs to you and makes it His own. In your Baptism, Jesus gives you all that belongs to Him and makes it your own. Luther called this the “happy exchange.” Jesus stands in your place and takes all that is yours, that you may stand in His place and take all that is His.
This is what it means that Jesus is your substitute. He takes your place. He stands under the Law for you. He fulfills it for you. Where you have failed, He succeeds, and you get the credit. Where you have not feared, loved, or trusted in God above all things, He has, for you. Where you have misused God’s Name and failed to call upon His Name in every trouble, to pray, praise, and give thanks, He has kept God’s Name holy, for you. Where you have despised God’s Word and preaching, He sat among the teachers in the Temple as we heard last week, joyfully soaking it all in. For you. He honored Mary and Joseph where you have despised your parents and other authorities. He did this for you. Where you have hated your neighbor, murdering him in your heart, He gave His life for your neighbor, and for you, to give you both life. Where you have been unfaithful, full of lust and greed, envy and covetousness, where your tongue has come unbridled and done damage to your neighbor’s reputation, He has been faithful, generous, self-giving, self-sacrificing. And as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth to speak evil (Is. 53:7). He did this for you. And what He has done counts for you. When God looks at you, He does not see the evil you have done, or the good you have failed to do. He sees the perfect righteousness of Jesus. He sees the sin atoning death of Jesus. He sees you covered in the holy, precious blood of Jesus. Because you are baptized into that. You are baptized into Him. And your sin? It has not simply been ignored or swept under the rug. Jesus took it all from you in His Baptism in the Jordan. He took it and He stood in your place, was nailed in your place on the cross, suffered your hell in your place, was your substitute in death. All of God’s wrath for your sin was poured out there, on the cross, on Jesus. He was baptized into your sin, that you may be baptized into His righteousness.So now you stand in the place of Christ. That means that all that God gave Jesus in His human nature at His Baptism, He now gives you in your Baptism. As the heavens were opened to Jesus in His Baptism, so now heaven is open to you in your Baptism. You will not die, but live. You will be in heaven with Jesus when you die, and on the Last Day, Jesus will raise you in your body from the dead. Baptism marks you for resurrection. As the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove in His Baptism, so you are anointed with the Holy Spirit in your Baptism, who brings you to faith in Jesus, your Savior. The Holy Spirit comes upon you to dwell with you and in you. You are a temple of the Holy Spirit. He brings you to His Church and makes you a member thereof. He opens your ears to the Word of God. He gives you trust in Christ as a gift. He fans into flame within you a love for God and your neighbor. He moves in you to pray for yourself and others, to praise God, and to give thanks. He strengthens you for life in this fallen world. He grants you repentance, that you daily put to death your fallen flesh. And as the Lord and Giver of Life, He raises you daily to new life in Christ as God’s own new creation, so that your love flows forth in good works of service and sacrifice. And as the Father declared of Jesus at His Baptism, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” (Matt. 3:17; ESV), so He says of you in your Baptism: “You are my own child, and I am well pleased with you, not because of anything you have done or left undone, but because of Christ, my Son, who now covers you in Baptism. I love you. I have claimed you for myself, purchased you with the blood of Christ. My Name is written upon you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as one chosen and precious. You are mine.”
Well, that makes all the difference in the struggles of this earthly life, and even in the face of death. Because the worst that can happen to you is that you die. But see, Christ has made His death your own in Baptism. And that means that you got your death over with already at the font. Sure, you’ll have to physically expire one day, physically die, experience the separation of your soul from your body, which is the theological definition of physical death. But though you die, you live. Because you’ve already been given new life in Baptism, Christ’s life. How do you know you’ll go to heaven when you die? Which is just another way of asking, why do you believe you’ll go on living after you take your last breath? Because you’re baptized into Christ! And that means His death is your death. You died on the cross, with Christ. And if you died with Christ in that way, what does St. Paul say as a result in our Epistle? “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). That means that you already have eternal life. You have it right now. It’s just hidden. Your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). It will be hidden to us when you physically die. But not to you. You will see. You will live. In Christ, the risen Lord. And what is true spiritually already now, will be true physically then, on the Last Day. “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Rom. 6:5).
Now, imagine that you are on your deathbed. It is not a pleasant thought. In addition to whatever physical ailment you may be suffering, there is a certain sadness at the thought that you are leaving your loved ones behind. So also, all the pleasures of this earthly life are at an end. You may be anticipating a certain relief from your suffering. But you were created to hold tenaciously to God’s gift of life. And so, even though you know and believe you have a merciful God who has forgiven all your sins and given you eternal life in Christ, you also have a certain apprehension about how it all will happen, what you will experience, what you will see, what it will be like to stand before the judgment throne of your Maker, and what exactly the rest of eternity holds for you. Now imagine that I as your pastor come and visit you on your deathbed, and I pull out the Holy Scriptures, and imagine that I could prove to you from the Holy Scriptures that, even though you will have to experience death, in one hour, the Lord Jesus will call you back to life, free from pain and sickness, free from sin, your body made into a perfect resurrection body. Well, that wouldn’t be so bad, now, would it? Unfortunately, I can’t promise you that you will come back to life after only one hour. But except for that one little detail, all the rest of the promises are absolutely true. Whatever the amount of time, the Lord Jesus will call you back to life in your body, a perfect, resurrection body, free from sin and pain and sickness, to live forever with Him. “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thess. 4:16). “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power” (1 Cor. 15:42-43). Christ “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21). “(A)nd so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). How do you know? Because Scripture says it here. Because your own ears have heard the living voice of Christ say so in preaching. Because you have died with Christ in your Baptism, and so have been raised to new life in Him, and how can that new life have any other result than your own resurrection from the dead? Because you have held and tasted the risen and living body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Supper, which forgives all your sins and nourishes you for eternal life.
You see? In Baptism, all that is Christ’s is yours. And all that is yours, all that is evil and dying and dead, has been taken by Christ in His Baptism and borne in His flesh to Calvary. He is risen, and you are His, for you are baptized into Him. That makes the difference in absolutely everything. When despair used to grip Luther in the midst of the Reformation, he would recall the Gospel reality, “But I am baptized,” and so he would be comforted. So you sing: “Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ!… Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ!… Death, you cannot end my gladness: I am baptized into Christ!... Though my flesh awaits its raising, Still my soul continues praising: I am baptized into Christ; I’m a child of paradise” (LSB 594). And it’s true. It’s all true. Christ was baptized into you. You are baptized into Christ. And nothing can separate you from the love of God for you in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:39). In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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.