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 03, 2016

Second Sunday after Christmas

Second Sunday after Christmas (C)

January 3, 2016
Text: Luke 2:40-52

            The LORD comes into His Temple.  It has happened before, certainly.  Jesus came into the Temple 40 days after His birth for His redemption and His mother’s purification.  And St. Luke tells us that it was the custom of His parents to bring Him to Jerusalem every year for the Feast of the Passover (Luke 2:41).  There were three times a year when every able-bodied man among the Jews was expected to be at the Temple: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles (or Booths).  Jesus’ family piety was such that the women and children came, too, so our Lord undoubtedly came to His Temple many times as a Child, in fulfillment of the Promise recorded by the Prophet Malachi: “And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple” (3:1; ESV).  But something is different about this time.  He comes at the age of twelve, a significant number for the Children of Israel and for the Church.  Twelve Tribes.  Later Twelve Apostles.  Jesus is twelve, and now He is bar mitzvah-ed, a Son of the Commandments.  Which is to say, He is a Jewish man.  He has come of age.  He has been instructed.  He reads the Scriptures.  And the faith confessed for Him by His parents at His circumcision He now confesses for Himself.  Twelve-year-old Jesus comes into His Temple as a man.
            The Temple is the dwelling place of God with His people.  Until the exile, it was the house of the Ark of the Covenant with its Mercy Seat, the throne of God between the Cherubim.  This is the place of sacrifice, blood shed for the forgiveness of sins, the place of liturgy and prayer.  Nothing united the people of God like the Temple where God promised to be for His people.  But now the Ark was gone.  The original Temple built by Solomon had been destroyed.  There was no visible presence of the Glory of the LORD in a cloud in this Temple, built by Ezra and Nehemiah and rebuilt by Herod.  The Jews had come back from exile in Babylon, but things were never the same.  The Davidic Kingdom was no more.  The religion of Judaism had become big business.  There were no prophets from Malachi to John.  God had gone silent.  Where is He?  Has He forsaken us forever?  Left us to the tyranny of the Romans and the abuse of the Pharisees and Sadducees?  No.  He comes.  The LORD comes into His Temple.  And on this particular day He comes, not in a cloud of majestic glory, but on the legs of a twelve-year-old Boy with His parents, our Passover Lamb who will, on another day, at another Passover, be sacrificed for the sins of the world. 
            Today we have a little foreshadowing of that sacrifice.  For when it’s time to leave, when the extended company of pilgrims sets out, Mary and Joseph depart for Nazareth, but Jesus stays behind.  He’s lost in the place of sacrifice, and He will not be found for three days.  Do you see what the Lord is doing here?  This is death and resurrection stuff.  As a Son of the Commandments, He does a dry-run of the Passover to come.  And the sword pierces Mary’s soul.  It is not all that strange that Mary and Joseph travel a day’s journey before they realize Jesus is missing.  Pilgrims travel in numbers for protection and company.  And Jesus is twelve, after all.  They assume He is with the other boys His age, somewhere in the crowd.  They expect to meet up with Him at camp in the evening.  But Jesus doesn’t turn up.  And if you have children of any age, you can imagine the thoughts that flood His parents’ minds.  Is He safe, or is He hurt?  Is He lost?  Did someone take Him?  Is He somewhere along the trail, or back in Jerusalem, alone in the big city?  And what if the worst has happened?  Twelve years old or not, this is Mary’s little Boy.  In desperation, Mary and Joseph retrace their steps.  They ask everyone they meet, describe Him, plead with their fellow pilgrims to think, to try to remember if they’ve seen a lost pre-teen wandering around.  When they arrive in Jerusalem, they search high and low for three long days.  And then they find Him in the last place they thought to look, and the first place they should have looked.  In the Temple, among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions.  The Lord is in His Temple, where His Scriptures are being read and studied, meditated upon and discussed.  Mary and Joseph had been looking in all the wrong places.  If you want to find the Lord, He will always be in His House, in His Scriptures, doing His Father’s business of accomplishing our salvation.
            The teachers and all who hear Him are amazed at His understanding and answers.  Jesus is, after all, Wisdom incarnate.  Solomon was given wisdom, but Jesus IS Wisdom in the flesh.  And what texts might they have been discussing there in the Temple?  Well, it is Passover.  Could it be they are discussing the Scriptures about the angel of death passing over the blood marked doors of the Israelites?  Could it be they are discussing the meaning of the Passover Lamb that is sacrificed, that the people of God may live?  Imagine the questions Jesus asked the teachers.  I bet their hearts were burning within them as He gently led them to connect the dots in the Holy Scriptures, demonstrating the Lamb’s connection to Messiah, to the Christ.  He is showing the teachers of the Law that the Scriptures are all about Him.  He is preparing them for their future meetings when Jesus is an adult, when they will be willfully ignorant concerning His salvation.  He is preaching the Gospel to them, that when they meet Him later they might recognize that Messiah has come to save them from their sins. 
            Now Mary is angry, as any mother would be.  She’s been desperately searching for her lost child for three long days.  “Son, why have you treated us so?  Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress” (Luke 2:48).  Mary should have known better.  Has she not been treasuring up and pondering the Word about her Son for the last twelve years?  “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (v. 49), or as I prefer to translate it, “Did you not know that I must be in the things of my Father,” i.e. the things of our salvation, the Scriptures, the Gospel, the sacrifices and THE Sacrifice?  Did you not know, Mary, that the LORD must be in the Temple, where He has promised to dwell with and for His people?  Did you not know, Mary, that your Son is the Temple, the fulfillment of the stone building, the dwelling place of God with man in the flesh?  If you want to find Jesus, you will always find Him in the things of His Father.  And that goes for you, too, beloved.  Have you ever wondered if God has abandoned you?  Have you ever asked yourself, “Where is Jesus when I need Him?”  Have you ever searched for Him in desperation?  Like Mary, believed He was mistreating you?  Abusing you?  Hiding from you?  Here He tells you where you will always find Him.  In the things of His Father.  In His Father’s House.  In the Holy Scriptures.  At the altar, in the once-for-all Sacrifice of His Body and Blood here given you to eat and drink.  Sitting in the midst of His people.  In the Church.   That is where you’ll find Him.  Always.  In the flesh.  Speaking to you.  Teaching you.  Forgiving your sins.  Healing you.  Comforting you.  Feeding you.  Here Jesus is for you. 
            Notice, He is also here fulfilling the Law for you.  Because you all-too-often don’t seek Him in the things of His Father, even though He’s told you that’s where you can find Him.  In fact, you often refuse to find Him there.  You’d rather sleep in than go to Church.  You’d rather think about other things during the sermon.  You’re annoyed that the service is taking so long.  Repent.  You’ve sinned against the Third Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”  But here Jesus is, keeping holy Sabbath for you.  Never forget, He came not just to die for your sins, but also to keep the Law in your place.  And in Baptism, you get all the credit for His perfect keeping of the Law.  Jesus delights in the Holy Scriptures.  A twelve year old Boy with more patience than a 36 year old man, delighting to be in His Father’s House, immersed in the things of His Father.  For three days He sits in Catechism class, absorbing it all, asking questions, giving and taking with the teachers, and shining the light of His wisdom on all who would listen.  He gladly hears and learns the Scriptures, the Word concerning Himself.
            So also He fulfills the Fourth Commandment for us: “Honor your father and your mother.”  Mary thought He had broken this one by staying behind in the Temple, but remember, His first loyalty is for His Father in heaven.  So also yours.  Whenever there is a conflict between our loyalty to God and our loyalty to earthly parents and authorities, we must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).  But when there is no conflict, we are to obey our parents and earthly authorities in all things.  Jesus does this.  He first of all honors His mother Mary and His adopted father Joseph by gently teaching them about His purpose and mission.  And then He goes back with them to Nazareth and is submissive to them (Luke 2:51).  He honors His parents for our sake, because we don’t honor ours.  Repent and believe the Good News.  Jesus fulfills this Commandment also, for you.

            And there is Mary once again treasuring up all these things in her heart (v. 51).  She is still learning her lesson, as are all of us.  Jesus never abandons us, even when we think He’s done just that.  He’s always where the Scriptures are proclaimed and where the Blood of the Lamb cleanses from sin.  He’s always right here, God in the flesh, for you.  Treasure up that Promise in your heart and never let it go.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  

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