Guest preaching @ Trinity Lutheran, Whittier, CA
Text: Luke 2:41-52
Grace Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ + Amen.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus’ life begins and ends in the temple. That’s no coincidence. There’s no such thing as a coincidence in Scripture – only divine fulfillment of YHWH’s salvation woven into the tapestry of the Old and New Testaments. Cut any page of Scripture open and it bleeds the blood of Christ.
Jesus’ life begins in the temple. Simeon recognized this while holding Baby Jesus in his arms. His eyes gazed upon the salvation of both Jew and Gentile. It is a blessed irony - Mary went to the temple for purification even as the Purification of the whole world is held in her arms. They go to the temple to fulfill the Law even as the Law is fulfilled by that infant lowly, infant holy. Jesus the perfect temple goes to the temple He has come to replace with His own flesh and blood, suffering and death. Yes, His life begins in the temple.
Now Jesus is 12. It’s the Passover. The Pascha – the suffering. Yes, there is celebration of the Exodus when God delivered His people Israel from Egyptian slavery and death through the blood of the Passover lamb. And yet there was suffering. God;s people suffered. The Lamb suffered. And God’s wrath passes over them because of that Paschal – suffering - Lamb. The Passover is only Passover because there is suffering. So it’s up to Jerusalem. Back to the temple.
But there’s a crisis on this family pilgrimage: Jesus is lost and cannot be found. Except He’s not lost like our kids at the grocery store and he’s not mischievous like all 12 year old boys. But Mary and Joseph don’t see this yet. They did what any parent would do – overwhelmed by fear and love – they searched for Him among their relatives – no Jesus there; hastily returned to Jerusalem and searched for Him there too – but still no Jesus. After three days they found Him in the temple. And Mary frantically asks Jesus what any parent would ask their 12 year old boy: “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you under every camel and in every corner of Jerusalem in great distress.”
But Jesus isn’t just any old 12 year old boy. What was Jesus doing in the temple? Swinging from the cedar rafters? Playing pranks on the Rabbis or getting into the incense and setting things ablaze?! No, they found Him sitting among the temple theological professors, listening to them, and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were standing outside themselves with amazement at His understanding and His answers. Jesus’ life begins in the temple.
It is no coincidence that 12 year old Jesus is found after 3 days, in the temple, in Jerusalem, during the Feast of Passover. This sounds like a set up…a divine set-up; a death and resurrection dress-rehearsal. Jesus is lost and found… exactly where He is supposed to be. In the temple. Doing the things, the stuff, the business of His Heavenly Father.
And what do you suppose they talked about? The text doesn’t say. But I think 12-year-old Jesus did for those Rabbis what Resurrected-from-the-dead-Jesus would do for His disciples – He opened the Scriptures to them. There’s even a one-word clue: must. It is necessary.
“I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” Luke 4:43
"The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." Luke 9:22
“This Scripture must be fulfilled in me: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors.' For what is written about me has its fulfillment." Luke 22:37
The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and(C) be crucified and on the third day rise." Luke 22:7
The Rabbis were astonished. Mary didn’t understand it all just yet. But she “treasured all these things in her heart.” Twenty-one years later, back at Jerusalem again, she would see with her very eyes what her Boy meant that day in the temple when He said: “I had to be in my Father’s house. In this way, Mary and Joseph were the first to stumble over the cross of their Son, certainly not the last.
You see, there are two ways of misunderstanding Jesus. There is the way of Mary and Joseph and the disciples, who although they did not understand every Word that came from His mouth, still believed. And then there is there is the way of the Pharisees and Sadducees, they stumble over the cross too – and ended up in unbelief and rejection of the Messiah with stones in hand.
That is why Jesus goes down with Mary and Joseph to Nazareth and was submissive to them. He was obedient for you who are utterly and deathly disobedient against Him. For you who sin against Him in thought, word and deed; He comes to the temple with nothing only the thoughts words and deeds of His Heavenly Father on His mind and lips. For we who love only ourselves with our whole heart, He perfectly loved His neighbor as Himself. For we who deserve temporal and eternal punishment, He leaves nothing undone – it is finished. Salvation complete and won.
This is why Jesus was in the Father’s house that day: doing for you, what you could not do, fulfilling the Law, being obedient to His parents, and obedient to His Father, even unto death. Jesus is the temple, the priest and the sacrifice all wrapped into one, perfect obedient Son. An infant wrapped in swaddling clothes; a 12 year old boy; a Suffering Servant: His life begins and ends in the temple.
Jesus, God with us, is at the temple in Jerusalem on the third day during the Passover – the very place where the Sacrifices is fulfilled in the temple. There He accomplishes a Passover to end all Passovers. A new and greater Exodus.
Jesus lays His body down on the altar you can walk away unscathed. He is the greater Isaac sacrificed on the hilltop for the sins of the world. The greater temple in human flesh where the sacrifice and presence of God are all in one place: Jesus. He is your Passover – your suffering Lamb who once was lost and now is found, who was dead and now is alive.
Again the women searched for Him and after 3 days found nothing but any empty tomb, a stone rolled away and the angels standing guard. There Mary Magdalene stood, weeping in great distress. “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not where they have laid Him.”
“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” said Jesus.
“Why do you seek the living among the dead,” declared the angel, “He is not here He is Risen. Remember how He told you…that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”
There are no coincidences in Scripture. Jesus is right where He is supposed to be in the temple and out of the grave. The sign of Jonah. The Scriptures are fulfilled. Death is defeated and victory is won.
And Jesus is still in His temple. Come, let us go up to the altar - Where He paints the doorposts of your mouth with His forgiving blood. And He feeds you with the manna of His own saving flesh given for you– in this suffering, Passover Lamb-of-God-who-takes-away-the-sin-of-the-world, meal. Your Jerusalem in bread and wine; your temple of Jesus’ flesh and blood. The Father’s business is done. And Your life in Jesus begins and ends in Him, the temple made flesh.