Monday, January 6, 2014

Sermon for Christmas 2: "Where's Jesus?"

+ Christmas 2 – January 5th, 2014 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series A: 1 Kings 3:4-15; Ephesians 1:3-14; Luke 2:40-52

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Where’s Jesus? That’s the question of the day. 

Today, Luke’s Gospel reading teaches us where and how to find Jesus. 

So…where’s Jesus? 

At first it seems like Jesus is lost. Mary and Joseph were going up to Jerusalem for the annual Passover festival, the great sacrifice of the paschal, suffering Lamb who gives its life blood for the people. And notice how Mary and Joseph “go up” to Jerusalem. OT, NT – you always go up to Jerusalem. It’s a geographically and theologically loaded phrase. Of course you must physically ascend the stairs. But the temple, Mt. Zion is also where you go up for the sacrifices, up to the altar, up to where the Lord was present, up to where he delivered his forgiveness and holiness to his people, up to where the Lord’s promises were bestowed, up as God’s redemption comes down. 

Jesus was there too, the boy-king, the 12 year old God in human flesh. Jesus is brought up to the temple as well, a foreshadowing of his future saving work. A reminder that Jesus’ life begins and ends in the temple. Jesus may come to the temple a boy, but he leaves a man. He knows who he is and what he was born to do. But Mary and Joseph don’t understand everything quite to yet.

And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him.

Where’s Jesus?

It was only 12 years ago when Mary and Joseph brought 40-day-old Jesus to the same temple for the rite of purification and presentation. A sacrifice was made then, just as it was at the Passover, just as it was later in Jesus’ ministry. But Mary didn’t yet understand Simeon’s words about her Son… 

Behold this child is set for the fall and resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword shall pierce through your own soul also), so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.

Where’s Jesus? Is he lost? Did he wander off? Was he taken? Is he okay? Where did he sleep? What did he eat? All those questions and more were certainly running like a sword through Mary’s soul, piercing her with anxiety and doubt. So they searched the caravans of Passover pilgrims. They asked friends and relatives along the way. They checked under every camel and cart but still…Where’s Jesus?

After three days they found him in the temple…

After 3 days (hold on to that thought for later). There was Jesus, in the temple. In the Father’s house, among the Father’s things. Where else would he be? What seems so obvious to the reader is still unclear to the people around Jesus. The Rabbis, to whom Jesus was listening and asking questions of, were amazed, astonished, flabbergasted at his understanding and his answers. And so were Mary and Joseph.

Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I were searching for you in great distress.
And there’s the twist in the story. As it turns out, Jesus wasn’t really the one who was lost. Mary and Joseph were. 

But in their defense, it’s not like Jesus went running around making clay pigeons and breathing them to life or zapping lightning bolts at kids while playing tag at the synagogue. And even though he amazed the Rabbis at the temple with his biblical knowledge and insight, Mary and Joseph didn’t have a “My Son is a Hebrew School Honor Student” bumper sticker on the back of their camel! 

Where’s Jesus? In the humble, ordinary flesh and blood of a 12 year old boy. 

It’s easy to blame Mary and Joseph. But we would’ve have missed that point too. We probably would have lost Him in the crowd. And we certainly would not have understood what He was saying when He said, “It is necessary to be in among my  Father’s things.” The incarnation of God is like that. It just doesn’t fit our categories or our way of thinking or our pious religious notions about God. God is Man and Man is God. God is a twelve year old boy. 

But this is the comfort of Christmas. Jesus knows what it’s like to be one of us. He really is Immanuel – God with Us, and “with us” so hiddenly and humbly that we would not have even noticed Him. But that’s precisely the way God works with us and among us. Not in the seen but the unseen. Not in the powerful and mighty, but in the lowly and humble. A manger, a cross. A child. A teenager. A man. He is us. He is you. He embraces your life in all its humanity. He even knows what it’s like to be chewed out by your parents and not have done anything wrong!

God’s hiddenness is not understood today, nor can it be. Who Jesus is and what He has done must be revealed to us and seen through the gift of faith. There’s no other way. Mary treasured these things up in her heart. And that treasured up Word had its way with her, creating and enlivening a living faith in her Son, God’s Son. Left on our own to find Jesus we’d be just like Mary and Joseph – lost. Lost in sin. Lost in doubt. Lost in our worry and anxiety. Lost in our lostness.  Like Mary, Jesus must speak his word to us. He must reveal to us our lostness of sin and then find us again in His Word of forgiveness. 

That is why Jesus was in the temple that day. He was in the Father’s house among the Father’s things for you. For us who have the attention span of 12 year old boys, Jesus was perfectly attentive to God’s teaching. For us who have disobeyed every letter of that Law before we were age 12, Jesus knew every word – and kept every word of that Law for you. For us who fail so often to remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, by hearing God’s Word regularly and rejoicing in it, 12 year old Jesus rejoiced in hearing and learning God’s word every day. For us who fail so often to honor our father and mother, no matter what age we are, Jesus honored both his Heavenly Father and went down to Nazareth with Mary and Joseph and was submissive to his earthly parents.

Already at age of 12, Jesus obeyed the Father’s will, just as he obeys the Father’s will later on the cross. Already at the age of 12 Jesus knows who he is and why he came among us: to keep the Law, to lay down his life, to redeem us, to be our Passover Lamb.

All of this he did, not for his own sake, but for us and all sinners who, like Mary, worry, doubt, sin, and don’t understand Jesus until he reveals himself to us and for us. 

Where’s Jesus?

Jesus is exactly where he is supposed to be – in his Father’s house. Or rather, as the text actually says: It is necessary for me to be in my Father’s things.  What things?

The lampstand, the altar of incense, the altar for whole burnt offerings, and so forth. Jesus is in the temple, in the midst of the Father’s things that render God’s people clean through blood, reconciling them to the Father that they might bring their prayers and petitions to Him. 

Everything that was true about the temple is now found in Jesus. Jesus is where you go to find God. Jesus is your holiness, your cleansing, your redemption, your forgiveness. He hears your prayers and prays for you. Jesus is your temple.

And so the story ends where it begins. The next time Jesus went up to Jerusalem, he went there to die. The next time Jesus goes up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, He became the Passover Lamb, sacrificed for your sins, my sins, the world’s sins. The next time Jesus goes up to Jerusalem he would be lost again. Or so it would appear. But after three days Jesus is found alive again. Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that the Son of Man must suffer, die, and on the third day rise again?

Where’s Jesus? 

Right where he promises to be for you, in his temple, his body and blood for you. In his Church for you. In the holy place where His Word comes to you. 

Where's Jesus? In the same hidden and humble ways. In Baptism, Word, and Supper. So easily ignored, despised, rejected. As easily rejected as a twelve year old kid in the temple. But God’s Word says there is something more than meets our eyes, our senses, our reason. This is the power of God to save. God in the Flesh come to save us. A perfect obedience to the Law that is yours not by what you do but by trust in what Jesus has done for you. That’s where Jesus is.

And today, because Jesus was found in the Father’s house, you are found in his, now and forever.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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