The First Sunday after Epiphany
January 13, 2019
“Why Did You Seek Me?”
St. Luke 2:41-52
His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day's journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, "Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously." And He said to them, "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. St. Luke 2:41-52
The Country Western singer sings of his fruitless search for true love: “I was lookin for love in all the wrong places.” That’s a common theme of those popular “cry in your beer” songs. This song has a happy ending as the singer celebrates finding true love. Yeah, but you wonder for how long.
Modern notions of romantic love are particularly shallow. Men and women fall in and out of love as easily as they change their socks. Love’s a fickle commodity – that’s for sure. No wonder relationships fail, and love runs cold. It was never love to begin with.
So it is with many who think they are Christians. They seek a personal relationship with Jesus. But they look for Jesus in all the wrong places. When they cannot find the real Jesus, they manufacture their own Jesus. They call him their personal Savior. And he is! They personally molded him to fit their own personal requirements.
If you want to know the real Jesus you must listen to what he says. When Jesus revealed his divine glory on the Mt. of Transfiguration, God the Father spoke from heaven saying: “This is my beloved Son: hear him.” Listen to Jesus. So says God the Father.
We have before us this morning the first recorded words of Jesus, spoken when he was twelve years old. His mother had just scolded him, saying: “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” Jesus replied: “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” Neither Mary nor Joseph understood what Jesus was talking about. Do we? Why was the twelve year old boy Jesus in the temple? Why did he spend three days in the temple, asking the teachers questions, and responding to their questions? The bigger question is why did his parents not know that that was where he would be and that that was what he would be doing?
The temple in Jerusalem was where God was. You say God is everywhere. He is omnipresent. That is true. But we don’t seek out God just anywhere. We look for him where he tells us he will be found. The temple was the meeting place. It was where God identified himself as God. Jerusalem was Israel’s holy city because the temple was there. From week to week, the Jews from throughout the country would gather together in their local synagogue to hear God’s word and to sing praises to him. But there were three festivals every year that required them to make the trip to Jerusalem: the Festival of the Passover, the Festival of Pentecost, and the Festival of the Harvest. Passover commemorated God setting Israel free from their four hundred year bondage in Egypt. Pentecost commemorated God giving Israel his Law. Harvest commemorated God providing for Israel during their forty year wandering in the Sinai wilderness before they entered into the Promised Land. Of the three festivals, the Passover was the most important.
The Passover was the defining event in the history of the Old Testament church. For four hundred years Israel had been kept as slaves in Egypt. God sent Moses to set them free. Through Moses, God told Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, to let his people go so they could worship him in the wilderness. It took some time to persuade him. Pharaoh would agree, only to renege, and then God would send a plague upon Egypt, and Pharaoh would again agree, and then renege again. The final plague was the Passover. God sent the angel of death to kill the firstborn of every Egyptian family. Through Moses, he commanded the children of Israel to mark their doors with the blood of a lamb. When the angel of death saw the blood, he would pass over that home and kill no one. After the Passover, God delivered his people from Pharaoh and his armies by the miraculous parting of the waters of the Red Sea. Israel walked across on dry ground, and when Pharaoh’s soldiers pursued them, they drown in the waters of the sea.
The Passover was commemorated every year. The people ate the Passover lamb, and bread without yeast. The bread without yeast signified their total break with the false religion and slavery of Egypt. They were separated from the world and its false promises. They were God’s people: God’s chosen and holy people.
If the bread without yeast signified their holiness, what was it that made them holy? It couldn’t be their obedience to the law. God set them free from slavery in Egypt before he gave them the law. The Passover came before Pentecost. What made them holy? What was it that kept the angel of death from punishing them for their sin? It was the blood. It was not the blood of the animal that was sacrificed and whose blood marked the door. It was the blood of Jesus.
The twelve year old Jesus is learning this. He was God and God knows everything. But he did not, as a boy, take advantage of his omniscience. He chose to learn, like other children learn. He went to the temple to learn, to ask questions, to answer questions, to search the Scriptures, and seek to understand what the Passover meant. As he discovered from the sacred text what it meant, he learned that he would be the Passover Lamb. He would suffer and die for the sins of the people.
While Mary and Joseph are running around looking for Jesus in all the wrong places, Jesus is where he must be: in the temple. The temple is where God meets his people. Jesus is where God meets his people. Jesus is in the temple.
Mary chides Jesus. She says, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” She knew who her Son was. But she forgot. “Your father and I,” she said. What did Jesus say in reply? He said, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business.” He owed Mary and Joseph obedience. St. Luke records in our text that Jesus went with them to Nazareth and was obedient to them. Foolish parents who didn’t even know the basics of the faith they were obliged to teach their children! Foolish and ignorant parents – one might even, without judging too harshly, call them incompetent. And how does this boy, this perfect boy, treat his ignorant and incompetent parents? He submitted to them. He was subject to them. He obeyed them.
But his first devotion was to his Father. He was about his Father’s business. The Father’s business is being gracious to sinners like us. Jesus calls God “my Father” and we, through faith in Jesus, call God “our Father.” He is our Father. He loves us. He does what love requires of him. He loves incompetent parents who apparently don’t know what they are doing. He loves disobedient children who fail to honor their parents as the Fourth Commandment requires of them. He loves sinners. His business is loving sinners. He does what love requires of him. When the angel of death comes our way to punish us for our sins he diverts death from our door. He does so by the blood shed of the cross. Twenty one years after the twelve year old boy spent three days in the temple to learn what God’s word required of him he fulfilled that requirement by dying on the cross for the sin of the world. The wages of sin is death. But the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s son, washes away all our sin.
Where was Jesus? He was where our children should be. He is where our children should be. He is present with us in his holy word. Since God’s word is taught in church and in church is where we receive the Sacrament of his body and blood, we belong in church and so do our children. I imagine all of us know parents who have failed to do what God requires of them, parents who are carrying around the guilt of their failure and sin, and need God to forgive them. Invite them to come here. Here is where Jesus is. He is where his church gathers together in his name. He said so. Here is where parents and children belong.
Jesus is present in the home wherever his word is taught. When I was a child, we had family devotions every day. After supper, Dad read from the Bible, asked us kids questions about what he had read, and led us in singing good hymns and in praying the Lord’s Prayer together. That’s what God gives every Christian father to do. Gather together with your wife and children and lead them in daily devotions. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are called the holy family. Mary wasn’t the perfect mother. Joseph wasn’t the perfect father. They didn’t even know where Jesus would be. Where else would he be?
We fathers and mothers love our children. We want them to be happy. We want them to provide for them. We invest money, hard work, time, and heartache in our children. They are so much more precious than money or stuff that will be lost and forgotten. Children are the only gift God gives us in this life that can also be with us in heaven.
If we love our children we will give them God’s word. This is how we bring them to where Jesus is. God’s word teaches parents and children of our Father’s love, the love of the Passover Lamb who is sacrificed for us. We seek Jesus in God’s word. Where Jesus is, is forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Looking for Jesus somewhere other than in his holy word is like lookin for love in all the wrong places. Jesus is in a church that teaches his pure gospel. He is in a home that teaches the same gospel. Where he is, the angel of death passes over and we are set free from the bondage of our sin. That’s the place to be.
Rolf D. Preus