Epiphany One Sermon 2002
Years ago Dort put on the refrigerator a comic that
featured a husband and wife watching their children fight. The father said to the mother, as if to encourage her, ďAll
kids fight.Ē She replied,
ďYes, but they are our kids.Ē Itís
humbling for parents to learn. Their
own children are poor, miserable, sinners who love themselves first and
most. Every motherís
heart has suffered to see the sins in her own children.
She will often fight against the evidence and the plain teaching
of Godís word by excusing her childrenís sins.
If she loves her children she will face the truth about them and
admit their sin.
But consider Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus.
She was the only mother who ever lived who gave birth to a
sinless Child. The Bible
tells us little about Jesusí childhood.
From his infancy until he was about thirty years old we know next
to nothing. The Holy Spirit
saw fit to record for us only the account in todayís Gospel Lesson
about Jesus in the temple listening to the teachers and asking them
questions. Still, there is
one thing we know for sure about Jesusí childhood.
He never sinned. Not
once did he disobey his mother or father.
He never talked back. He
never lied. He never took
anything that didnít belong to him.
He did not speak unkindly to those who were unkind to him.
Whenever anyone insulted him, he responded with patient and
forgiving love. He was
completely devoted to his Father in heaven.
He prayed with perfect sincerity.
He always loved the word of God.
He never failed in any religious duty.
And in this life of sinless devotion to God and perfect
submission to his mother and stepfather, Jesus didnít come across as a
holier than thou snot who wore his religion on his shirt sleeve so as to
let everyone know he was better than they. No, he lived humbly. He
wasnít proud or conceited or boastful.
He was a thoroughly lovable boy who never once disappointed his
How much she loved him!
And so when he was nowhere to be found on the way back home from
Jerusalem, she was afraid. Her
son had never done anything to hurt her before.
If he wasnít with the company that was returning to Nazareth,
where could he be? He must
have suffered some kind of accident or worse.
Maybe he was lying dead somewhere, a victim of a crime.
She was frantic for his safety.
Yet neither she nor her husband had the sense to look for Jesus
in the one place they should have looked.
They knew Jesus as the obedient boy who never did anything wrong.
They forgot, at least for
the moment, that this obedient boy was to be the Savior of sinners. That is why he was born.
That is why he was named Jesus.
And that is why he was in the temple.
What would the teachers be teaching at the time of the Passover?
Why they would be explaining the original Passover, as the Angel
of Death passed over the homes of the children of Israel who had painted
blood on the doorposts. They
would teach and explain the significance of the blood, and the
subsequent Exodus from Egypt through the miraculous crossing of the Red
Sea into the Sinai wilderness, and later their entry into the Promised
Land. Jesus would learn the
wonderful history of the church from learned men who understood what it
But they had never had a student like Jesus!
Everyone present was astonished at how well Jesus understood the
Holy Scriptures, and how he answered the teachersí questions.
He was a unique young man. No
teacher has ever had a student like Jesus.
No boy or girl ever loved Godís word as Jesus did.
No child ever wanted to learn it more thoroughly.
And as this twelve year old boy, who hadnít yet begun to shave,
listened, learned, and answered the questions of his teachers, the
written word and the incarnate Word were joined in perfect unity.
The mystery goes beyond our ability to understand.
How could the eternal Son of the Father who by nature knows all
there is to know learn things he didnít already know?
I donít understand. God
the Son, the eternal Word, did become flesh and was born of the Virgin
Mary. He was the
all-knowing, almighty God. Yet
he chose to hide his divinity under the humble cloak of his human
nature. He had all of the
glory as of the only begotten of the Father, as St. John teaches us.
Yet, until he changed water into wine at the age of thirty, he
did no miracle. He
deliberately chose to learn, to grow, and to develop.
As our text tells us, he ďincreased in wisdom and stature, and
in favor with God and men.Ē His holy manhood hid his true and eternal deity.
But Jesus couldnít hide the pure and holy love that he
expressed in everything he ever said and did.
His mother had seen his holy life.
She had heard and believed that her holy Child would be the
Savior of sinners. And yet
she scolded him as if he had done something wrong.
ďSon, why have you done this to us?
Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.Ē
She spoke to her holy Son as if he had finally fallen into sin! But there was no sin in him.
There was only the burning desire to do what his Father set
before him to do. Look at
how Jesus answered his mother. He
asked, ďWhy did you seek Me? Did
you not know that I must be about My Father's business?Ē
Mary had referred to Joseph as if he were Jesusí father. Jesus answered by reminding her that God was his true Father.
Pay close attention here. Jesus
calls God ďmy Father.Ē Jesus
teaches us to call God ďour Father.Ē
Jesus doesnít call God ďour FatherĒ and he doesnít teach
us to call God ďmy Father.Ē This
is because Jesus is Godís Son in a way that none of us are or ever can
be. He is the only begotten
Son of God, begotten of his Father before time began.
And in time, in the fullness of time, he became a baby, a boy,
and a man. This he became
in order to do his Fatherís business.
He went to the temple because that was his Fatherís house.
And there in the temple he learned what would be required of him
as his own body replaced brick and mortar as the meeting place between
God and man.
The temple was where God met his people.
Jesus would now be the place where God would meet his people.
As St. John said of Jesus, the Word made flesh: ďIn him was
life, and the life was the light of men.Ē
But his life could not become ours unless it were given into
death. Only as Jesus faced
our death by facing our sins on the cross did his life become ours.
The blood of the Passover Lamb was to be the blood of Jesus.
And while the teachers in the temple talking to Jesus probably
didnít know who Jesus really was, they did know what the Passover
signified. They knew of the
promised Suffering Servant who would fulfill the significance of the
blood on the doorposts of the first Passover as well as the meaning of
the unblemished lamb that was eaten at the festival every year.
The promised Savior would be the Lamb of God whose blood would
keep the Angel of Deathís sword in its sheath.
As the hymnist writes, ďWhere the paschal blood is poured,
deathís dread angel sheathes his sword.Ē
Jesus would be pierced for our transgressions.
His blood would be displayed before heaven as the propitiation
for the sins of the whole world. Godís
anger would come down on his innocent head as he bore in his innocent
body and soul all of the punishment of God against all sinners of every
description throughout the history of the world.
Only in this way could Godís anger be set aside so that we
would be at peace with God. His
mother would watch it happen. And
she would feel it in her own soul.
Jesus knew this. He knew of the prophecy that Simeon spoke to his mother.
Twelve years earlier, there in the same temple as Jesus now
stood, Simeon had said to Mary, ďBehold, this Child is destined for
the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be
spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also).Ē
Yes, Mary would feel it. And
it would be a far worse pain than the uncertainty and anxiety she
suffered when in her ignorance she looked for Jesus in all the wrong
places. It would be when
she looked at Jesus in the right place, where he belonged, as the
meeting place between an offended God and his sinful humanity, that she
would feel a cut inside of her deeper than any mother ever felt.
No motherís love was ever greater than Maryís.
Mary has often been compared to the church.
Mary is the God-bearer who gave birth to Jesus and was therefore
Godís means of bringing his eternal Son into the world.
Today, the church, which has Christís pure gospel and holy
sacraments, is the means through which God comes to us.
And surely Mary is a wonderful model for the church.
She believed with a firm simplicity every word God spoke to her.
She willingly bore whatever pain being a Christian would require
of her. And when her Son
chided her, she submitted to him, though he was just a boy under her
She didnít understand him. But
she listened to him. And so
it must be with us. You
donít listen to Godís word only when you understand it.
You listen even when you donít.
The truth of what God says doesnít depend on our ability to
understand it or explain it to others.
The truth of Godís word comes from God himself.
Every word God says is wonderful because God is wonderful.
Every word is pure, every word is life, and every word is
precious to us because every word comes from God.
Why did Jesus love the word of God so much?
Because he loved God so much.
As the twelve-year-old boy in the temple he was loving the Lord
his God with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind.
He was fearing, loving, and trusting God above all things.
He was using his name faithfully.
He was loving and honoring and gladly hearing and learning his
holy word. He was twelve.
He was plenty old enough to learn the mystery of godliness.
And so are you, dear children of River Heights Lutheran Church.
You are not just kids. You
are Christians. You are not
a different kind of Christian than Mom or Dad or anyone else in this
congregation. You are Godís own children, and God wants you to learn,
just as his beloved Son learned. God
wants you to cherish, that means to love with all your heart, everything
he tells you. God doesnít
care so much about what you do with all your things, or how well you do
in school, or how strong and smart and talented you are.
He cares much more about your love.
What God wants from you is your heart.
He wants your love. He
wants you to care about what he says.
He wants you to learn, to study, and to memorize your Catechism,
just as Jesus did. He wants you to love everything he says, for this is how you
love God. And he wants this
for you, not just when youíre twelve, but when youíre fully grown,
when youíre busy raising a family, when you are retired, and when you
are getting close to your departure from this world.
He who had to watch his motherís heart break with sorrow as she
witnessed his suffering and death for you, wants you always to witness
that suffering and death too. But
not in sorrow as a mother sees her dear child suffer.
No, Jesus wants you to look at his suffering and death in deep
joy. Because it means that your sins are washed away.
It means that the Angel of Death cannot strike you.
The blood forces him to pass you over and let you live.
And what a life we Christians have to live!
It is a life of loving what God says, just as Jesus loved it.
It is a life lived in union with Jesus who lived it before we
did, paving the way for our lives with his own life of perfect and
loving and holy obedience. Look
at his life and see your own! Look
at his holiness and see your holiness.
Look at his perfect satisfaction of Godís every demand, and
know that God is now pleased with you for Christís sake.
Godís favor rests on you, because it rests on his holy Son, and
Jesus has given himself to you.
This is what the word of God shows us, and this is why we love it so.
The twelve-year-old Jesus stayed in the temple to learn what the
Scriptures required of him. What
Godís word required of Jesus, it gives to us.
This is why we love it more than our very lives.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus
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