Epiphany One Sermon| January 9, 2005| Rev. Rolf Preus| St. Luke 2:41-52
Mary did not know where Jesus was. She did not know where to look for Him. That’s why she didn’t know where He was. He was her own Son – her own flesh and blood – but even the closest maternal bond could not tell her where to find Jesus.
She assumed that Jesus would be found among friends. Well, Jesus has always had friends. Folks naturally gravitate toward those who are kind and full of compassion. Imagine living with a boy who grows up without sinning! Every mother knows her children’s faults. Mary didn’t. Perhaps she thought Jesus had been inconsiderate to her and to Joseph by not telling them where He was. If so, she was wrong. He most certainly was considering her.
He was considering all of us. That’s why He was in the temple, listening to the teachers of God’s word and asking them questions. He was learning from the Holy Scriptures what the Feast of the Passover would require of Him. He was, after all, the fulfillment of the Passover. He was the Passover Lamb. The Angel of Death passed over the homes where the blood of the Passover Lamb was painted on the doorposts. The promised Savior would shed His blood and the Angel of Death would pass over those covered by His blood. Moses led the Israelites into freedom by the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. The promised Savior would lead His Israel into the freedom of the forgiveness of sins. He would bear their sin. He would suffer its full weight and penalty. As the enemies of Israel were drowned in the Red Sea at the original Passover, so our enemies – sin, death, and the power of the devil – are drowned in Holy Baptism.
Jesus was learning how to be the Savior of the world. That was His Father’s business. That was the reason He remained in the temple after the others left for home. Mary should have known where to find Jesus, but she didn’t. And even when Jesus told her, she didn’t understand. But in not understanding, she didn’t reject Her Son’s words. She kept them in her heart.
Jesus was a dutiful Son. He obeyed His mother and Joseph. He submitted to their authority. He did so as no other son has ever done. He wasn’t impatient when told to do His daily chores. He did what He was told when He was told without complaint. He did more than what He was told to do, doing whatever need to be done without having to be told. He was the perfect Son.
He was the perfect Son of His mother. He was also the perfect Son of His Father in heaven. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He was a holy Child. Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary? The One who is God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God is the One who for us men, and for our salvation, was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man. He obeyed His mother. God obeyed man. Yes! He who gave the holy law and to whom all people must give an account gave account of Himself to His mother and submitted to her authority. God obeyed man, as Jesus submitted to Mary and Joseph.
And man obeyed God. All that Jesus did He did as both true God and true man. There is only one Jesus and this one Jesus is our God and our brother. When Jesus grew up into manhood, He hid His deity under the covering of sincere and dutiful humility. He did not appeal to His equality with His Father in heaven to avoid submitting to the authority of His mother. He lived a perfectly humble and obedient life. He submitted to His Father in heaven. He submitted to His mother on earth. He did so in order to fulfill the law for us all vicariously – as our substitute.
In submitting to His Father in heaven, He was where His mother did not think to look for Him. That’s amazing, but true. It’s a lesson to us. Mary did not know where Jesus was. Think of it! Simeon told her that a soul would pierce her soul, but she didn’t understand. Anna told her that her Son would bring redemption to Jerusalem, but she didn’t understand. She was raised celebrating the Passover, but she didn’t understand. She conceived this Child, bore Him, fed Him, cared for Him, and loved Him, but she didn’t understand why Jesus had to be in the temple, being engaged in His Father’s business.
A mother’s love isn’t good enough. It’s good. It’s a treasure to give and a treasure to receive. But it’s not enough. We must know where Jesus is. Mary loved her Son as much as any mother ever loved a son, but her love was insufficient. A mother’s love does not know where Jesus is. We need to listen to Jesus because His mother doesn’t know. He tells us that He must be about His Father’s business. He must be in His Father’s house.
The temple was the meeting place between a holy God and sinful people. Jesus is the meeting place between God and sinners. Jesus is the temple. He is the way to the Father. As we sing:
Jesus, in thy cross are centered all the marvels of thy grace;
Thou, my Savior, once hast entered through they blood the holy place:
Thy sacrifice holy there wrought my redemption
From Satan’s dominion I now have exemption,
The way is now free to the Father’s high throne,
Where I may approach Him in Thy name alone. (ELH, 182, verse 8)
We Christians are much like Mary, the mother of our Lord. We love Jesus. We fret over His apparent absence from us. At times we think He’s left us. And we look for Him in the wrong places. We should look for Him where He has told us to look for Him.
After telling His disciples to preach the gospel to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, He promised to be with them always. We should never wonder where Jesus is. He is where His baptism is. He is where His gospel is. He is where His Supper is. Wherever these means of salvation are there Jesus is.
The wise men found Jesus in Bethlehem, where the Bible said He would be. We don’t find Him there. He left Bethlehem and went to Nazareth. The Bible said He would be a Nazarene. But we don’t find Jesus in Nazareth. He left there and He went to Jerusalem, not just as a twelve year old boy when He learned what was required of Him, but as a thirty three year old man. Outside Jerusalem, He shed His blood on the cross to become the temple, the place where the holy God meets sinners like you and me and forgives us. There on Calvary, Jesus washed away all our sin and thereby removed from us God’s anger. There He removed what kept us away from God. He removed our sin by taking it upon Himself. But we don’t find Jesus on Calvary. He’s not there. He died and rose from the dead. But we won’t find Him outside the tomb. He’s not there. He ascended into heaven. But we go to heaven to find Him because we’re here. Here we will remain until the day we die, unless Jesus returns first to take us home to heaven.
Meanwhile, we need to find Jesus because we need Him. Where should we look? Should we look for Jesus in our prayers? After all, Jesus has invited us to pray and has promised that our Father in heaven will hear our prayers that are offered in Jesus’ name. He most certainly will keep His promises to us. But when we pray to God in the name of Jesus, do we hear God reply? Some people think they do. They get a feeling or they hear a voice. Then they say that they have found Jesus. But often it’s just their imagination. They heard what they wanted to hear. Where can we look for Jesus and know without any doubt that we have found Him?
We go to our baptism. We claim what God in Holy Baptism gave to us. Jesus says that in Holy Baptism we are born again and enter into God’s kingdom. So we face our own sins and we face the doubts that come from our own sins. After all (our conscience will argue) if we were really Christians we’d live like Christians and we haven’t and so are we really children of God? Have we argued for the sake of our own pride and to put the other down? Have we lied to people who trusted in us for the truth? Have we despised God’s word? Have we slept instead of listening to God? Have we lived lives that do not conform to God’s will but conform to the ways of the world? Have we ignored the life God gave us to live and lived for ourselves instead? We have not lived as Christians should live. So are we Christians?
In our baptism, Jesus says yes! He invites us to find Him in Holy Baptism and to see the baptism in which we were once washed as washing us every day, drowning our sins every day, filling us with the Holy Spirit every day to live a life of a Christian. You want to find Jesus? Go to your baptism and claim it. It is Jesus come into your life to be your Savior, not just when you are baptized, but throughout your entire life.
You want to find Jesus? Listen to His holy word. Don’t come to church only when it is convenient. Come whenever you can come. Come with what burdens your conscience. Bring it to God and lay it on Him. When God speaks through a man and tells you He forgives you, don’t doubt Him. God won’t lie to you. Jesus had you in mind as a twelve-year-old boy in the temple. As God, He knew everything. But He humbled Himself and learned as a child and as a man what He needed to do to take your burden of sin and fear and guilt off of you. And He did it.
You want to find Jesus? You will find Him in the Lord’s Supper. This is not a memorial meal of an absent Jesus. No! Before Jesus says, “Do this, in remembrance of Me,” He identifies the sacramental bread and wine with His very own body and blood. If Jesus gives you to eat and to drink His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins you are remembering a present Jesus who is most certainly with you, not an absent Jesus that you cannot locate.
You know where Jesus is. He is here where His word is preached and His sacraments are administered in His name and by His authority. This is where we belong. He increased in wisdom and stature. He won praise from God and man. He gives this to us. All that He has He gives to us. So we come. We come as beggars. But He doesn’t treat us as beggars. He treats us as the very children of God, for that is what He has made us to be!