Luke 2:40-52 (ESV)
40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. 41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 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, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
It seems that wherever Beth and I lived, we were always a great distance from family. So after Christmas services were over, we would load up the kids and drive three to twelve hours to visit one side of the family or the other.
Now, what do you do in a car for that many hours? Well, you sing songs, play games, and answer requests like, “Tell me a story when you were four or eight or ten or twelve.”
Beth’s memory doesn’t go back quite as far as her dad’s who claimed he could recall the day before he was born, but her childhood stories are far more numerous and vivid than my own.
My memory of childhood is more like what we find in the Scriptures about Jesus’ childhood – very limited. In fact, beyond the birth of our Lord, which only Matthew and Luke record, it is only Luke who tells us about two incidents in Jesus’ life before the age of thirty. Both of these stories revolve around the temple, which Jesus will call, my Father’s house.
In the first story (Luke 2:22-38), Mary and Joseph bring the baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem on the eighth day to be presented to the Lord and circumcised. This was to fulfill what the Law required as Jesus who do over and over again for you and me and for all.
After this is completed, the holy family heads back to Nazareth where we heard today…
40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
The next recorded visit to Jerusalem and to the temple for the entire family occurs twelve years later. Now before anyone thinks that Jesus only went to worship every twelve years and concludes that therefore, I only need to go to worship once every twelve years, listen first to what Luke writes:
41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.
Jesus’ parents went up to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices each year but may have left Jesus behind since he was not of an age to participate. Even so, every faithful Jewish family gathered weekly together in their own town for worship on the Sabbath. Assembling for worship was what God had commanded His people to do just as the Holy Spirit continues to call and gather us as Christians to worship God. This is the will of God.
But 42 …when he (Jesus) was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.
At the age of twelve, a young Jew became “a son of the Law,” much like when our young people are confirmed, and it is at this point that Jesus became responsible for keeping the Law in terms of feasts, fasts, and the like. In a similar way, the responsibility of every person confirmed in our church is no less. The pastor asks the confirmands:
Do you intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully? Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death? Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?
And each confirmand answers, I do, by the grace of God and many are never to be seen again. But thanks be to God, our Lord was faithful to obeying the Law fully for us.
Such a good boy, that Jesus, but…
43 when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.
This brings to mind that movie, “Home Alone,” you know the one where the child accidentally gets left behind. Only in this case, the family is away from home and the parents leave thinking that Jesus was with them when in reality he had stayed behind. Luke writes…
44 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, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him.
I grew up at a time when we as children wandered all over the neighbourhood of our small city. However, we would never do that in a large city, one we were not familiar with. Nowadays, even in small towns parents are cautious about where their children are. There are too many strange people out there and I can imagine, there were strange people willing to take advantage of even a twelve-year-old back then.
Now if you are a parent, you’ve probably experienced a time or two when your child was lost momentarily and you know that feeling of panic. Now imagine not knowing where your child is for three days which perhaps also foreshadows the grief of Jesus’ three days in the tomb. But…
46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
What a relief and yet could Mary and Joseph have imagined their son sitting among those people considered the wisest, listening, asking questions, and giving answers beyond His age, in return. As Luke says,
48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished.
If you’ve watched the mini-series on Netflix, “The Queen’s Gambit” which tells the fictional story of a young child who reveals herself to be a chess prodigy, beating men many years her age, you can then understand Mary and Joseph’s astonishment as the young boy Jesus acts like a Rabbi many years older.
Perhaps trying to get control of the situation and reclaim her son, Mary says to him…
“Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.”
The fact that a child is lost makes parents look negligent no matter how caring and responsible they may have been up to that point. Mary is rightly upset that their son appears to have acted so inconsiderately and yet, is her reaction guided more by the shame she feels as people are looking at her?
Jesus doesn’t make it any easier on them when he says…
49 … “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
This statement is loaded with meaning for us.
First, Jesus is not reproving or admonishing His mother for her distress, but he is expressing surprise that they wouldn’t know that He needed to be in His Father’s house, where the Word of God was being read, discussed, and studied. Perhaps our Lord looks at many today with the same surprise that they do not know that they need to be here in the Father’s house where the Word of God is being read, discussed, and studied.
Second, Jesus calls the temple, my Father’s house. Not only is this telling us that Jesus considers God as His Father, just as we believe God to be our Father in Christ and pray the Our Father, but Jesus is also identifying the place as His Father’s house. As an adult, Jesus would later drive out those who had turned His Father’s house into a den of thieves (Matthew 21:13) rather than treating it properly as a house of prayer.
This place we are in right now is our Father’s house also because it has been dedicated to the proclamation and study of God’s Word. It is a house of prayer in which people come to hear God’s Word and to respond to what God has said.
Now as Lutheran Christians, we believe that God is truly present here in Word and Sacrament and so it completely baffles me why every person who confesses Christ, the one through whom the universe was created; who walked on water; who healed all kind of diseases; who calmed the storm; who raised people from the dead and who Himself conquered death and can easily deal with a measly virus; why are not all confessing Christians not here?
Perhaps, it is as Luke says of Mary and Joseph…
50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.
And so we pray that God may open the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf, the minds of those closed to the truth, the tongues of those afraid to speak the Good News, the hands of the miserly, the hearts of the cold-hearted and the feet of those unwilling to go where their Lord leads. So we pray for those who are not here and for ourselves, for we all too often fail to understand and believe the Jesus who is here among us in His Father’s house.
Even though His parents could not understand Jesus still
51 …went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.
Even though we do not always understand Jesus still Jesus (Philippians 2)…
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Jesus submitted Himself to death for you that you may come to know your sin and even more; that you may come to believe in God’s great love for you; God’s forgiveness for you; God’s peace for you…all because of Christ for you.
Sometimes we struck by God’s Word and God’s new life in Christ pours into our sin-sick souls. At other times though, we are more like Jesus’ mother whom Luke wrote…
And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
Mary left the Father’s house and Jerusalem that day with a treasure carefully kept within her and I imagine, pondered that treasure, wondering, “What does this mean?” She had been pondering it for many years because twelve years earlier, she had an angel, some shepherd and wisemen tell her about her son and Luke write (2:19),
Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
So today I invite you to take God’s Word with you. Treasure that word. Ponder that Word in your heart and may the wisdom of Jesus, crucified and risen for you, grow and increase in you that in Christ, you may find favor with God and man.
Now may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your heart, eyes, ears, mind, mouth, hands and feet in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.