A perfectly obedient child is easy to neglect. They assume He is with them.
Anxiety and guilt transform us. It is our fight or flight instinct. We usually choose to fight. An awful lot of arguments would never happen if the person in the wrong just fessed up. But when you call a drunk a drunk, he gets mad. Throw a rock into a pack of dogs. The only that yelps is the one you hit.
St. Mary is feeling the burning shame of having left a twelve-year old unattended for 3 days. What did He eat? Where did He sleep? There is no way to get a hold of him. She can’t call. She has to go back. What if He starts home while they head to Jerusalem? If He holes up, where will He be?
In light of that pain and grief, she lashes out. Jesus made her feel that way. It is His fault.
We choose to feel the way we feel. We choose our reactions. We may be provoked, but that doesn’t excuse us. No one makes us angry. We give in to our anger. We blame others at every step.
Sometimes, to be sure, we’ve been and are victims. But we add to the hurt and hurt ourselves with bad responses to bad behavior, with anger, gossip, or worry. Having done one bad thing, neglected her Son, St. Mary made it worse by panicking and then blaming Him.
But His rebuke is gentle. He does chastise her, “Why were you looking for Me?” And that means, in part, “how is that I came to be lost? What went wrong? Whose responsibility was it?” But it also hints at the answer. They are looking for Him not just because He is their charge but also because He is the Savior. The next bit has a bite as well. He wants them to remember that contrary to St. Mary’s heated accusation, Joseph is not His Father. But mainly, Our Lord confesses who He is and what He is about. He must be among His Father’s things.
Our translations here all fail. I don’t know why. The KJV was better. There Our Lord says “wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” But St. Luke doesn’t record either the word house or business. He also doesn’t render it in the first person either. It is not “I must.” But rather “It is necessary.” Here it is literally: “Did you now that it is necessary for me to be among My Father’s things?”
It is necessary to leave “it is necessary” in that form because it indicates prophecy. This is the formulation Our Lord uses to announce the necessity of His betrayal, beating, and crucifixion. It is not that translating “I must be among My Father’s things” would be wrong. It just misses the nuance and fails to connect this saying with the predictions of the crucifixion – connections that need to be made – for St. Mary and for us.
The next problem is rendering “things” as either business or house. Business is not that bad, but not that good. House is terrible. House simply inserts the idea from the space and not from the words. The idea is not all bad, but it misses the edge of the sword, and swords are all about the edge.
Jesus is not in His Father’s House. He is among His Father’s things. What things? The lampstand, the altar of incense, the altar for whole burnt offerings, and the like. He is there among the stuff of sacrifice, in the midst of the stuff that renders God’s people clean through blood and reconciles them to the Father that they might bring their prayers and petitions to Him. The entire purpose of the Temple was to give God’s people safe access to Him. God doesn’t need the Temple. We do.
And Jesus is not simple there near and around that stuff. Rather the point is that is what He is. He is one of the Temple things, one of His Father’s things, for cleansing and forgiving the people. In fact, He is the thing.
He is where He belongs, not simply in His Father’s House, but on the Altar, as the Priest and the Victim.
And here is a little clue from St. Luke: They find Him on the third day. That is not accidental. Luke isn’t merely foreshadowing the Resurrection, though He is doing that, He is also telling us where to find Jesus. We live in the third day, post-Resurrection. Where is Jesus? He is among His Father’s things. But the Temple is gone. No, it isn’t. They tore it down and He built it again on the third day. That is the Temple of the Lord, where God dwells and abides with men, where men have safe access to the Father – in Jesus Christ – the new and greater Temple – risen from the dead. So where is He? He is present in His Body and Blood, in His Holy Word, in His gathered people, in the preaching of His Gospel, and the Holy Absolution. Here is where Jesus remains for you.
Our Lord welcomes St. Mary back. He welcomes you as well. He didn’t die in vain. Your sins do not stop His love. He is faithful to the end, patient and long-suffering. His mercy endures forever. Treasure these things up in your heart, bend the knee and submit to the grace of God in Christ Jesus, be fed, be forgiven, be here.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Pastor David Petersen