1st Sunday after Epiphany
January 12th, 2014 A+D
St. Luke 2:41-52
In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Epiphany means to make manifest, to reveal, to show. On January 6th, the day of Epiphany, we remember how God made Himself known to the wisemen from the East. They were representatives of all the Gentiles. All through the season of Epiphany the focus is on how the Lord reveals Himself as God in the flesh, as Emmanuel, as the one who came to save His people from their sins. The First Sunday after Epiphany gives us pause to consider how resolute Jesus was even at a young age. He understood His mission and purpose.
This trip to Jerusalem was not His first. His parents presented Him, at 40 days old, in the temple with the sacrifice of two turtle doves commanded in the Law. He was praised by faithful Simeon and prophetess Anna. After this He was whisked away into Egypt to be protected from Herod’s insane wrath, and only later was taken to Nazareth to be raised.
Now at 12 years old, this was His first Passover. Notice first that His parents were faithful and made the journey every year, keeping the Feast as good children of Abraham. Now, at 12, according to the custom of the Feast, Jesus joins them for the annual pilgrimage. It was His first celebration of the Passover, that feast in which all the children of Israel remember their deliverance from the hand of Pharaoh; that feast when a lamb was slaughtered so that its blood could mark the doors, the angel of death could Passover, and the lamb’s flesh could be eaten to prepare them for a journey.
This account brings together so many Old Testament references and shows us that even as a boy, Jesus was the promised Messiah, King David’s son, Wise Solomon’s heir, the true Ark taking up residence in His temple. He knew at the age of 12 that He must be in His Father’s “house,” doing His Father’s “business.” The Greek for this is more general and encompassing, because it does not have “house” or “business.” It leaves it more generic. Jesus actually says to His mother, “Had you not known that it was necessary for me to be in/among the things of my Father?” The ESV translation is not wrong, because His Father’s things are in His Father’s house. But it includes more than His Father’s “house.” It includes those things that are done there. Those things are: 1. listening to and asking questions of the “teachers”—those who study and teach the Holy Scriptures; 2. the prayers—the place of incense; and 3. the sacrifices—the atonement for sin.
Indeed, Mary, did you not know that He must be about those things, even at a young age? No, she did not know this, for Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph did not understand the words which He spoke. But in deference to her divine Son, in faith to God, she treasured even these words in her heart. She did not understand, but she trusted. She was beginning to see what Simeon meant. The sword was beginning to pierce her heart.
This was not going to be the last time that Mary was worried about her Son in Jerusalem. This was not going to be the last time that she was without Him for three days. For His Father’s business—His Father’s things—would take Him away from her again when He would not only celebrate the Passover, but fulfill it by being that Lamb whose blood would mark hearts and save those thus marked. He would be that Passover Lamb who must be sacrificed and whose flesh must be eaten. By His sacrifice, He would make Himself the Temple that would last forever—“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up,” Jesus said. Solomon’s temple was a temporary dwelling, but Jesus came to pick up the guidon and carry it into eternity. He would also make the Holy of Holies available to all believers. After His death, it was no longer limited to one High Priest, once a year. The presence of God was now open to all who come to faith.
We not only have the Old Testament coming to fulfillment in this passage, we also have an example of the Christian life. Jesus shows us what business we are to be about. When marked by the blood of Jesus in Baptism, we are joined with Him in His Father’s House as part of His Father’s family. Do you not know that even now, you must be about your heavenly Father’s things? It doesn’t matter if you’re 7, 17, or 70. Being marked with Jesus’ blood and set free from the Satanic Pharaoh does not give you the freedom to enslave yourself to your sinful desires. St. Paul exhorts you clearly to present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God; and this is your spiritual worship. You are temples of the Holy Spirit. You are holy and set apart.
What else is acceptable to God, but to do the will of your Father which is clearly laid out in His holy Word? St. Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The testing comes by discipline and study of His Word. Discernment and wisdom come only by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit works through means, by the Scriptures, by Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Absolution, and preaching. There is not only a renewal of the spirit through these means, there is also a renewal of the mind, for works follow faith. You have gifts that differ according to the grace given to you by God. As St. Paul says, If you have service, then serve faithfully. Are you one who teaches? Then teach the truth. Do you have means to contribute? Then give generously. Are you a leader? Then lead with zeal. Are you a follower? Then follow without grumbling. Do acts of mercy with cheerfulness. Let your love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. All these things you can do by the grace and gift of God. (We do not despise the Law. It is good for us and serves our neighbor).
We have a further example in Christ. He went back to Nazareth with His parents and was submissive to them and increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. Let us follow His lead and be submissive not only to earthly parents and authorities, but also submissive to God, our heavenly Father. And if there are difficult passages that we don’t understand in His word, let us follow the example of Mary when she did not understand her Son’s words. Let us treasure them up in our hearts. Whatever crosses and trials are coming your way (and they are coming), take comfort in this: Christ has taken up residence in His temple, in you. He has completed His mission and purpose for you. He has manifested himself to you as your God and Lord. You are his forever.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
The Rev’d Michael N. Frese
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana