Epiphany 1 2023

Epiphany 1
January 8, 2023 A+D
St. Luke 2:41-52

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saints Mary and Joseph supposed that Jesus was on the road with them. They thought that He would follow them. That is a dangerous assumption. We must not assume that Jesus is with us or fall into the arrogance that thinks we are special. Rather we must seek His Kingdom and His grace where He promises to be.

Mary and Joseph lost sight of Jesus’ mission. They didn’t know where He was because they didn’t know what He was or what He came for and perhaps didn’t know either what they were. Jesus was among His Father’s things, conducting His Father’s business, in His Father’s house. He was there because that is where He promised to be. He is the Temple made without hands who fulfills the mission and prophecies of the Temple in Himself.

He sheds His Blood to shield us from the angel of death. He takes our sins into Himself and is exiled into the wilderness to die instead of us. He is consumed, roasted in fire, on the altar of His Father’s wrath in our place. All that culminates on the cross, but it is foretold and delivered in the Temple.

That Temple was not eternal. It required constant repetition. It was unable to be kept purely by fallen men. But we have now an eternal High Priest. He descended to earth and became a Man and then after His resurrection rose to be seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, as a Man, one of us for us. He is our Minister of the sanctuary, the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.

St. Paul writes:

3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. 4 For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; 5 who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” 6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises (NKJV, Heb 8:1–6).

Again, Paul writes:

Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (Heb 9:11–15, NKJV).

Thus He abides in the Temple at the tender age of 12. Mary and Joseph should have known this but they got caught up with their friends and relatives. They took Jesus for granted. They supposed that He was with them, rather than striving to be with Him.

It is much the same today. Christ, Our Lord, is still among His Father’s things according to His promise. We must not suppose that He is with us or pretend that He is hard to find or that He doesn’t mind if we wander off and play with idols. Seek first the Kingdom of God. Seek it where He promises to be. Read the Bible not only so that you know where to be but also so that you can recognize Him and your brothers and sisters in Him.

The Temple we worship is not stuck in Jerusalem, nor is He made by the hands of men. The old Temple served its purpose. It pointed the way to Christ even as it delivered Him to those who looked for Him there in faith. Christ is the new Temple. He is not in outer space, but is here, on earth, as a Man, for us in Word and in Sacrament. He speaks in His Word. He reveals Himself to us in both Law and Gospel, speaking words that accuse and instruct and words that heal, reconcile, and restore. He stirs the waters of Holy Baptism and sends the Spirit to make us His living Temples. He claims us as His own and puts His Name upon us. He bestows Divine forgiveness through the Ministry of Absolution. Even though the words are spoken by fallible men, according to His institution they are just as valid and certain as if God spoke them Himself. He comes in His risen Body and Blood into our bodies via our mouths to make us one with Him. This isn’t merely a spiritual activity. It is a bodily activity. It joins us, body and soul, to the One who took up Body and Soul for us. It makes us one flesh with Him and thus makes us His Bride. So also where two or three are gathered in His Name, He is there, hearing our prayers, welcoming and even basking in our praise. He guides and strengthens our confession by His Word.

He is present always and without fail wherever and whenever His doctrine is purely taught and His Sacraments are rightly administered. We don’t worry ourselves about where Christ isn’t present. We just need to know where He is for sure.

We might suppose that He is present in a helpful way in a Bible that is being read by a decent, but unbelieving scholar simply to fulfill an academic requirement. Christ could be present there. He could speak in His Word and bestow His Spirit and faith upon that person. We might suppose that the scholar is misusing the Bible in an outrageous and blasphemous way and therefore that Christ will be merciful to him since we know that He loves him. Maybe He will be.

But Christ doesn’t actually promise to do that. He doesn’t promise be in His Word in that way. While the scholar may not be doing anything inappropriate, if he is not gathered with others, receiving the Word in faith, he is not worshiping Christ. Scripture is not written simply for knowledge or learning. It is written to make us wise unto salvation. The Bible can be read by individual Christians as an act of piety and it should be, but its primary purpose is to be read together and received in faith and praise. So we don’t know if Jesus will be with some scholar according to His grace or not. We can think of other situations that seem decent, that might work, but that don’t have a promise. We don’t condemn such activities. but they don’t comfort or give appropriate confidence. We can’t base our hope on suppositions. We need to be sure.

And we can be sure. If we have pure doctrine and rightly administered Sacraments we can and should have absolute confidence that we are in the company of Jesus. We must read the Bible deeply and carefully. We don’t tell Jesus how to be. We listen to Him tell us. We don’t lead Jesus. We follow Him. We go where He is, for where He is we find forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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