The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
The theme of the Epiphany season is how God manifests His glory; how He makes Himself present and known among His people. Unfortunately for us children of Adam, we tend to see only what we want to see, which means we sometimes miss what God is trying to show us. Consider the Gospel text. Apparently the revelation here is that even adolescent Jesus gave His parents fits once in a while. We know that Jesus wasn’t with His family when they set out to return home from Jerusalem. He chose to lag behind and not tell anyone. His parents, once they found out He was missing, returned to Jerusalem full of worry, no doubt imagining the absolute worst. That’s just what parents do. We imagine the worst. We worry. We get angry, and then we worry some more. Even if you’re not a parent, you can certainly empathize with Mary and Joseph when they finally come upon their Son in the temple three days later. “Why have you treated us so?! Your father and I have been searching for you in great distress!”
And right here is where we tend to miss something God endeavors to show us. Whose fault was it that Jesus wasn’t with His family? Isn’t that a parental responsibility? More than that, did you notice how the parents don’t take the blame? Rather, just like in the Garden of Eden, they blame someone else. Just like in the Garden of Eden, they ultimately blame God. “Why have you treated us so?!” As if naughty Jesus purposefully set out to make His mom and dad upset and crazy with worry and He got caught.
And how does your Lord respond to such foolishness? He doesn’t pull out the long knives. He doesn’t rip into them in righteous wrath, throwing the truth of their sin back in their faces. Nope. Just like in the Garden of Eden (where He responded to sin with a question: “Where are you?”), God-in-the-flesh responds to the new Eve (His mother) and her self-centered sin with a gentle, loving question. “Why were you seeking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” It’s a nice but firm and loving way of saying, “Duh, mom! You do remember the whole angelic pronouncement and immaculate conception, right? You do remember who I am, right? Where else would I be?” You can imagine the light bulb clicking “on” when Mary and Joseph hear this. “Oh yeah….” And yet...they didn’t understand the saying He spoke to them. Think about that. Even Jesus’ own mom and dad didn’t fully understand who He really was or what He was all about, even after He told them.
Now, to be sure, there is a whole lot more we could go into here with these simple words of Jesus (the very first recorded words of Jesus in all of Scripture). “Why were you seeking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” Folks: These loving, heart-revealing questions are intended every bit for us today as they were for His parents that particular day so long ago. When troubles and worries arise, where do you seek? What are you seeking? Do you seek your Lord? Do you seek His mercy, His grace, His peace? Do you seek Him where He is to be found; where He calls you to be; where He tells you to find Him; right where He promises to be? But…that’s the easy stuff. If you can’t see this plain as day in the text, then either you’re blind or you simply don’t want to see.
Rather than harp on the obvious, though, let’s examine what God is revealing to us, hidden in plain sight. Consider the fact that St. Luke mentions journeying to Jerusalem three times within the first four verses. Do you think he’s trying to cue us in on something? Add to this the fact that Jesus and His family are journeying to Jerusalem for the Passover. Not only does this show us that Jesus’ family kept the Law (which required every Jew to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem for at least two days, if not the entire seven days of the feast), but it reveals to us the particular time and reason they journeyed to Jerusalem, the city and foundation of peace (which is what the word means). When would Jesus be crucified? Answer: During Passover time. That’s what the Lord’s Supper was—the Passover meal! St. Luke is orienting us by means of this boyhood account to the all-redeeming sacrifice of God’s Passover Lamb on Calvary (in Jerusalem)! This is the whole reason why God sent His Son!
Consider, also, how St. Luke tells us that Jesus was “missing” for three days, and it’s on the third day that He is “found” in His Father’s house, doing His Father’s will. Does that sound reminiscent at all of Jesus’ three days in the grave? Does that sound at all like the women flocking to the cemetery to seek Him, but the angel greeting them and asking, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He has risen, just like He said He would. Remember?” And where is Jesus finally “found” and “recognized” on that first Easter Sunday? Answer: In the midst of His disciples, showing His wounds and proclaiming peace—the Father’s peace with them. He is finally recognized by the Emmaus disciples when He takes the bread, give thanks, and breaks it and gives it to them to eat. Hmm…that sounds like something He’ll be doing in just a few minutes with us. Do you see? Do you recognize?
And that brings us to one final point that is so often missed and overlooked in this text: The necessity of it all. When Jesus says that He “must” be in His Father’s house, it’s not merely a matter of logic dictating that He must be there because where else would He be. The Greek word used here is dei (necessary). “It is necessary that I be in My Father’s house.” Already then, Jesus was clearly stating who He was and He was foretelling the very reason His heavenly Father sent Him into this fallen and sinful world. It was necessary for our salvation. It was necessary that He be in His Father’s house, doing the will of His Father. This good and gracious will was already being put into action that day in the Temple as He taught and directed the elders, the priests, the Pharisees, and even His own parents to the Father’s plan for salvation; the plan standing before them all in the flesh. This good and gracious will would come to fruition a couple decades later when the Son would return once again to His Father’s house in Jerusalem, this time on the back of a donkey; this time with a whip of cords in His hand as He turned over tables and chased out the squatters, defilers, and thieves from His Father’s holy house. And six days later this same holy Son hung on a bloody cross. This was no mistake. Jesus wasn’t caught by surprise. This was the plan all along. His was the necessary sacrifice for the salvation of all children of Adam, and with that sacrifice the Father’s plan was complete. “It is finished.”
And this is where everything comes full circle for us today. It is finished, and here is Christ, right here in His Father’s holy house, doing the necessary work and will of His Father. Our heavenly Father loves us so much that He doesn’t strike us down in our dark and sinful stupidity; in our stubborn rebellion. He continues to send His Son to us, calling us home to Him; calling us into His holy house to take our place as His beloved sons and daughters at His table. It is absolutely necessary that our Lord be here (just as He is), for in our Lord’s own words, “no one can ascend into heaven except He who has descended from heaven.” We cannot ascend before God and come into His holy presence with our sinful selves. It just doesn’t work. No matter how hard you try; no matter how good you think you are; no matter how good your intentions may be, it’s all but soiled, filthy rags. Here is the all-redeeming sacrifice that makes atonement for sin. This is it! This is why Christ necessarily comes to us. Here is how God comes to you and makes you holy and righteous in His sight—Word, Water, Bread, Wine. Just like Mary, may you treasure up all these wonderful, life-saving, life-giving gifts of Christ for you. Here is God’s grace and mercy and peace for you, right where He promises to be; right where He tells you to seek Him. “Duh! Where else would we be? Where else should we be?”
I pray that Christ-centered light bulb goes on and stays on in your hearts, minds, and souls. I pray that this simple, yet profound reality of Christ in your midst; in His Father’s holy house doing the necessary and loving work and will of His Father, takes root in your heart and springs up to bear abundant God-pleasing fruit. “Do you not know that it is necessary that I be in My Father’s house?” May this necessary reality be your reality, now and in the year to come, and all your remaining days.
In His name and to His glory…
Feel free to use any or all of this sermon for the edification of God's people. It is NOT necessary to ask my permission for any of it! In fact, you don't have to mention me at all. (I think it's highly problematic when pastors seek credit/glory for sermons inspired by the Holy Spirit!) Give praise to God for the fact that He continues to provide for His people.
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