As the season of Christmas begins December 25, Epiphany is a season that begins on the day of January 6 and runs until Ash Wednesday.
The word epiphany for us refers to the manifestation of God made man. First we remember the first manifestation of the divinity of Jesus to all nations, represented by the Magi. In the second chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, we find the stories of the Magi, also the slaughter of the children of Bethlehem by King Herod the Great and the flight to Egypt by Joseph and Mary with the Christ Child.
In the Gospel according to Saint Luke, we also find the account of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and the visit of the shepherds on Christmas Eve. And eight days later, the circumcision and appointment of Jesus, and 40 days later, the presentation of Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, according to the law of Moses. And for our meditation today, we have here the only authentic story of the life of Christ between the flight into Egypt and the beginning of his public ministry at his baptism by John the Baptist. Because today we celebrate not only the manifestation of the light of Christ to all nations, but also the fifth anniversary of the dedication of this temple. So, we are going to talk about the Temple that was a focus of our Lord's life.
An annual pilgrimage to Passover was required of the Jews. Entire families and neighbors sometimes traveled together, singing and camping along the road. When the child Jesus was twelve years old, the parents followed the rule established by the elders that children should be trained in the observance of all religious duties and should participate in festivals with their elders.
When the feast ended and all the pilgrims returned home, the child Jesus stayed in Jerusalem without the knowledge of his parents. They believed that He was with some of the members of his group and spent an entire day quietly looking for Him in the caravan. But when there was no sign of Him, they hastened back to Jerusalem. They searched the city for three days. After searching the entire city, they found Jesus in the Temple.
So, here are the first remembered words of the Lord and little difficult to translate. "Why were you looking for me?" Well, this is clear. The following Greek text is literally like this: "Didn't you know that I need to be in that of my Father?" The King James Version translates this verse as “Didn't you know that I need to be about my Father's business?” But the context indicates that the verse is better understood as" Didn't you know that I would be in my Father's house? " The meaning of the first question is "Why were you looking for me outside the Temple?"
Jesus will speak of the Temple as his Father's house many years later when he twice drove out the money changers and merchants. He did it the first time early in his public ministry. In John 2:16, he told them, "Take this away from here, and do not make my Father's house a marketplace."
Since it was impossible for many Jews to bring their sacrificial animals to Jerusalem from their distant homes, the practice of allowing them to purchase sheep, lambs, oxen, and doves in Jerusalem had been sanctioned. It was a profitable business and it attracted the leaders of the Jews, who controlled the concessions. However, instead of keeping the market in the lower part of the city, it was taken to the gates of the Temple and, finally, to the very courts of the sanctuary. There were the stables of the oxen and the sheep, there were the hen houses of the pigeons, there were also the tables of the bankers, where they gave change. Jesus quickly entwined a whip with reeds or ropes to drive out the animals. He turned the tables of the money changers.
But these practices did not stop and during Holy Week, the last week of his life, Jesus again drove the merchants out of the temple. According to Mark 11:15, he said to them, "Is it not written: My house will be called a house of prayer by all nations? But you have made it a den of thieves." There are two Old Testament quotes here: Isaiah 56: 7 and Jeremiah 7:11. Look at the verse from Isaiah, "My house, a house of prayer will be called for all peoples." The plan of salvation was not just for the Jews, but for all nations.
That is why we read this story of Jesus as a young man in the season of Epiphany. First, it is a manifestation of the divinity of Jesus, because he was only 12 years old, He knew who he was and what he was born for in the world. Furthermore, he would make his father's house a house of prayer for all nations.
At that time of Jesus, more than 500 years after the destruction by the Babylonians of the Temple built by King Solomon, the Temple of Jerusalem was bigger than ever, it was 15 stories high. Never mind, in 70 AD, the second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans and has never been rebuilt.
So where is the house of prayer for all peoples? The author of the letter to the Hebrews says: “But Christ, the High Priest of the goods to come, was already present through the broadest and most perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is, not of this creation; and not by the blood of goats or calves, but by his own blood, he entered the most holy place once, having obtained for us eternal redemption. " (Hebrews 9: 11-12).
Our Lord respected and loved Joseph and Mary, so he fulfilled the Fourth Commandment. But He loved his heavenly Father more, according to the First Commandment. He also respected the Temple of Jerusalem to fulfill the Third Commandment. He stayed in the Temple to hear the Word of God. His response to Joseph and Mary was not rebellion, but innocence. Why would they look for him anywhere but his Father's house?
However, through his death and resurrection, Jesus made a new covenant with all nations. And that's why he changed everything. There is no need for the sacrifices inside the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem, because Jesus Christ, the true Lamb of God, made the perfect propitiatory sacrifice once and for all. Like Joseph and Mary, we should not look for Jesus outside of God's house. But, now, the house of God is anywhere Jesus is. "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them," says Matthew 18:20.
Therefore, we do not have to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship God or offer sacrifices of thanksgiving. We have this building here and today we thank God for this blessing, a special place dedicated to the Lord. There are larger and older temples, of course. But they are all equal to the Tabernacle, the mobile sanctuary, that the people of Israel used in the desert and for many years in the Promised Land, even Solomon built the first temple. That will last forever are the reunited souls, living stones of the heavenly temple, as Saint Peter says.
We thank God for this temple, also for each one of you. In the joy of the gospel and the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
Send Pastor David Ernst an email.