Where Are You Looking?

January 03, 2021
By Rev. David French

In today’s Gospel reading we find the story about Mary, Joseph, and the 12-year-old Jesus as they were returning home from celebrating the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem. Among other things, this story reminds us that Jesus didn’t grow up in some sort of holy bubble surrounded by angels, but He had friends and cousins and traveled with His family just like every other boy his age.

One of the things most of us who live in Lafayette have seen at one time or another is the number of cars that stream out of town after a Purdue home football game. Now imagine, if you will, that after a game when everyone is leaving that the roads aren’t filled with cars, but with people who are walking instead of driving. Now imagine that you’re one of those people in that stream of humanity and almost all of them are family or friends. It wouldn’t seem strange at all for the children in that group to find one another and play games as they walked toward home. They might walk with one family for a while and then another, running in and out and just being kids. Mary and Joseph, it seems, assumed that Jesus was just somewhere in the crowd playing with His friends. They wouldn’t have any reason to think He was missing until they set up camp at the end of the day. But then, as they looked for Him among the crowd, they realized something was wrong.

I can’t imagine anyone in that situation waiting until the next day to start looking for their child. So, I imagine Mary and Joseph immediately headed back the way they came, hoping to find Jesus somewhere along the road. When they didn’t, they began to search all over Jerusalem. Finally, after three days, they found their son in the temple debating theology with the teachers of the law.

Mary expressed the dual emotions that all parents have when they find their lost child: relief that He was OK and frustration for putting them through that nightmare. Mary said, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” But, it’s the answer Jesus gives that challenged Mary and Joseph, and challenges us to consider again - our priorities. Jesus said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house.” Or, as the King James version more accurately puts it, “Did you not know I must be about my Father’s business?” Jesus is basically saying: Mom, if you really knew me, if you understood what happened to you, the temple is the only place you would have looked for me.

And, consider what they found. Our lesson revealed, “After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.” In the culture of that day, teachers sat and disciples stood. The fact that Jesus was sitting among the teachers meant He had been accepted as a peer, that He was engaged in the discussion as one among equals.

Now, I understand the temptation to think, “Well, of course Jesus was good at theology. He’s God. He’s the One who spoke with Moses and the prophets in the first place. He’s the very Word made flesh. It’s not too hard to know a book if you’re the author.” And that would indeed be a valid point if Jesus used His divine power, but that’s not what He did. Remember, Jesus set aside His glory - He humbled himself to be born of a virgin - and that, you may recall from your catechism, is what’s known as Christ’s state of humiliation. What that means in practical terms is that during Christ’s time on earth, He did not use His divine power for His own advantage, and that includes His schooling. You see, Jesus grew in wisdom because He studied the Scriptures and He learned His theology the same way everyone else did. In synagogue He would have learned to read using the Scriptures.

If you have a child whose mind is focused on Holy Scripture and then you set that child loose in Jerusalem, you know He’s going to find His way to the temple, and so, the teachers of the Scriptures. That is, as Jesus pointed out, the first place you should look for Him. Jesus’s words not only convict Mary and Joseph, but they also convict us. I mean, while the story may be familiar, it seems the point often gets lost. That is seen as we waste time and energy looking for Jesus everywhere except where He promised He would be.

Too often, we think Paul’s words to Timothy are meant for someone else, but as we hear them, they are spoken to us: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” We flirt with false teachings as though they’re no big deal, as though as long as you know more truth than lies, you’ll be fine, and then wonder if God has forgotten us.

My friends, listen to Jesus’s words, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know I had to be about my Father’s business?” So, if Jesus is found doing His Father’s business, what is the business of His Father? Well, the business of His Father is what we see Jesus doing while He walked among us. Things like: living in accordance to the law; teaching about the kingdom of God, taking all our sins upon himself and carrying them to the cross where they would be fully paid for.

You see, God is in the saving business, and so it is in the saving work of God that we find Jesus. The problem is, the business of saving sinners is a messy business. The cross is gruesome and bloody. The cross shows us what we deserve, and it shows us the strict justice of God. But, to simply know of the cross is still not finding Jesus. The truth is, we can’t see the things of the Father until He gives us eyes of faith. That is, apart from faith we will never find Jesus.

Mercifully, God gives us His Holy Spirit to create faith through the gifts He freely offers to all people, His Word and Sacraments. Through those gifts, what we come to see as we look at the cross is not just the wrath of God, but Jesus being about His Father’s business. And while we might be tempted to think that this lesson is a story about Jesus being lost, the truth is, it’s a lesson about where Jesus can be found. He is found in His Word and Sacraments, the very means the Father uses to bring the finished product of Christ’s work, that is, the salvation of all to you.

In His name, Amen.

Tags: Luke 2:40-52
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