Sermons

Archives - January 2021

His Good and Gracious Will

January 31, 2021
By Rev. David French

As we work our way through school, there comes a time when we are introduced to the footnote. Now, to be clear, I am a fan of footnotes, but I’ve read “scholarly” articles where the footnotes had more verbiage than the article. More often than not, these footnotes tell us that the author didn’t come up with his ideas by himself. Instead, he’s basing his work on the work of other people. Some he agrees with, others he doesn’t. At times it can become so convoluted you forget what the article was about. That’s what it was like for the people at the synagogue in today’s gospel lesson.

The scribe’s traditional form of teaching was to compare the teachings of the great authorities. It was like listening to someone who had no understanding of their own, but constantly quoted others to defend whatever they were spewing. If we use a little imagination, a typical scribe would sound something like this: “Rabbi Yoseef and Rabbi Yokab agree on this interpretation of Moses, but Rabbi Ytzaak disagrees as does Zokel the elder. In order to get a synthesis and reconcile these opposing viewpoints, we must go to the later works of Rabbi Yoktof, as he has an elegant discussion on the topic….”

After a lifetime of listening to that kind of teaching, Jesus must have been like a breath of fresh air. When He taught, He actually revealed the point. He would read a passage of God’s Word and then tell you exactly what you should learn from it. With every word, Jesus revealed God’s intent as He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. When the scribes taught, they used fine sounding gobbledygook that, at best, distorted the true meaning of God’s Word. When Jesus taught, the people heard God's Word in its truth and purity. Those in the synagogue hung on Jesus’s every word. They were astonished by his teaching as Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God.

For the most part, the people were thrilled to hear Jesus open God’s word for them. However, on that day, Jesus’s words did upset one listener, that is the one with an unclean spirit - a demon. This demon was content and quiet as the scribes taught about wisdom and hid the true meaning of God’s Word. As far as the demon was concerned, this was a good thing.  The wisdom of man meant, however, that the listeners were not being fed God’s Word, that they were not hearing the truth. As generations passed, their faith in the coming Messiah was getting weaker; they were being starved. The scribes themselves didn't care. They had long ago lost interest in the true meaning of God’s Word. 

On the other hand, the demon became extremely agitated when Jesus began to speak. This was painful to the demon. The listeners were hearing the Word of God in its truth and purity. They were learning that faith in the Messiah who stood before them would save them from their sins. They were learning that there was a true eternal punishment for those who rejected God’s salvation and eternal blessing for those who believed. God was saving people right there in the synagogue that used to be so safe and comfortable for this demon. The pain was too much; the demon had to do something to stop Jesus from teaching the Good News of salvation by grace through faith. He cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”

The demon was trying to take the people back to Mount Sinai and the giving of the Law. There, when God gave the Law, the people were afraid and wanted nothing to do with Him. The Holy Spirit inspired Moses to describe the scene this way: “Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die’” (Exodus 20:18). It seems the demon hoped these children or God would remember the terror of their forefathers seeing their sin in the presence of the holy God. He hoped they would share that fear by calling Jesus the Holy One of that same God.

All of us who are born of sin were born in the same condition as that man in the synagogue. We may not have acted as evil as this man, but we were slaves to sin just the same. Just as the demon in that synagogue tried to stop the proclamation of God’s Word, our sinful nature also tries to interfere with the proclamation and understanding of God’s Word in our lives today.

Remember, God’s Word afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted. God’s Word is offensive, irritating, and even painful to those who trust in their own righteousness. It’s a healing balm and salvation itself to those who trust in the God who revealed Himself to us on the cross. The preaching of God’s Word is, as He reveals through St. Paul, “... a stumbling block to some and folly to others, but to those who are called, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:23-25).

Today’s gospel lesson shows how Jesus, the incarnate word of God, used this demon-possessed man to teach how God can take something evil and turn it into something good. Jesus rebuked the demon, “… And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’” And at once his fame spread throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee. Jesus spoke and the demon obeyed, revealing Himself to be the Messiah. The demon hoped to make the people afraid of Jesus. Instead, the demon provided Jesus with an opportunity to reveal Himself to the people of God. And so, the result of the demon’s attempt to disrupt Jesus was His fame increased throughout the surrounding countryside.

Jesus accomplished our salvation in a similar way. The leaders of the Jewish people used evil tactics to turn the people against Jesus, with the intent of killing Jesus. The soldiers who nailed Jesus to the cross intended to put Him to death. The spiritual and human forces who worked together to put Jesus on the cross meant it for evil, but God used that evil intent to work salvation for us all.

Dear children of God, it was on the cross that Jesus took away the sin of the entire world. It was on the cross that Jesus revealed Himself to be our savior as He changed the shame of the cross into our victory over sin, death, and the power of the devil. With His resurrection from the dead and His appearance to hundreds of witnesses, Jesus proclaimed His victory to the world.

From today’s lesson we learn that demons can be comfortable in God’s house. We should understand that the same is true of our sinful nature, but only when the Word of God is diluted or ignored; and both will protest wildly when God’s word is declared in its truth and purity. And, that because in its truth and purity, God’s Word has the power to remove our demons and forgive our sins, that we also might share in His kingdom knowing His will, His good and gracious will, revealed in Christ for us all

In His name, Amen.

Tags: Mark 1:21-28

Do We Get It?

January 24, 2021
By Rev. James Barton

The text for our sermon today is the gospel lesson and especially these words of Jesus, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28).

When people are trying to explain something to you, do you always get what they are saying right away? Obviously, it doesn’t work that way too much of the time. It takes more explaining and more time before you really understand. My wife would say it’s like trying to teach me how to do something new on my iPhone; or Amanda, our technical support person, trying to show me how to use the microphone for the worship service. It’s not always easy to learn new things.

That is why, as we begin Lutheran Schools Week in the LCMS and at St. James, we are especially grateful for our teachers and all those who support them. They teach and teach and teach – and try various approaches to reach all their students. It is not easy, and it takes time – but what joy there is when children do understand, when they get something, when they learn and grow.

We know how hard this process is as parents too. Our children don’t learn how to tie their shoes on the first try – or maybe even the hundredth try. They can’t ride their new two-wheel bike immediately. Learning how to play basketball or a musical instrument takes lots of time and practice and teaching.

And the most important thing we want our children to know, ultimately, is about God and His Word and His will and God’s love for us in Jesus our Savior. That’s why we have not just a school, but a Lutheran school, where the Good News of Jesus can be freely taught in word and deed and in every class. That’s what our school teachers are dedicated to doing too, day after day, year after year, as they also teach and teach and teach about Jesus.

And that’s not at all easy either, as our text for today says, especially when God’s way goes against our human way of thinking. Earlier, Peter had said to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Peter was exactly right. Jesus was the promised Savior, the Son, sent from the Father, for our benefit. But Jesus knew that Peter and the others did not really understand what that meant – and what that meant for Peter or for Jesus Himself.

And so we read in the Scriptures that, “From that time, Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and the chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Matthew 16:21). Peter didn’t want to hear that, and tried to shut Jesus up; but Jesus kept on teaching and teaching the truth (Matthew 16:22-23). A little later, Jesus said again to His disciples, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day. And the disciples were greatly distressed” (Matthew 17:22-23). They must have thought, “What glory and honor is there in all this talk about suffering and dying?” – and they must have been thinking about glory for themselves.

For just a little later, we read that “the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Maybe they hoped that Jesus would say, “Why, it’s you disciples who are the greatest.” Instead, Jesus placed a little child right in the midst of them and called them to simple, humble, childlike trust in God, no matter what. That is greatness in the kingdom of heaven, He says (Matthew 18:1-4).

Jesus just keeps on teaching and teaching the truth. Just before our text for today, Jesus said again, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and He will be raised on the third day” (Matthew 20:18-19). But neither the disciples nor those around them were really getting what Jesus was saying. They should have been very concerned about Him and the dark days ahead for Him and giving Him their help and support. Instead, they are thinking of themselves and what they can get out of Jesus in glory for themselves. We heard in our gospel lesson that the mother of two of the disciples comes with them and asks Jesus for something. She was like most moms, wanting the best for her children, and so she said, “Say that these two sons of mine can have the most glorious spots, closest to you, on your right and left, in your kingdom” (Matthew 20:20-21).

Well, the other ten disciples hear of this and they are indignant, very angry at the two brothers (Matthew 20:24). They probably all thought that the best places ought to be theirs, instead of the others. It was a hot, angry, sorry mess among the disciples – and this was just before the Palm Sunday events and the last days before Jesus’s death. And Jesus Himself is forgotten in all this. (Do you remember the words of our epistle lesson, where Paul warns, “If you bite and devour one another, watch out!” (Galatians 5:15)? That is what was going on among the disciples.) 

And, I wonder if we aren’t part of that sorry mess ourselves, all too often. Don’t we sometimes think and act just like those disciples? We forget our sins and think we’re pretty decent people. We surely deserve things to be better for us than they are, especially in these Covid days. Why doesn’t God give us more of a break and more good things? Surely He will, if He’s a good and fair God. Those sorts of thoughts at least go through our minds at times. 

As our text goes on, Jesus continues to teach and teach the truth. Jesus said on another occasion, “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). We are captives to sin and cannot ever overcome that sin by our own efforts, if left on our own, no matter what we do; and we are headed for what our sins deserve – death, eternal death. But then Jesus brings wonderful Good News as our text ends, “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28) – actually for all people, as other Scriptures tell us. All that talk about suffering and dying was about that “ransom” price that Jesus himself would have to pay and did pay on the cross to set us captives free and give us forgiveness and new life. We are headed now for eternal life, through Jesus.

We are also set free, Jesus says, from the hectic, chaotic struggle of this sinful world, where people vie to become “great ones” by their own power and effort and authority, and ruling and lording it over others, manipulating them, as if they were “god-like” themselves (Matthew 20:25). “It shall not be so among you,” Jesus says. “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave” (Matthew 20: 26-28).

And this is not a scary, but a freeing description of life for us. We don’t have to earn points with God by what we do. Jesus already has paid the full ransom price for us. We try to do our best, but we also know and confess our imperfections, for Jesus already knows all about us and still loves and forgives us. And Jesus already did come to live perfectly in our place and to serve us and help us to grow and learn more, where we are weak, even as we desire for our own children and grandchildren.

All of this is true for all of us, in Christ our Savior, and also for our school. We thank our Lord for all of our teachers and their support staff, for their faithfulness in what they do. They are certainly not getting rich, and they don’t have a lot of honor or fame and may even be opposed by those in our secular society who don’t like Christianity and its values. But, the Lord has brought His blessings, from generation to generation.

I tried to think of teachers from my time at St. James whose names are still around at our church. I could only think of the Klaiber name – as Gertrude Klaiber was my second grade teacher, filling in only one year at that time. My mother also went to the school, another generation back, and the only name I could think of that is still around was the Decker name. Teacher Decker was one of my mother’s teachers, and we still have Deckers in our congregation today. We also have, of course, on our current faculty, two people who were themselves students at St. James – Jake Rogers and Amanda Goodspeed.

We thank God also for all of our parents and teachers and their students at St. James. The school would not exist without them and their great help and support and work with the teachers. We thank the Lord for the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, for its help and assistance in many ways, including some of the service materials today. We thank the Lord for all of you in our congregation and in area congregations who continue to help by your prayers and gifts and support. That is very much needed for the future too. Above all, we thank our Lord for His underserved blessings to us, in Christ, day after day. Remember that every time Jesus spoke of His suffering and death, He also spoke of His resurrection. He still lives and gives us hope for this life and our eternal future, as well.

To God be the glory, now and forever. Amen.

A New Identity

January 17, 2021
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation for this second Sunday after Epiphany comes from our gospel text, especially where John records, “Nathanael answered him, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered him, ‘Because I said to you, “I saw you under the fig tree,” do you believe? You will see greater things than these.’” Here ends our text; my dear Christian friends …

Nathanael was a learned, intelligent man from Galilee. He was friends with Phillip, but that friendship may have been tested a little bit on the day which our text speaks of. Phillip comes up to Nathanael, having just heard a life-altering phrase, “Follow me,” from a stranger. He tells Nathanael about it: “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Again, Nathanael was a learned, intelligent man. Learned as he was, he’d never heard any prophetic writings or teachings pointing to the Messiah coming from a place like Nazareth; thus, his skepticism. He’s not necessarily besmirching Jesus’s hometown, but based on what he’s learned, he knows the Messiah wasn’t supposed to come from there. He’s unconvinced, and he replies in kind, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Phillip, however, doesn’t give this comment much consideration, as he simply replies, “Come and see!” I could almost imagine Nathanael scoffing a little, irritated that Phillip had interrupted his life for something that he knew couldn’t possibly be the case. Now he had to follow his friend to this supposed “Messiah.” He had his doubts … but the One whom he would meet would turn everything upside down.

Nathanael … was a learned man. As they drew near, Jesus saw Nathanael and said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Perplexed, Nathanael, inquires how Jesus knows him. The Nazarene replies, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” From our perspective, it’s a bizarre thing to say, much more so that this was supposed to be Jesus’s answer to the man’s question, but Nathanael, being a learned man, understands instantly … or, at least he thought he did. Thus, his response, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Perhaps enamored, perhaps overcome, he says what he knows as a learned man. He knows that the shade of fig trees is a place of learning, a place where one goes to search and study and learn the Scriptures, and the fact that this rabbi tells him that He saw him as he searched for the Messiah in the texts convinces Nathanael enough that he declares this bold proclamation.

Nathanael was a learned man, but he falls short here. Learned though he was and close as he was in his response, he was not right, even if he wasn’t exactly wrong. Jesus tells him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” In all his learning, and right as he was in pegging Jesus as the Messiah, Nathanael didn’t realize the grander truth: this Messiah, the consolation and redemption of Israel … was none other than God Himself. So Jesus put to shame his knowledge and wisdom, and gave him the new humbled identity of a believer.

That is what the season of Epiphany is all about: revealing this Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph, to be not only the Messiah, the anointed one appointed to save Israel, but the Savior of all mankind, Jews and Gentiles. He is God in the flesh, for only God Himself could do what is necessary to save all people from the punishment for their sins. He is revealing Himself to be the new Jacob’s ladder, the connection between heaven and earth … a connection that would take on a whole new dimension about three years later. But here, He reveals who He is by calling even a learned man like Nathanael to the humble identity of a believer.

The remarkable thing is that He does the exact same thing with you and me. The eternal Word, God incarnate, called you and me in the waters of holy baptism, and gave us all a new identity as believers as well. Whether we are learned or ignorant, wise or foolish, He puts that all to shame with His simply call, “Follow me.” You and I come and see, every week afresh, the One whom Moses and the prophets wrote about. We hear His call to the forgiveness He won for us when He, the new Jacob’s ladder, was suspended between heaven and earth upon the cross. He shames the knowledge of this world by declaring you His own child through simple water and His name. He humbles and humiliates the learned by giving His own body and blood, veiled in, under, and with simple bread and wine, that you may taste and see His goodness and salvation. Phillip and Nathanael were among the first of Jesus’s disciples, but they were by no means the last. In the same way Jesus called them, gave them new identities as believers, He does the same for you and me.

+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

Tags: John 1:43-51

A Performative Word

January 10, 2021
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation as we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord Jesus comes from our gospel text, where Mark records, “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’ ” Here ends our text; my dear Christian friends …

The Word of God has always been performative – that is, it does exactly what it says it does. There’s no questioning involved, there’s no doubt, no hemming-and-hawing. God says it, and it happens. In our Old Testament text, we see the beginning as God says, “Let there be light,” and there was light. The whole creation account reads this way. YHWH speaks and waters appear, then the land, the lights in the heavens, and all living things upon the earth and above the earth and swarming the seas. He says, “Let there be …” and it simply is! He speaks His Word … and it is done.

It was that way, right from the start … even in the midst of the fall. God told Adam that he must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because if he did, then “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  Lo and behold, Eve was beguiled, her husband spinelessly followed her lead, and in that day, they lost the image of God, become mortal, and according to God’s timing, would eventually physically die. There are countless other instances of God declaring His Word and it being done. The flood, the tower of Babel, Abram and Sarai, the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, their wandering in the wilderness, the conquest of Canaan, all the way through history to the restoration of Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity. All declared word of YHWH Elohim … all executed as He said it would be. His Word is performative ….

This is what God does – He speaks, and His Word is done. His will comes to pass. So what’s being done in our gospel text? What is the Word of God performing as Jesus comes up out of the water after being baptized by John in the Jordan, and as the voice of the Father booms from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”? What is being done? Simply put, He is saving you.

Yes, I know that this is about JESUS’S baptism, and yes, I know we’re not supposed to read ourselves into this text, but bear with me. When we look at parallel passages from Matthew’s gospel account, we see John and Jesus have a bit more conversation than Mark records in his account: John asks Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replies, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” In our baptismal liturgy, we pray, “Through the baptism in the Jordan of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, You sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin.”

The Baptism of Christ in the Jordan is about so much more than Jesus getting dunked by John. Mark goes out of his way in his gospel account to show you that this … is where it all starts. It’s no accident that he records no Christmas narrative, nothing about Jesus’s parents, or Herod and his paranoid, genocidal murder of Bethlehem baby boys. He starts here, with the ministry of John the Baptist, crying out in the wilderness, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” … and then here comes Jesus, coming out into the wilderness to “fulfill all righteousness,” and what do we see immediately upon His coming up from being baptized BUT the Holy Spirit descending upon Him, and the Father confirming His identity to all within earshot?

What we are seeing is the beginning of Jesus’s salvific work. From here, He will be whisked away into the desert to be tempted for forty days. After that is accomplished, He will officially start His public ministry in Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” He’ll call His disciples, teach the masses, heal palsied limbs and flows of blood. He’ll provide daily bread and words of forgiveness to unworthy sinners. He’ll evict demons from their hosts and raise the dead … ALL WITH PERFORMATIVE WORDS. He says it, and it is done. This earthly ministry is all intended to point the people back to the Father’s original proclamation from the banks of the Jordan: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Thus it was that Jesus garnered the attention of the masses – masses who didn’t quite understand who He was, but were enamored by this intrusion of divinity into their midst. However, He also garnered the hatred of the leaders of this world who, as all men do, fancied themselves gods, who thought their words ought to be performative. Their insistence in the demand to Pilate, “Crucify Him!” is evidence enough, and his begrudging acquiescence shows what a farce man’s dream of being “God” actually is. No, the only reason that the incarnate Word of God would end up suspended between heaven and hell on the torturous execution device known as a cross is because He spoke the actual divine performative Word, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”

God’s Word is performative. Thus it is when He speaks from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Thus it is when He cries out, “Father, into Your hands, I commit My Spirit,” and “It is finished.” Thus it is when He speaks to the women on Easter morning, “Do not be afraid; go and tell My brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.” And thus it is when He speaks through His servant Paul, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

Jesus’s baptism in the Jordan and His subsequent ministry, crucifixion, death, and resurrection is what you partake of when you are or were baptized in the living name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In those baptismal waters, you are joined to Christ at His performative Word. The Father then speaks over you, “You are My beloved son, you are My beloved daughter; with you, I am well pleased.” He declares to you this day that, by virtue of your participation in Christ’s baptism, death, and resurrection in your baptism, your sins are forgiven, and He has made you His own child. That’s His Word of promise to you: it’s a performative Word, and that means it does what it says it does.

+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

Tags: Mark 1:4-11

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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