Beloved. Today’s Gospel brings us out of the Christmas season. We no longer have the Baby Jesus like we did last Sunday when we met Him in the temple when He was just 40 days old. Instead we jump ahead 12 years to the time that Jesus is now old enough under Jewish Law to assume the religious obligations; when He would have been trained to observe all religious duties and to take part in the festivals. In our text, St. Luke gives us a bit of a glimpse into Jesus’ upbringing when he writes: Every year [Jesus’] parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. Here we see the faithfulness of Sts. Mary and Joseph; we see Jesus was raised in a godly home; we see that St. Joseph assumed the true and right role for the husband/ father in the family by being the spiritual head of the family making sure that the Lord and His word are taught and lived out. Not only was St. Joseph the physical protector of the family but He was also the spiritual protector. St. Joseph is an excellent example for all Christian husbands and fathers.
When he was twelve years old, they went up according to the custom of the Festival. At this first visit to the temple by the holy family when Jesus was considered old enough to assume the religious obligations of an Israelite male, we read of what must have been the most horrible thing that could have happened: When the days had ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it. Jesus had turned up missing. It wasn’t bad parenting on Mary and Joseph’s part. Unlike today, back then children had more freedom to run and roam unsupervised, like we had several generations ago. And it wasn’t just the Holy Family on a road trip. Instead, the practically the whole village would empty out and head to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. The villagers, many of whom were related to each other, would travel together in a caravan to Jerusalem and back. That’s why Mary and Joseph weren’t surprised and worried if Jesus wasn't within eyeshot. Since they thought he was in their group, they went a day’s journey. Then they began to look for him among their relatives and friends. When the caravan to Nazareth stopped for the night, it was first then they began looking for Jesus and realized He wasn’t there. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him.
There’s also a lesson for us here. At times it seems to us in our lives that Jesus has gone missing. Like Sts. Mary and Joseph went along the whole time assuming that Jesus was with them, so too, we, when things seem to be going well for us or even at the status quo, assume that Jesus is with us and don’t really look for Him; we just take for granted that He is. We don’t seek Him out; we don’t especially go out of our way to look for Him to talk with Him in prayer, to praise Him, to seek His forgiveness; we don’t go to His word looking for Him. But then comes the time where we think Jesus is gone! That we have lost Jesus! That’s the time when we very much feel alone; when hard times especially strike us; when we feel our sin. Then they began to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. Especially at those times, we must remember today’s Gospel: When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us this way? See, your father and I have been anxiously looking for you.” He said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be [in My Father’s house]?” For us, our glorious comfort and assurance is that our Lord is always where He has promised to meet us—in His holy word and Sacrament. In and through these Jesus is present ad the eyes of faith recognize Him there with us. And through these He is strengthening us in our faith, giving us His gracious gifts and assuring us that He is with us. Here in Church is where we find Jesus in “full force.” Here His holy word is taught and preached. Here is His holy sacrament where Jesus gives us His very body and blood, comes and unites Himself with us in the most intimate way. A very vital lesson for us to remember this first Sunday of the New Year!
Although we have left Christmas behind, we really haven’t—in the Church at least. Yes, we are now in the Epiphany season but, in a sense, Epiphany is the continuation of Christmas. Now, in the Epiphany season, we see exactly who that Baby was who was born of the virgin. Epiphany is the lifting of the veil and the glory of the eternal God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, shining through. That’s exactly what we have in our text: a seemingly ordinary 12 year old boy is revealed/ reveals Himself as the true God. Our text is an interesting example of “how it works” that Jesus is one Person but both true God and true man.
Every year [Jesus’] parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. When he was twelve years old, they went up according to the custom of the Festival. What an amazing statement! The eternal Son of God is twelve years old? Yes! According to His divinity, He is eternal. But according to His humanity, He is twelve years old. And then we see something similar at the end of our text: Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people. The all-knowing God, grew in wisdom? Absolutely! Jesus is the eternal, all-knowing God, but He humbled Himself; He did not always or fully make use of all of His divine omniscience, His knowing all things. But look at the knowledge, the wisdom that Jesus had/ used: After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. Although Jesus did not always use His divine omniscience/ knowing all things, He still had great knowledge even as a Child. Certainly we see here the rays of heavenly wisdom shining through His human lowliness, as Jesus, eager as a true human boy to learn, shows a depth of understanding and speaks divine wisdom and truth. Notice, He was sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. That was the way the rabbis taught—by asking questions to stimulate more profound thinking. So even as a Boy, Jesus was really a rabbi par excellence. In an imagined, but certainly not out of the realm of possibility, snippet of what this sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions was like, noted 16th century Lutheran pastor Valerius Herberger gives this following exchange:
Jesus asks: What is the significance of the bloody offering of the lamb and the burnt-offering? The teachers answered: God has commanded it. He asks further: Why did God command it? They say: It so pleased Him. The Boy continues questioning: Why did these bloody burnt-offerings so please God? Was it perhaps because the Messiah should so bleed and burn in the wrath of God, as it reads in the prophet Isaiah? At this the old gentlemen become dismayed and say: This Boy is smarter than all of us put together. [Stoeckhardt, Homiletical Aids, Sermons… pg. 168]
It was clear for all to see, that Jesus’ wisdom and knowledge were not just a result of a godly upbringing; nor was it because He read it in a book or was a child prodigy. Instead, it was clear even to the teachers that this was a divine wisdom shining through: all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
Jesus was fully aware of who He is—not only is He the Son of Mary but He is the Son of God, true God. Our text: When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us this way? See, your father and I have been anxiously looking for you.” 49He said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be taking care of my Father’s business?” Jesus doesn’t simply call God the Father, “our Father”—like any pious Jew would have done, or as we Christians today say in the Lord’s Prayer. Instead He says: my Father. Jesus is not in the same relation to the Father as all other believers. We, dear Christian, are children of God by grace, adoption, holy baptism; Jesus is the Son of God, eternally begotten Son of the Father, very God of very God. This eternal Son of God took on human flesh and blood in the womb of the Virgin and became also true man, being born that first Christmas and grew to be 12 years old in our text. In this simple phrase, the very first recorded words of Jesus, He expresses a very profound truth: that He is God and that He is fully aware of His role to save humanity from sin, death and hell and to bring us peace with God, reconciliation, forgiveness and righteousness, eternal life and heaven. “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be taking care of my Father’s business?”
Jesus had a task: to carry out God’s of salvation. And here, at age 12, Jesus announces it publicly. He dedicates Himself to His task, as He would also say later during His public ministry [John 4.34]: My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. What does this mean for us? It means our salvation is certain. Jesus does not let His work slide; He is not lax in doing it. He dedicated Himself to do the work of bringing about the salvation of the world and nothing stopped Him from doing so. Even what we read at the end of our text teaches us Jesus doing the work for us that He came to do: He went down with them and came to Nazareth. He was always obedient to them. Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people. The point? Jesus was obedient and submitted to Mary and Joseph, obeying the 4th Commandment—and all the rest of them—for us. This, too, was part of Jesus’ saving work for us, living a sinless life for us. “Did you not know that I must be taking care of my Father’s business?” Jesus must be, that is, it is necessary that He do it; it is impossible for Him not to do it. God became man, was born that first Christmas; and from the get go He knew why and He would carry out His work.
What a glorious comfort that is for us! Since there is no uncertainty or hesitation from Jesus, we can be certain, then, of our forgiveness and eternal life. The events of today’s Gospel were not a fluke; there was no mistake on Jesus’ part; He didn’t “miss His ride” back to Nazareth with the caravan. What does our text say? The boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. That was by His holy premeditation. By this Jesus wanted to make clear who He was and what He was to do. Look at what happened. Jesus was missing for three days. And when He was found, He was found in the temple. Is that coincidence? Hardly! Look at what they point to. We have the temple—what happens in the temple? The word of God is taught there; it’s where He is served. And it is the place where sacrifices take place—sacrifices that pointed the penitent to the one perfect sacrifice of the long promised Messiah for the sins of the world. And then there’s the prophecy from the last OT prophet, St. Malachi, who records the Lord’s word [Mal. 3.1]: And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple. A fluke Jesus was found there?
And then the three days: After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. The three days remind us of Jesus’ three day rest in the tomb. Here is a foreshadowing of Mother Mary and the rest suffering great pains longing to see Jesus who died and was buried those three days! When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us this way? See, your father and I have been anxiously looking for you.” With this three day searching and finding of Jesus, we are pointed ahead to Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Jesus is gone, away, hidden but is found again! Did Sts. Mary and Joseph catch these foreshadows? Probably not! But we do and that makes us all the certain of our faith. By all these little glimpses and foreshadows we see in our Lord’s life, we see the beautiful working—all down to the minutest detail—of our gracious Lord for our salvation. In Epiphany we see Jesus revealed—true man and true God. May we be like Mary as Jesus reveals Himself to us in His word this Epiphany season: And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. INJ Amen