First Sunday after Epiphany - Luke 2:41-52 - January 10, 2016
Order of Service - Pg. 15
Hymn #1 Open Now Thy Gates of Beauty
Hymn #133 Within the Father's House
Hymn #106 The People that in Darkness Sat
Hymn #1 Open Now Thy Gates of Beauty
Hymn #133 Within the Father's House
Hymn #106 The People that in Darkness Sat
Collect for the Day
O Lord, we beseech Thee mercifully to receive the prayers of Thy people who call upon Thee, and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Sermon on the Holy Gospel
1) Mary and Joseph had been given a great gift in being the parents of God in human flesh. They had done all things well throughout Jesus’ childhood, providing for Him, taking Him to Egypt to escape Herod’s murderous wrath, and even going to Jerusalem every year for the three main feasts commanded by the Lord. Joseph steadfastly guarded the child and His bride. The Virgin Mary had nursed the infant Messiah and treasured the entire experience in her heart. When Jesus is twelve, they go up to Jerusalem for Passover, as they had done every year, in faithfulness to the Lord’s command. Then they lose the boy. Mary and Joseph were definitely not the helicopter parents of today. And it wasn’t entirely their fault. When they had finished the days of the feast, as they returned to Nazareth, the boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. Mary and Joseph suppose Jesus to be in the company of their fellow travelers. There must’ve been a great crowd of people from Nazareth and the surrounding areas that had travelled to Jerusalem for Passover. After all, all Israel was to attend the Passover in Jerusalem. So Mary and Joseph depart from Jerusalem assuming that Jesus is part of their company of fellow travelers heading in the same direction to get home. After an entire day of travel they seek Jesus among their relative and acquaintances in the group. It’s then they realize every parent’s worst fear: We’ve lost our child. To add to their anxiety, their child, whom they’ve misplaced, is also the Only-Begotten Son of God in human flesh. It’s not just her son that Mary’s lost. It’s God’s Son. They return to Jerusalem and there they search for the boy three days and you know they didn’t sleep a wink during those three days. They had lost Jesus entirely. And with that knowledge came terror, dread, and an exceedingly great fear.
2) Why they didn’t think to look in the Temple, I don’t know. Perhaps it was the fog of worry that clouded their thinking. Maybe they didn’t realize just how well their son, even at the age of twelve, understood His identity. But there He was, now being there four days, in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening and asking them questions. Jesus, even at the age of twelve, understood His calling as the Messiah. He is where He would spend most of His time in Jerusalem years later, in the temple, teaching the people. St. Luke doesn’t tell us the content of His teaching but you can be sure that it was about the kingdom of God, His office as the Messiah from sin, death, and the power of the Devil. You can bet that the young Jesus was asking questions of the temple teachers about the Holy Scriptures, not to learn but to teach these aged men what God had foretold about the coming Messiah, how He would be both true God and true man, and that He must suffer at the hands of the impenitent for the sins of the world. Sitting in the temple, we can imagine the youth pointing to the bronze altar for the atoning sacrifices, motioning to the divinely-ordained duties of the priests, and asking what all these had to do with the coming Messiah, what all these things taught Israel about God’s coming redemption in the Christ.
3) Jesus must’ve been full of wisdom and understanding at this age in order to speak and listen with the temple teachers for four days. Of course He would be, He is the second person of the Holy Trinity in human flesh. He is the one who spoke the Law to Moses, since He is the Word of God Himself. And as he speaks to these hoary headed men and asks them questions to teach them the Scriptures, he does so with reverence toward them, showing them honor as His elders, even though He is from eternity. St. Luke shows us quite the contrast between the franticly searching Mary and the calm teacher of faith, Jesus. When Mary and Joseph do find Him they were amazed. They weren’t amazed that he was okay after being out of their care four days. They weren’t amazed that he had the gall to do this to them. They were amazed that there he was, twelve years old, listening to the elders of the Levites and teaching them the Gospel. To them, Christ was lost. But Christ was exactly where He was supposed to be, about His Father’s business. What is the Father’s business? Teaching the Gospel of the Messiah and the forgiveness of sins, pointing to the altar of sacrifice as a picture of what Messiah would do for the entire world, atone for all its sins, so that all who believe in Him would possess that atonement and enjoy the forgiveness of all their sins. Mary and Joseph were frantic and frenetic, imagining they had lost Christ. They found Him where He was supposed to be: in His Father’s house, being about His Father’s business, fulfilling His calling.
4) In Mary and Joseph we see a picture of humanity and ourselves. There are those moments when it seems that we have lost Christ entirely and that He no longer dwells with us. One such moment is the moment of temptation to sin. In moments of intense temptation Christ often does not appear to be present with us, especially as the temptation seems more to grow more powerful in our minds than does Christ’s Word. Just because you are tempted, however, does not mean that you have lost Christ. Temptations are bound to come and you will be assailed by them until your baptism is fulfilled and you put off the Old Adam for the final time in death. Temptation to sin is a part of life in the flesh. The Lord is faithful in moments of temptation. St. Peter tells you in 2 Peter 2:9, the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations. The Lord Jesus teaches us to pray, lead us not into temptation, which doesn’t mean we’re praying to never enter into temptation, but that we are praying to overcome every temptation by faith in the promises of Christ. Luther writes in the Large Catechism, This, then, is leading us not into temptation, to wit, when He gives us power and strength to resist, the temptation, however, not being taken away or removed. For while we live in the flesh and have the devil about us, no one can escape temptation and allurements; and it cannot be otherwise than that we must endure trials, yea, be engulfed in them; but we pray for this, that we may not fall and be drowned in them. To feel temptation is therefore a far different thing from consenting or yielding to it. We must all feel it, although not all in the same manner.  In the hour of temptation, you have not lost Christ, dear saints. Instead, you know that as you feel temptation in your flesh that is a sign that you belong to Christ, for those that do not belong to Christ by faith feel no temptation but live their lives always going along with sin and consenting willfully to it allurements.
5) We must be on our guard against temptation though. Feeling a temptation is not sin, but willfully walking into sin does endanger our salvation. As Luther wrote about temptation, to feel temptation is therefore a far different thing from consenting or yielding to it. If we yield to temptation and become engulfed in sin, we risk losing Christ by pushing our of heart to make room for sin. The Christian can fall away from the faith through unholy living. Jesus teaches in the parable of the sower that there are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away (Luke 8:13). St. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 13:5, Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? -- unless indeed you are disqualified. Willful sinning will drive out the Holy Ghost and Christ from the heart, for Christ cannot dwell where sin is given free reign, nor with the Holy Ghost remain in the heart that has set itself to sin against conscience. Solomon writes that the holy spirit of discipline will flee deceit, and remove from thoughts that are without understanding, and will not abide when unrighteousness cometh in (Wisdom 1:5). The Christian is to be ever vigilant against temptation and situations in which we know we will be tempted. St. Peter writes, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked (2 Peter 3:17).
6) Another instance in which we may feel as if we have lost Christ is in times of sadness and despair. People often assume that they are supposed to feel God’s presence rather than experience if by faith alone, which implies that it is unseen and unfelt since faith is the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Sadness and melancholy are a natural part of life in this sinful world. When we lose a loved one to death it is right to mourn, and in our mourning we sometimes say with Mary, Lord, if You had been here, my love one would not have died (John 11:21). When confronted with the news of death, the doctors’ report of disease, or something as simple as the loss of the ability to do what we once could easily accomplish, there is a sorrow which is normal. In moments of sorrow we are tempted to mourn and sorrow as the world mourns, without hope of resurrection from the dead, without hope of renewed life in the presence of the Lord, and without hope in a restoration of all things on the Last Day. Sorrow easily turns to despair of life, despair of our situation, and worst of all, despair of God’s mercy, thinking that He is distant, far off, and lost to us because we do not feel His presence. In spite of this He is with you, for His presence is not one that is felt, for we know that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith (Ephesians 3:17), and Jesus says in John 14:23, If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. No matter what sorrows you, what trouble you, and what has befallen you, Christ is not lost to you, but it dwells in your hearts by faith in His word of promise.
7) It was a terrible moment for Mary and Joseph when they lost their son and God’s Son. But Christ was not truly lost. He was exactly where the prophets said He would be, in His holy temple. When through temptation, loss, or sorrow you feel as if Christ is lost to you, He is not. He still right where He is supposed to be, found in His Word and Gospel. He is still about His Father’s business, teaching you faith in His atonement for sin, trust in His teaching, and confidence in all His mercies, which are new every morning. He can only be lost from you if you cast Him from your heart by willfully sinning and yielding to temptation. You can leave Him, but He shall never leave you, for He has promised never to leave you nor forsake you. It is as the Church sings in Song of Solomon 6:3, I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine. Take comfort in these words, dear saints, for they are words for you. Amen.
Rev. Josh Sullivan (ELDONA)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church (UAC)
Kerrville, TX 78028