1st Sunday after Epiphany + Luke 2:41-52 + January 8, 2017

Order of Holy Communion - 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 


I saw the Lord sitting on a throne
High and lifted up,
And I heard the voice of a great multitude, saying, “Alleluia!
For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! (Isaiah 6:1b; Revelation 19:6a, c)
Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations. (Psalm 100:1-2a, 3a, 4a, 5)
I saw the Lord sitting on a throne,
High and lifted up,
And I heard the voice of a great multitude, saying, “Alleluia!
For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! (Isaiah 6:1b; Revelation 19:6a, c)

Collect for the First Sunday after Epiphany
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. 

Isaiah 61:1-3
Romans 12:1-5
Luke 2:41-52 

Sermon on the Holy Gospel

Grace and Peace be unto you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1)         The middle and late second century AD, 150 to 200, saw a number of “infancy gospels” of Jesus. Speculation ran wild as people wondered, “Just what was Jesus like as a child?” Some of this was fueled by pious imagination, people who simply loved the Lord and wanted to know more than the Scriptures told. Others, Gnostic heretics, sought to change the shape of Christianity by introducing stories about the boy Jesus that would show an entirely different side of Him. One of the less restrained “infancy gospels” is the “Infancy Story of Thomas.” A few of the imagined tales were harmless enough. Others portrayed Jesus as downright mean in the use of His divine power. One states, “He made soft clay and fashioned from it twelve sparrows. And it was the Sabbath when he did this.” Another tells of a boy that runs into Jesus. “Jesus was exasperated,” the story goes, “and said to him, ‘You shall not go further on your way.’ And the child immediately fell down and died.” In another story, Jesus and friends are playing on the roof of a house when one boy falls off the roof and dies. When a group of adults comes and accuses Jesus of pushing the boy from the roof, the boy Jesus responds, “I did not throw him down.” Then Jesus called out, “’Zenon’ – for that was his name – ‘arise and tell me, did I throw you down?’ And he arose at once and said: ‘No, Lord, you did not throw me down, but raised me up.’”[1] Some of these seem innocent enough while others are outright blasphemous.

2)         The entire reason these infancy gospels found any traction among people was the desire to go beyond the pages of Holy Scripture. People, even repentant, believing, and pious Christians, are tempted to disregard that which is written for our salvation by the prophets and apostles. People want something catchier, something flashier, and something with more pizazz. Perhaps the reason these infancy stories of Jesus arose and stuck was the fact that the four evangelists give us only one event from the childhood of Jesus. After His nativity, the visit of the Magi, His presentation in the temple and flight to Egypt, the gospels are silent about Jesus’ life until He appears at the banks of the Jordan to be baptized by John. It is Luke alone who records this one event from Jesus’ childhood and it is nothing like the fiction cooked up at least one hundred years later. Luke’s account, inspired by the Holy Ghost, is quite tame compared to the man-made, almost Hollywood-esque infancy stories. Jesus does no miracles. The boy does not spend His time using His divine power to entertain Himself or raise fallen playmates. Jesus doesn’t use His divine power at all. Jesus, “being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross,” St. Paul writes in Philippians 2:8. He humbled Himself. He emptied Himself out. He made Himself nothing and though He was the Word of God in human flesh, He did not use His divine power, but hid it underneath the veil of His full humanity. We elsewhere that Jesus was not known to have ever done a miracle before His ministry, for after a miracle a crowds murmured, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary?” (Matthew 13:54-55).

3)         The Jesus that St. Luke presents to us has works of an entirely different caliber. The first thing Luke points out is that as boy, Jesus was faithful to the Law of Moses. The gospel lesson opens with Jesus going to Jerusalem with His parents to celebrate the Feast of Passover. The Lord says in Exodus 23 that three festivals are mandatory: the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is Passover, the Feast of Harvest and the Feast of the Ingathering at the end of the year. The Lord said, “Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord GOD” (Exodus 23:17). Jesus, as the Word of God incarnate, living a fully human life under the Law of God, fulfills the Law perfectly, as we spoke of last week about His circumcision. His circumcision makes Him liable for the entire Law of Moses. This week we see Jesus fulfilling the Law of Moses. The great work that Jesus does here is not miracles, healings, resurrections, and the like. The great work He does on this occasion, and therefore all throughout the rest of His youth, is the work of living under the Law perfectly, spotlessly and blamelessly, not for His own sake, but for ours, so that when we believe in Him, God forgives our sins and credits Christ’s perfect righteousness to us.

4)         We also see the boy Jesus, God in human flesh, being subject to the teachers of the church. When Mary and Joseph find Jesus, He is “in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening and asking them questions.” The boy Jesus was not being belligerent, otherwise He would not have been tolerated in the temple for three days. Rather Jesus was subject to the God-given authority of the Levites, listening to them diligently, learning from them, and respectfully asking questions. Luke writes that “all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.” Jesus, living a fully human life in a complete human nature, humbled Himself to be obedient even to men whom God has appointed to teach the Word. This shows us the great humility of Jesus. Christ IS fully God as well as fully man! St. Paul calls “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). Jesus is the Word of God by whom all things were made. Yet the Word of God incarnate humbles Himself to be taught the Word by the teachers of the Law in the temple courts. The Wisdom of God in human flesh condescends to listen to the Wisdom of God in the Holy Scriptures from the mouths of men whom He ordained to teach the faith. Jesus, though He is God, shows us by example the admonition of Hebrews 13:17 which says, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” Like His obedience to the Law, so it is with His subjection to the priests and Levites whom God had ordained to teach. It is not a flashy or eye-catching work, but it is one that God has commanded: obedience to spiritual authority.

5)         Finally, we also see the boy Jesus, God in human flesh, being subject to His earthly parents. He made no qualms about obeying the mother that bore Him in the womb and gave birth to Him. He doesn’t, as so many do in our age, snap at Joseph and claim independence from his authority because he’s not His real dad. Quite the opposite. Once Mary and Joseph find the boy Jesus in the temple, about His heavenly Father’s business, “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them.” Again we see Jesus doing a great work, a God-commanded and God-pleasing work which we seldom see in our day. He is subject to His parents! The eternal Son of God, who is of the same substance with the Father, the Word who was in the beginning with God and who was God (John 1:1), submits to earthly His earthly parents, both of them, even though He took no part of His flesh from Joseph. This is a God-pleasing work because the Lord commands this to all children in the Fourth Commandment, “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). And though this is God-pleasing work, it is one that we hardly see today. Luther extolls this commandment in the Large Catechism. He writes, “We rejoice to show them honor and obedience, because we know it is so highly pleasing to the Divine Majesty and to all angels, and vexes all devils, and is, besides, the highest work which we can do, after the sublime divine worship comprehended in the previous commandments; so that giving of alms and every other good work toward our neighbor are not equal to this. For God has assigned this estate the highest place, yea, has set it up in His own stead, upon earth. This will and pleasure of God ought to be a sufficient reason and incentive to us to do what we can with good will and pleasure.”[2]

6)         The great work that Christ does in His childhood is obedience. He was subject to the Mosaic Law even though He was the One who gave Moses the Law. He was subject to the Priests and Levites even though He was the One who ordained their office and their doctrine. He was subject to His earthly parents even though He was begotten from God the Father from eternity. He does all of this to fulfill the Law of God on our behalf, so that all who believe the gospel have His perfect righteousness credited to us, so that by faith we are righteous before God. He also does this as an example, so that we be subject to God’s Word, to God’s representatives in the church and in the state and in our homes. We need this example, whether we have children at home to raise or not, or parents living whom we must honor, we are all under the fatherhood of a pastor, a Bishop in my case, and the State. And as Luther lamented, this good work is often passed over as a second-class work because it is not catchy, flashy, or much of anything in the eyes of the world.

7)         But this is the good work to which God calls us today and sets before us in the example of the boy Jesus, who did no flashy work in His childhood. He did not great miracle to draw attention to Himself and His divine power as the authors of the “infancy gospels” desired. Instead, He humbled Himself to obedience to His Father’s will so that in all things He was about His heavenly Father’s business. He humbled Himself, living a fully human life on our behalf, growing in stature and wisdom according to the flesh, even as He later would suffer and die according to the flesh to atone for our sins. As we consider Christ’s humility during His childhood in this text, let us be content with what God gives us in His Word about Christ, and let us consider also St. Paul’s words in Philippians 2:5: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, the mind of humility, the mind of obedience to God’s representatives on earth, and the mind which seeks to always be about the business of our Heavenly Father, hearing His Word and gladly learning it. Amen.

May the peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

[1] The Infancy Story of Thomas. 2.2; 4.4; 9.1-3.
[2] Large Catechism I.125

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