1st Sunday after Epiphany + Luke 2:41-52
In the Name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
The evangelists give us a few stories of the first months of Jesus’ life, but tell us almost nothing about the childhood or early adult life of Jesus. Today’s gospel lesson is the only glimpse we have of Christ before His baptism and public ministry. And while in the early church curious individuals wrote infancy gospels imagining what His early life might have been like, the few texts we have of Christ’s infancy and today’s gospel tell us everything we need to know. On the eighth day of His life He was circumcised according to the Law of the Lord. On the fortieth day after giving birth, Mary goes to the Temple to offer the sacrifices for own purification and to present Jesus in the Temple according to the Law of the Lord. Jesus’ life, from the beginning, is lived under Mosaic Law so it should come to no surprise when Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph went up to Jerusalem every year for the Feast of the Passover. The Lord commanded every male of Israel to appear before Him three times a year; at the feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. This was His purpose. He was born under the Law. He did not come to destroy the Law but to fulfill it.
What makes this year’s trip to Jerusalem for Passover so different from the others is what happened on the way back to Nazareth. The caravan of Jews heading north gets a day’s journey away from Jerusalem when Mary and Joseph begin to look for Jesus. Assuming He had been among His relatives they weren’t too concerned that they hadn’t seen Him all day. But when they go looking for him they realize that He’s not there. At that moment Mary is pierced through with every mother’s worst fear. Her child is missing. So they rush back to Jerusalem and search for Him. On the third day they find Him. He’s not afraid of being separated from His mother and Joseph. He’s quite at home, actually, in the Lord’s house. He’s sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening and asking questions. “All who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.” The Jews had just celebrated Passover so they would have been talking about the Passover Lamb which was slaughtered and roasted for each family. They would have discussed the Exodus of God’s people from Pharaoh’s tyranny and the ten plagues by which God had set Israel free. All of that was a prototype of the promised Messiah. In the midst of the great teachers of Israel, in the midst of the greatest of all the feasts, in the midst of the house of the Lord, sat the twelve year old Jesus, teaching them what it all meant, just as He would do as an adult.
Mary and Joseph are amazed. “Son, why have you done this to us? Look, your father and I have sought you anxiously,” which for a mother is an understatement. Then Jesus utters the first words recorded in the evangelists. “Why did you seek me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” They don’t understand it at that moment but Jesus was teaching them why He had come. Later in His life He would tell the Jews, “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38). And what is the will of will of Him who sent Jesus? What is His Father’s business? “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). “The Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them” (Luke 9:56). “This is the will of Him who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life” (John 6:40). The Father’s business, which is Jesus’ business, is our salvation. The Father’s business is teaching men the true meaning the Passover Lamb as a foreshadowing of His own sacrifice to pay for the sins of the world, so that all who believe in Him receive the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life.
St. Paul says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26) and as sons of God you are to be about your heavenly Father’s business. Previously you had been sons of the devil because you were born from Adam’s line. When Adam sinned He listened to the devil rather than God and plunged the entire race into slavery to sin, death, and the devil. Those who don’t believe in Christ remain sons wrath and children of disobedience, doing the work of their father: living according to the lusts of the heart, working to fulfill their own desires, and living for their own pleasure and enjoyment. Since you are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus and heirs of the heavenly inheritance, be about your Father’s business. St. Paul says in today’s Epistle, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). Christ presented Himself as a sacrifice to pay for the sins of the entire world and His heavenly Father accepted that sacrifice. You are to present your bodies as living sacrifices, not as Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice for the sins of the world. Your sacrifice does not involve your physical death as Christ’s did. It involves your death to sin. “Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts” (Romans 6:11-12). Our sacrifice is not to atone for our sins. We live as sacrifices because Christ has atoned for our sins. Because He forgives us by faith we strive against sin in the hour of temptation and crucify our fleshly, selfish passions and desires.
Paul goes on, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). The world wants you to conform to its way of thinking, especially its way of thinking about religion and Christ. The world wants you abandon the faith the Holy Ghost has worked in you and live however you feel like living, embracing and celebrating your sins. But your minds have been renewed by the gospel. You know what is that “good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” It is God’s will that you be saved from your sins. It is God’s will that you not be eternally lost. It is God’s will that you trust that His Son’s perfect merits are yours, so that though you still sin, you are righteous by faith in the one who has paid for all your sins. You know that the will of God is your sanctification, that you grow in holiness. This involves putting away sin by turning from it. It also involves pursuing good works. We prayed in the Collect of the Day that we “may both perceive and know what things we ought to do and also may have grace and power faithful to fulfill the same.” We know what things we ought to do because God lays out His will for us in the Law. Not the ceremonial and civil laws of Moses which were meant only for the Jews. The law as He give it to us in the Ten Commandments. That’s where He shows us what is His will for us. He answers our prayer by giving us the Holy Ghost so that by the strength He gives, if we rely upon Him, we will bring forth those good works.
In this Christ is our example. Though He was God in human flesh, He went down with Mary and Joseph to Nazareth and was subject to them, for it was part of His ministry to fulfill the Law and earn a perfect righteousness for sinners. As a child Christ fulfilled the fourth commandment, honoring His mother and father. By doing this Christ shows us what things we too ought to do. As Christ lived according to the commandments, so ought we to strive to do the same as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God not because of our works, but only because we are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. To that end may God give us grace. Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.