Epiphany 1 + Luke 2:41-52
“Son, why have you treated us so?” Those are the words the Virgin Mary’s spoke to Jesus when she and Joseph found Him in the temple in Jerusalem. That question is the stock and trade of mothers everywhere. It is meant to be a guilt-inducing question, something all mothers are good at. The question can work wonders. Make no mistake. Mary accused Jesus of sin, of being self-centered and negligent; He had broken the Fourth Commandment. And for this reason, she receives a rebuking question from Him: “Why were you looking for Me?” That is to say, it was not Jesus who was negligent, but Mary and Joseph, they were at fault, they had sinned. Jesus was doing exactly what He was supposed to be doing. Jesus was where He was supposed to be. Jesus said to His mother, “Did you not know I must be in My Father’s house?”
It is not hard to imagine that Our Lord Jesus, as a Child, was easy to neglect. Being completely selfless, always mindful of His duty, He could be expected to not only do things the first time He was asked, unlike every other person in the world, but even expected to anticipate the needs and demands of His parents. Jesus’ life was a life of service, not only to mankind in general, but to His parents in particular. Jesus was the perfect Son. And so it was that they never had to worry about Him. They simply expected Him to be in the train of pilgrims, as He always had been before, on the way to Jerusalem and on the way back to Nazareth. And when He wasn’t, they panicked. And then, when they found Him, Mary, full of guilt and emotionally exhausted, like all mothers at one time or another who have lost their child, lashes out at Him. The Virgin Mary intended to inflict Jesus with some of her suffering. “Son, why have you treated me so poorly?” It is as if she is saying, “Don’t you love your mother?”
Indeed, Jesus does love His mother, and that is why He is in the Temple conducting His Father’s business. It is for her good that He is in the temple. Jesus will take Mary’s guilt away. Jesus will suffer for Mary’s sins and shame. Jesus will serve His mother, He will be obedient to her, He will do His duty. But Jesus’ service is as the steward, not as the slave. Jesus serves by distributing His Father’s gifts of grace and mercy, of love and compassion, of forgiveness and salvation. Jesus comes down from heaven to earth, for Mary and Joseph, for the Holy Christian Church, for the communion of saints, for you and me and all the baptized faithful. This is what God the Father desires for His creation. Jesus is fulfilling His Father’s command. Jesus does not serve according to His mother’s temper tantrums and words of guilt. He serves according to His love for His Heavenly Father and for all of His people. Remember, this is love, not that we serve God but that He serves us.
And what about us? Have we taken Jesus for granted? Has His presence in the temple of our own bodies, granted to us by the Holy Spirit on the day we were baptized, been neglected and ignored? Have we failed to repent? Have we failed to feel sorrow for our sins? Have we lived as if God does not matter and that we matter most? Have we been so bold as to blame God for our lust, for our pride, for our greed, claiming that we can’t help it, that He made us this way? I know this is how I am. And as your pastor, I know this is how you are as well. And because this is so, we need to repent. We need to turn away from evil. We have been caught red-handed. Jesus is not our slave. He does not take orders from us. Remember, this twelve year old boy is the God of Abraham. He burned Sodom and Gomorrah to the ground. He turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt. He put to death David’s son, born to Bathsheba. We dare not tempt God. We dare not put the Lord our God to the test. Jesus is the Son of God. Repent.
But do not despair. These things were written as a warning for us. These things are written that we would believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; that by believing in His name we would have eternal life.
The greatest proof that Jesus is the anointed Son of God, from everlasting to everlasting, without beginning and without end, through Whom all things were made; is not in His miracles that He performed, but in His Word! The greatest proof that Jesus is the Christ is in His Word, what He has said. For God is faithful to us, we will and does gladly do what He has said and promised. Jesus, the Son of God does not sin. He is perfect. He is spotless. He does not lie. He speaks the Truth. From His Words come love and truth.
Currently, Jesus is twelve years of age, later, when Jesus is about twenty-nine, as He is making His way to the cross, Jesus will again teach in the Temple and say, “Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” Jesus went to the temple to teach the teachers and each one of us that His Body is the “true Temple.” Jesus’ body will be torn down on Good Friday in brutal, human rage, but built up again in Divine Love on Easter morning with the resurrection of the dead. The Temple itself will be sacrificed as the final sacrifice, the real sacrifice, the once and for all perfect sacrifice, the sacrifice to which all previous sacrifices pointed. Jesus’ bodily sacrifice will end all further sacrifices.
That body of Jesus, born of the Virgin, placed in a manger in a stable, sacrificed on the cross, is delivered to us now, according to His promise, every time we come to the Lord’s Supper. When we gather together as the Communion of Saints, we gather together to eat and drink in remembrance of Him, to proclaim His death until He comes again. That Temple, celebrated by the angels and the shepherds, adored by the wise men, destroyed by death and raised to new life in the resurrection, is put into us by way of the mouth, in our eating and drinking. We are the Temple, He is in us. We are one with Christ, how He wants it to be.
Consider these words from St. Paul: “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” How is it that God’s Holy Spirit is put in us? The answer is Holy Communion. The bread we break is the joining together of His holy Body with ours. The cup we bless is the joining together of His holy Blood with ours. His body and His blood are our body and blood, we are joined together as one flesh. The price for our sins, the ransom that must be paid, is paid in full. This is the Father’s business, the purpose of the Temple – then and now: to rescue mankind, to make for Himself a people who were no people, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children. Truly God is in His temple and it is good for us to be here.
O Christian, rejoice today! There is no one else to accuse us. The devil, the world, our sinful flesh have no power over us. The Light shines in the darkness. Come out of the shadows. Leave behind our vain attempts to make ourselves right with God. Abandon our excuses. Surrender to Jesus, He comes to save us. Return to the Lord our God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love toward us. We must let go of our past. We must let go of our future. We must let Him lift us up in His loving arms, allowing Him to lead us and guide us. In Him we find peace. In Him we find rest. In Him we find forgiveness. In Him find love. Jesus is our Life, our Light, our Salvation. With Jesus, we cannot lose. For us, Jesus has done the Father’s business. Thanks be to God. Amen.