Sunday, January 13, 2013

Epiphany 1 Sermon

Epiphany 1 – January 13th, 2013 – Luke 2:41-52

In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +
          Oh boy.  Pastor just hammered us about worship and church last week, and what do we hear this week?  Boy Jesus in the temple.  Oh man, are we gonna get it today, it’s going to be a sermon chalk full of nothing but how we need to get to church more, study more, know the bible more.  No.  Not really.  It would be a shame to reduce such a full text down to just “go to Church” – because there is more going on in this text than just an excuse for a pastor to do a bit of finger waggling.  No, we are in Epiphany, the season where Christ Jesus reveals who He is to the world – and one thing that we remember is that the world just doesn’t get or understand Jesus.  And indeed, throughout the Gospels, whenever Jesus does stuff, He angers people, upsets them.  In Luke chapter 4, after Jesus preaches His first sermon back home in Nazareth, they decide to throw Him off of a cliff.  Throughout the Gospels people will want to stone Him, revile Him – and of course, they end up crucifying Him.  So instead of just cutesifying this text, let’s look at and see it for what it is – the first time the Messiah, doing what He has come to do, confuses and upsets people.

          “Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.  And when He was 12 years old, they went up according to custom.”  Now, an important note is given us for here.  We think of this text as being about the “boy” Jesus – well, yes, but not as much of a boy as we would think today.  When you hit 13, you were bar mitzvahed – you were then a man.  You were ready to step up and enter adult life – and as such 12 year olds back in Jesus day were probably afforded freedom and responsibility more of what we would think appropriate for older teens today.  So, that explains the next verses – “And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the Boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.  His parents did not know it, but supposing Him to be in the group they went a days’ journey, but then they began to search for Him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for Him.”  When I was little, I though Mary and Joseph just had to be the worst parents in the world – how do you leave your 12 year old son behind in Jerusalem, why, this is worse that those Home Alone movies.  Well, not quite.  You traveled in groups, you family and friends are all together.  The whole family is moving, He’s almost an adult, surely He’s off with the other ones horsing around.  I’m sure He’s around here somewhere – let Him be, He’s off with His cousins probably, He’ll be fine.  Besides, it’s not like He’s a troublemaker.  But then, when they get to the campground, and it’s time for bed – Jesus doesn’t show up.  He doesn’t come home – and that’s when they realize something is wrong.  So, they hurry back to Jerusalem.

          They are a day’s journey out on foot.  Then they have to turn around and walk back.  And then they are searching through Jerusalem, spend a day looking.  And then we hear this: “After three days they found Him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”  Again, this is a big thing that we might not catch.  We are used to students sitting while the teacher walks around.  That’s not the case in the ancient world.  In the ancient world teachers sat while the pupils stood by and learned.  So when we hear that Jesus is sitting, that means He’s teaching.  He listens and then asks questions – He’s doing the same thing He does when He preaches later on.  How often when we hear Jesus talk with people does He ask them a question?  That was the old Jewish custom of how you taught, it’s one I like.  Haven’t you noticed how many questions I’ll ask in a sermon?  Mary and Joseph walk into the temple and they see Jesus there, hanging out with the rabbis… and teaching them.  “And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and answers.”  And He’s teaching them well – He’s making connections about things, about the Messiah that they have never heard. 

Jesus is preaching – and then Mary speaks, “And when His parents saw Him, they were astonished.  And His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have you treated us so?  Behold, Your father and I were in great distress.”  Astonished is a bit weak of a translating, and perhaps a bit too kind.  The idea here is that Joseph and Mary when they see Jesus are surprised, but also angry and embarrassed.  It is that moment of relief, but also frustration.  ‘Oh, good night Jesus, You’ve been bugging the folks in the temple, do you even begin to realize how this is going to look – oh, look, there’s Mary, did you hear how her little Brat Jesus went and was a little hellion in the Temple.  Oh, we’ll never hear the end of it.’  You know this, the panic that parents have when their kids are doing something strange. Which is why she asks, “What are You doing to us, Jesus!”  And Jesus simply responds, “Why were you looking for Me?  Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?”  Mom, Dad, you know the scriptures.  You know that I am the Messiah.  This is what I came for.  It is necessary, it has to be this way.  I must teach, I must preach – this is what the Scriptures say.  And poor Joseph and Mary – “And they did not understand the saying that He spoke to them.”  They didn’t get it yet – they weren’t mentally prepared for Jesus to start being the Messiah, doing Messianic things yet.  And so, Jesus heads home with them.  Oh, He’ll come back to Jerusalem and teach in the temple again a few Passovers later, but for now – it’s home with Mom and Dad.

          For the first time in Luke’s Gospel, we not only see Jesus actively doing Messianic things, but we see people disappointed by what Jesus does.  This is one of the major themes of the Gospels – that Jesus doesn’t end up being the Messiah that people expect.  That He doesn’t fit the bill for what people want.  Joseph and Mary right here – they just want a son who won’t do anything strange and embarrass them or give the neighbors reason to talk.  You aren’t doing what we expect, and we don’t like it.  Latter on in Luke’s Gospel, there are many other expectations.  You have people who want the Messiah to be a mighty warrior who will drive off the Romans.  You have people who want the Messiah to just be some great and glorious gladhander – giving out bread and riches and power to people so we can be on easy street.  And all of these things miss the point.  The Messiah comes to be in His Father’s House, teaching the Scriptures and fulfilling them.  And no one likes it when Jesus says, “It is necessary” – not even His disciples.  When Jesus says to the disciples that He must suffer and die, that’s when Peter tries to talk Him out of it, that’s when you get the whole, “Get thee behind me, Satan” episode.  Over and over, Jesus upsets and disappoints people when He does Messianic things.

So, what of today?  What do people expect Jesus to be doing, what do people expect Church to be doing?  Don’t we have these same false expectations, the exact same ones?  If you watch enough TV you’ll see a commercial for how if you buy the book of Mormon it will make your kids behave better, be less of an embarrassment to you.  Or how many people want the Church to be the major instrument of social change – to lead a rebellion not against Rome, but a rebellion against whatever social issue you are up in arms with?  Both liberals and conservatives want their churches to lead different and often opposite rebellions.  And heading to Church so that God will bless you and let you live on easy street – oh, that’s still around, still around aplenty today.  Chalk up entertainment (and don’t think that plenty of people went to see Jesus simply because it was something to do), and what you see is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  So many people expect Jesus, expect Church to just to and be something that it isn’t.

But you have been give eyes to see and ears to hear.  By the power of the Word and Spirit, your Heavenly Father has revealed, has shone His light upon you.  Jesus will continue to make a habit of coming to the Temple in Jerusalem for the Passover.  It is necessary that He do so.  In fact, one very important year, He’s going to ride into Jerusalem to head up to Passover on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.  Why?  It is necessary, it is what the Scriptures proclaim.  And He will go into that Temple, and He will teach again – He will turn over the money changers tables quoting the Old Testament – because it is necessary for Him.  He will teach there in the Temple, and the people will hang upon His Words, but the Chief Priests and the Scribes will plot to kill Him.  Luke 23 begins, “Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover.  And the Chief Priests and the scribes were seeking how to put Him to death.”  Of course they were, for Christ teaches, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.  For He will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon.  And after flogging Him, they will kill Him, and on the third day He will rise.”  It is necessary for this to happen to the Messiah – and Jesus will go to the Cross, whether people like it or not, whether it is what they want or not.  Why?

          Because He is determined to win you forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Because Christ Jesus comes down to earth not for some sort of vacation, or to dally around with the local ladies like the old gods of Greek myth do.  He comes to win forgiveness by His death, He comes to give you life with His resurrection.  This is the thing that Christ does, this is the thing that the Church gives out.  Not less embarrassment, not earthly power and wealth.  Rather this - your sins are forgiven because of Christ.  You will rise again.  You are baptized, joined to Christ Jesus, attached to Him.  This is what He has come to do – to be your Savior, and nothing will stand in His way.  He will pull you out of darkness into His marvelous light, He will rescue you from the valley of the shadow of death by being with you in death and bring you to His resurrection.  His crowning glory is in restoring you, and all thanks be to God, this is what Jesus is focused upon doing, even as a 12 year old, pointing to Himself in the Scriptures.  Thanks be to God for His great mercy to us.  In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +

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