A Blessed and Happy New Year to all of you! I spent New Year's Eve celebrating my fifth wedding anniversary with my wife on a date which included dinner and a movie—no children allowed! I hope your celebration of the new year was as happy as mine.
Anyway, I will be preaching once again this Sunday at Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church in Harvey, Louisiana. Pastor Simoneaux has asked me to fill in for him again, and it will be my privilege and pleasure to do so. If you're in the area, I encourage you to join us. This is a wonderful congregation.
Doing the Father's Business
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
It was the time of the Feast of the Passover. You know the story of the Passover: how Pharaoh would not set free the children of Israel from their bondage in Egypt; how the Lord instructed His people to sacrifice an unblemished lamb and paint the blood on the doorposts and lintels of their houses. Seeing that sign, the Lord would pass over the houses of the children of Israel as the firstborn of all Egypt were struck down. According to the instructions the Lord gave to Moses and Aaron, the children of Israel were to keep this Feast forever.
Jesus was twelve years old, and according to the custom of the Feast, it was time for Him to join His family in their observance of this holiest of times for the people of God. Just as they had in having Jesus circumcised on His eighth day and presented at the Temple on His fortieth day, Mary and Joseph obediently brought Jesus with them as they traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast.
The Feast ended, and Mary and Joseph began the trip back home, not knowing that Jesus wasn’t with them. After the first day of travel, they discovered that Jesus wasn’t among their relatives. They returned to Jerusalem, and after three days they found Him in the Temple, seated among the rabbis. He listened attentively to these teachers of the Law, asking them penetrating questions; and in doing so He amazed them with His understanding.
Mary was a mother. She couldn’t help herself. She said to Him, “Look, Son, Your father and I have been looking all over the place for You. Why did You do this to us?” His answer is the most profound thing any twelve year-old has ever said. “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” After He said this, Jesus went with them back to Nazareth, obedient to His earthly parents.
Have you ever wondered how Jesus could be perfectly obedient? Reading this text, we see just how difficult true, perfect obedience is. The young Boy Jesus has three different authorities with whom He must interact in this text. He has Mary and Joseph, His earthly parents, to whom He must be obedient. He has the teachers of the Law, the rabbis, to whom He must show proper respect as He sits among them. According to the Fourth Commandment, Jesus must obey His parents and others whom the Father has placed in authority over him. And of course, according to the First Commandment, over all other authorities, He must be obedient to the will of His heavenly Father.
And He did it! In this minefield of Law, in the midst of all the requirements from all those different authorities, Jesus perfectly submits to everyone to whom He owes honor and duty. Jesus obeys His parents, coming when they call Him. He shows proper respect to the rabbis, answering their questions, learning from them as He is meant to do. And even as He does these things, He knows that His first and foremost duty is to His heavenly Father. Obedience to his parents and to the rabbis is obedience the Father; and when the Father’s will requires Him to stay in Jerusalem while His earthly parents begin their trip back to Nazareth, He stays in the Temple, seeing to the business to which His Father has called Him.
We do, indeed, wonder how Jesus could be perfectly obedient—mostly because we see how terribly we fail at obedience. We know that “we should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them”. Moreover, we know that “we should fear, love and trust in God above all things”. We are subject to the same Law as Jesus. But unlike Jesus, we are, as we confess in the liturgy, “sinful and unclean”, and we sin against God and our neighbor “in thought, word, and deed—by what we have done, and by what we have left undone”. What does this mean? It means that we ignore our parents. It means we give our teachers a hard time in school. It means we resent our employers. It means we think angry thoughts about the police officer who gives us a speeding ticket. It means we say hateful things about our government officials. It means that we even remove the word “obedience” from our wedding vows, lest we promise to do something we have no intention of doing. We do these things because we do not fear or love God as we should. We want God on our terms. We want God when we want Him, and we want Him to keep His nose out of our business when we don’t want Him there.
You know, it’s funny: in this reading, Mary and Joseph think it’s Jesus who is lost. By the end of the text, we realize that the only person who isn’t lost is Jesus. Mary and Joseph were lost: they should have known all along that Jesus would be where He should be, doing what He was born to do. And with the teachers of the Law, we are lost, condemned by a twelve year-old Boy who is diligent in listening to God’s Word and diligent in His obedience to the whole of God’s will.
In order to satisfy the demands of God’s holiness, it was necessary that God’s Law be fulfilled. Knowing that we could be obedient to the will of God in our sinfulness, Jesus took that burden upon Himself. As true Man, Jesus perfectly obeyed the whole of God’s Law and will. But the obedience of Jesus does not only show you how disobedient you have been. The Apostle Paul tells us in Galatians chapter 4: “We, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” As true God, Jesus makes His perfect obedience yours in the water of Holy Baptism, where your sinfulness has been washed away, where your disobedience has been covered over with the perfect obedience of Christ. Jesus is doing His Father’s business for you.
Jesus is also about His Father’s business here this morning, where He announces to you through the mouth of one of His Called and Ordained servants that He forgives you all your sins. He is about His Father’s business when He feeds you with His own body and blood, giving you forgiveness, life and salvation. Here He gives you a Passover Feast in His own body and blood, and now death also passes over you. Keep this Feast forever. “Do this,” says our Lord, “in remembrance of Me.” In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.