In Our Father's House
Sermon 1727 Luke 2.41-52 January 10, 2021
When I was in Sunday School I didn’t like this lesson, The Boy Jesus in the Temple. I found out kids got yelled at even when they were doing the right thing. I also found out God wanted me to listen to my parents, no matter what. Well, it teaches a lot more than that, but those were the goals my Sunday School teachers had when they confronted me and Larry Papenfuss on the annual Sunday we learned about The Boy Jesus in the Temple.
Now that we’ve gotten those goals directed at our children out of the way, I can go on to what else this Sunday School lesson teaches.
In Our Father’s House
1. Know God.
2. Know yourself.
“Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it (41-43).”
Passover was special for a Jew. To go to the Passover was to know God. It was the celebration of God delivering them from Egypt, God freeing them from the house of slavery. It was a celebration of God rescuing them from death itself, for, thanks to the blood of the Passover Lamb, their firstborn sons did not have to die in that terrible plague. That first Passover night the angel of death passed over every pious household that had the blood of the Passover Lamb painted on their doorposts. Passover taught them who their God was, a mighty deliverer and redeemer.
Every year every Jew was commanded to appear at the Temple in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. It was so important, God made the month of Passover the first month of their religious calendar. It was to be a commemoration for the generations to come, a lasting ordinance for the Jewish race. They were never to forget who their God was. So Mary and Joseph, devout Jews that they were, never missed the Passover, no matter how tight family finances were. Every childhood year Jesus was at the Passover, according to the custom.
This is why Jesus spent the Passover week in the Temple, “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” That is why Jesus could call the Temple, “my Father’s house.” The Jews knew God.
In our Father’s house we know God. Yes, the non-church-goers in our country are right. You can learn about God from nature. A good hike in the mountains, a morning run along the ocean, can make you feel closer to God. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands (Psalm 191).” “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse (Romans 1.20).” So the same guys who claim to be tree huggers for God have also got to fess up and say if people don’t believe there is a God, well, there’s no good excuse for that.
Nature, however, cannot teach us about God’s forgiving love. On the contrary, nature teaches you you make one mistake and that’s it. Nature is not forgiving. You may be a great skier, but skiing out of bounds because COVID has closed the slopes will kill you if the avalanche lets loose that day.
Unfortunately the sinful human nature wants to make nature worshipers out of each of us, no matter how big a couch potato we are. Everyone loves the outdoors, even our government which has set aside so many acres for national parks, recreation areas and Bureau of Land Management territory. I guess Nevada must be the most beautiful state of all, they’ve set so much of our land aside for future generations to bow the knee to. Maybe we are just as guilty as the ancients for worshiping the creation rather than the Creator.
Only in the Bible, which is proclaimed in and through the Church, does God reveal himself as a loving God who forgives us through faith in Jesus Christ. “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household. Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house (Acts 16.30-32).” Only through a baptism of repentance did God the Father choose to reveal his Son to the world. As Jesus came out of the Jordan River the Holy Spirit in the outward form of a dove came down from heaven and rested upon Jesus. The voice of God the Father proclaimed, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased (Mark 1.11).”
So, if I want to know God I must be in our Father’s house. I must be in church. I must be listening to what the Church is proclaiming. I must hear the Gospel of my salvation and believe it. I must believe Jesus is my Savior from sin. He offers, gives and seals unto me forgiveness of sins, the newness of spiritual life with him and the eternal home of heaven through the Good News of Jesus as I receive it through the Word or through the Word made visible, God’s sacraments, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. As the Jews were to repeatedly go to the Passover, I am to frequently attend to the worship of God in church. That way I will never forget who my God is. He is the Triune God, the only Savior, Father, Son and Holy Spirt.
In our Father’s house you know yourself.
So much of our life is spent on self-discovery. That is really the major job of our life. Who are we? They say infants have to learn that the things wiggling at the end of their arms belong to them. They have to learn it is them in the mirror. But it goes far beyond that. All through our school years we are trying to figure out who we are. That’s why we have all those books prescribed to us to read. The baboon’s question to Simba makes perfect sense to adolescents. “I know who I am, but who are you?” Until Simba admits he is the son of the king, he will never take up the responsibilities of royalty. His people will suffer until he does.
He does not know who he is! That’s the whole point of so many tragedies. The Greek Oedipus was abandoned as a child to die, but was rescued by a tender-hearted shepherd. Since he does not know who he is, he mistakenly kills his true father on a lonely road and ends up marrying the man’s widow. He does not know who he is! Shakespeare’s King Lear “hath ever but slenderly known himself.”
In our Father’s house you can know yourself. We can discover who we are.
Well, at the end of the Passover week, Mary and Joseph go home with their traveling company. Jesus is twelve. It was a different world back then. Twelve year olds had a lot of freedom. They were even considered adults in the religious community, which is why Jesus is allowed into the adult Bible classes at the Temple. Mary and Joseph assume Jesus is playing at the edge of their travelling company. When it is supper time they start looking for Jesus, just as my mother used to start calling my friends’ houses to find out where I was so she could tell me to get home in time for supper. Jesus is not there. They are a day out. It is getting dark. At dawn they start back to Jerusalem, a day’s journey. It is getting dark when they enter the city. The third day they go to the Temple. That’s where Jesus had spent every day, attending the Bible classes there. They barge into a class in session.
“They found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you (45-48).’”
Of course Mary and Joseph have goofed up. You are not supposed to lose your kid, ever, especially when he is the Son of God, the Savior of the world. And of course Mary acts like any parent who has goofed up—she blames the child.
“‘Why were you searching for me?’ he asked. ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what he was saying to them (49-50).”
Joseph’s house was in Nazareth. But Jesus was not the son of Joseph. Jesus was the Son of God. The Temple was God’s house. While God is Father to all of us, while we are all sons and daughters of God because he made us, he bought us back from our sins and he sends his Holy Spirit into our hearts so we live godly lives, Jesus is the Son of God in a one and only kind of way. Jesus knows who he is! After twelve years on earth, after his religious instruction leading up to his confirmation, his bar mitzvah, he knows who he is. He is the Son of God. He got that knowledge in our Father’s house. He has solved the puzzle every person has to put together to lead a healthy and whole life.
Who are you?
We can define ourselves by our jobs. I’m a pastor, a banker, a contractor, a teacher, a secretary. Men are especially prone to that. Ask them who they are and they will tell you what they do. But jobs can change—quickly! And then there’s retirement. Will we cease to exist? We can define ourselves by our interests, but those really change as we go through life. Don’t ski any more. Arthritis made me stop knitting. Haven’t seen a concert since I don’t know when. We can define ourselves by what we own. Advertising hopes we do. Psychologists say that is a mental illness if we take it too far—it results in hoarding. We can’t throw away things because it is who we are.
Are we nobody?
Oh no. We are sons and daughters of God. We are children of God. He tells us who we are. He defines us. He gives us worth. Every American should agree. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” That’s our Declaration of Independence. It says God defines who we are! No wonder we are in such a mess—as a country not only have we strayed from God, we have strayed from our founding documents!
Here’s God’s declaration of independence for each one of us. “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2.9).” And how did he do that? “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6.11).”
We have infinite worth. The Son of God himself died for us on the cross. We have a noble purpose—to share God’s wondrous love in what we say as we get the message of Jesus out to all people and in what we do as we show compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another and forgive as the Lord forgave you. Put love over all these virtues, for it binds us all in perfect unity. Only children of God can do that. By this all men will know that we belong to Jesus.
Do we need to be reminded of that? Absolutely. There is a tendency to forget what is always in front of us. Why do you think Mary and Joseph didn’t understand Jesus’ words? After murderous King Herod was tipped off by the Magi, Mary and Joseph pretended Jesus was just a boy, just an ordinary boy. A lot of times when we pretend it becomes our truth. There’s a lot of pretend as aging human beings look in the mirror. In our Father’s house we find our true reflection, the image of God restored to us in knowledge and right action.
Do we need to be reminded of that? Absolutely. This world fights against it. No sooner does someone build a sand castle on the beach than someone else wants to kick it down. The devil, the world and our own sinful human nature want to fight against what we clearly have become through the grace of God. In our Father’s house we are restored from these attacks. In our Father’s house we find the birthright weapons placed at our disposal, the Word of God, that sword of the Spirit, and prayer on all occasions. The gates of hell itself won’t stand against us.
That’s who we are.
In Our Father’s House
1. Know God.
2. Know yourself.
So, yes, at times we are still going to take it in the chops when we do the right thing. No surprises there. We learned that already as kids in Sunday School! That’s why we serve God out of thanks for what he has done for us, not out of a desire to get rewarded. And, yes, we are still going to have to honor, serve, obey, love and respect our parents and others in authority. That’s what The Boy Jesus in the Temple teaches us—and a whole lot more.