Searching for Jesus

Text: Luke 2:40-52
Date: Christmas II + 1/3/10
Lutheran Church of the Incarnate Word, Rochester Hills, MI

I remember seeing, a long time ago, a silly spoof on TV of a 50s-style, bee-bop rock group singing really sappy words in a song called “Jesus was a teenager too.” The main message of the song, of course, was a lame and farcical attempt to get teens to believe that Jesus personally knows the stresses and struggles they are going through, I guess as an attempt to keep them in church or something. But is that why St. Luke alone includes this little incident from “when he was twelve years old,” as an attempt to “relate” to a younger audience? Or is it merely to show that our Lord had an otherwise “normal” childhood? Or surely it is not just to use Jesus’ example of submissiveness and obedience to his parents as a hammer in order to guilt our children into obeying their parents. No, the point is not to “prove” anything about Jesus real humanity. The point for Luke and anyone who reads his account is the doctrine or Biblical teaching of the two natures of Christ; that from the very beginning until now, from his incarnation throughout His earthly ministry, His death, resurrection and ascension, and to this very day on His heavenly throne, Jesus is 100% human and 100% divine.

To the folks that lived during the days of His earthly life, what we call His “state of humiliation” when He lived as any man, obedient to God and His commands, no one questioned whether this child, this boy, this man they saw with their own eyes was a true human being. So also those who believe and even most skeptics today generally agree that Jesus at least “was” (if not “is”!) an historical human figure that once lived in Palestine. What everyone had a problem believing in His day, however, even as today, is that He is also God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, “of one substance with the Father” in union with the Holy Spirit. In fact it was His identity, His divine acts and claim to be the promised Messiah that was the issue and charge for His innocent suffering and death by crucifixion. “Behold, the Man.” “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”

St. Luke doubtless got the details of this incident directly from Jesus’ mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary herself. It is told in its fullness to dramatically emphasize at least two things about Jesus: first, His relationship to God His Father and the Temple as His house, and, secondly, His wisdom as the Son of God.

We can all relate to the feelings of a missing child. That the Holy Family did not discover that He was missing until after day’s journey says nothing about carelessness but rather the reality that, when hiking, the men tend to walk and talk with the men, the women with the women and the children with each other running and scurrying back and forth playing their games along the way. When it was time to take a break or bed down, however, they realized Jesus was nowhere to be found. When they did not find Him you can bet they made a B-line back to the Holy City to look for Him. I mean, where else could He be?

When Luke takes the time to note that their search took three days, he is intentionally linking their search with the searching of every human soul for life and salvation, which life and salvation can be found only in the three-day death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ crucified. This is what should come to your mind and would be a detail with which you could proclaim the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins to someone else sharing this story.

After three days Mary and Joseph found Jesus. But where did they find Him? Did they look for Him at an amusement park or an arcade playing games? Had they spent time looking for Him in the market or at a playground somewhere playing with other twelve-year-olds? Was the Temple the LAST place they looked? And yet there is where He was. And He wasn’t just sitting in the corner watching the activities going on there. He was “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” He was acting like a faithful catechumen, truly concerned about the things of the Father’s House, the Word and Law, the Torah of God, and those who were called and ordained and appointed to study it and to teach it. In His conversations with them “all were amazed at His understanding and His answers.” I wonder what questions the teachers had asked Him? “What is the First Commandment?” “What are the five books of the Torah?” “Who wrote the Torah?” “Recite the Shema Israel.” The point is the great understanding and wisdom Jesus demonstrated already at age twelve.

That Mary is Jesus’ mother there is no question. That Jesus is Mary’s Son is also true. But when Mary and Joseph found Jesus they were astonished and Mary said to Him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” Mary’s words are understandable, especially in their fright that something untoward had happened to Jesus. In fact all their neighbors knew Mary and Joseph as Jesus’ mother and father. Radio host and marriage, family and child counselor Dr. Laura Schlessinger makes a big point out of the difference between a person’s biological father and an adoptive father who has been part of your life and thereby is to be considered your “real” father. Jesus reminded his mother, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And with that little question Mary’s Son spoke as also Mary’s Lord. With that little question Jesus claimed that the Jerusalem Temple was His true home and His earthly ministry would begin and end there.

And that, after all, is what this is all about—the Son of God who came to us as the Son of Mary, true God and man in one. Identifying with us, whether we be children, teenagers, younger or older adults, is the easy part. What was the hardest part was identifying also with us in our sin and separation from God and death. Living according to God’s Law perfectly—including honoring father and mother, thus fulfilling God’s Law was the easy part. Taking on and absorbing the pain, the agony, the fear, the suffering and death of our fallen nature was the hard part. But in so doing, and only so, could the Son of God and Mary’s Son become the only acceptable sacrifice equal to the task of absorbing the wrath and judgment of God, not only against all your sin, but the sin of the whole world. Mary’s Son, God’s Son hung in agony on the cross for the life of the world. God’s Son, Mary’s Son succumbed to death for the life of the world. Nevertheless, the God-Man broke the power of death and, raised from the dead, now has opened the kingdom of God to all believers.

By faith in the Son of God, the Son of Mary, we can live and suffer, rejoice and even die in hope. Not just a hunch that might be true, but the sure hope of the promises of God. The other night I imagined the day of resurrection when Christ will come again and raise the dead to usher His own into the kingdom of the new heavens and earth. I imagined standing there on our graves with an ear-to-ear grin, maybe even jumping around and dancing for joy saying, “We win!” “It’s true!” “Thanks be to God.”

This, our hope, is due to God’s Son and Mary’s Son, who came into our world to be about the Father’s business, namely, the salvation of mankind, of all who believe in Him. May God keep us in such faith and bring many others to the sure hope of the promise of eternal life.