Sermon from Sunday, January 6. 2019 – Luke 2:41-52
As I read through the account from Luke 2 which you heard this morning of how Jesus was left behind by his parents in Jerusalem, I couldn’t help but think of what has become classic Christmas movie, “Home Alone.” If you’re not familiar with the movie, it’s about a boy around the age of 10-12 years-old who is unintentionally left at home for Christmas when his large and extended family take a vacation to France. The family gets on the plane and it takes off and that’s when the mom has a feeling that she’s forgotten something, only to realize that she forgot her son, Kevin, at home. Not to ruin the ending if you haven’t seen it, but the family is eventually reunited after the mischievous little boy spends a few nights at home alone.
Well, we might call the account that we heard of this morning from Luke chapter 2, “Jerusalem Alone.” But this is not the story of some mischievous little boy surviving in the big city or negligent parents who forgot their son. This is the story of God’s Son Jesus, knowing exactly who he was and why he had come into the world, something that was important for his parents to remember, something that is important for us to stop and see this morning.
Last weekend, we also found Jesus at the temple with his parents Mary and Joseph, but he was a little over a month old at that point. Remember how they had travelled from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to present their son to the Lord and to offer a sacrifice for purification. Some time later, the family returned to Nazareth where Jesus and his family would permanently live.
Twelve years had passed and Jesus’ family made their annual trip to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover. This was a week’s long festival that was also called “The Feast of Unleavened Bread.” This was probably the largest celebrations of the three major festivals that God commanded his Old Testament people to observe each year, and rightfully so. It was the celebration of how God had rescued his people, the nation of Israel, in magnificent fashion from their centuries’ long slavery in Egypt, guiding them through the Red Sea and bringing them into the Promised Land. It was during the Passover that God’s people were reminded of God’s promise to send the Messiah, who would rescue people from the slavery of sin, and by his sacrifice make the eternal death of hell pass over us.
Every year, Mary and Joseph, along with thousands of their fellow faithful Old Testament believers, travelled from all over Israel to Jerusalem, to celebrate the Passover. But this Passover was one that Mary and Joseph would not soon forget. The festival came to an end and the family began their journey back home to Nazareth. They had travelled for nearly a day when Mary and Joseph started looking for Jesus who they had thought was travelling with their Nazarene family and friends. And that’s when panic began to set in. They couldn’t find Jesus! If you’ve ever lost sight of a child in a large crowd even for just a few moments, you know how that feels. The darting eyes, the questioning of relatives and friends if any of them had seen Jesus. And then you can’t help but imagine Mary and Joseph thinking about WHO they had lost! This was not just their son, this was the Son of God entrusted to them by God the Father, and they had lost him! This was really not good!
They started retracing their steps which led them back to Jerusalem. They searched the city for three days when they finally arrived at the temple. And there he was. We’re told, “After three days 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” (Luke 2:26,27). These religious experts had what would become a quite common reaction when listening to Jesus. They were amazed. That was especially understandable considering Jesus’ age. This 12 year-old boy showed such maturity in understanding and putting things together that he just wowed all that witnessed it. At first, Mary and Joseph are also caught up in the amazement at what they are seeing and hearing. But then that parent part kicked in. Frustration, relief, fear and anger all come together as Mary questions Jesus, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you?” (Luke 2:48). That word “anxiously” doesn’t do justice to what Mary was saying. It literally means anguish, a word that is sometimes even used to describe hell. In other words, “Why did you put us through this hellish experience?”
The 12 year-old Jesus’ response is simple and to the point, “Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). At first, Jesus’ answer might seem somewhat dismissive of his parent’s concern for their son. But take a closer look. Jesus words reveal two very important things. 1) Jesus knew exactly who he was. Even as a 12 year-old boy, Jesus understood that he was the Son of God. This was not some surprising revelation that would later be dropped on him or that he would come to. He fully understood who he was. 2) The second thing that Jesus’ answer reveals is that his parents needed this reminder of who he was and why he was there living in this world. Yes, he was their son, but more importantly, he was the Son of God. Why did Mary and Joseph need to be reminded of that? Just think about it. For the last 12 years they were raising a child – a child they loved and cared for like any other child. He learned, played, had friends, ate, slept, got up in the morning, just like any other kid. Mary and Joseph needed the reminder that although Jesu was their son and may have appeared to be like any other child, he was also the Son of God, who had been sent into this world for a very specific purpose – to carry out his Father’s plan for the salvation of all poeple.
Did you notice Mary and Joseph’s reaction to Jesus’ answer? “But they did not understand what he was saying to them” (Luke 2:50). Does that surprise you? I know how they felt, don’t you? Aren’t there things in the Bible that you read and you think, “I don’t understand. I don’t understand how that’s possible. I don’t understand how this is good for me. I don’t understand why you would ask me to do this, God. I just don’t understand.” But here’s the thing. God doesn’t ever ask us to understand. He simply asks us to believe what he says. Why would we believe what God says when we can’t even understand it? Because our God does the impossible and the improbable. Just look at Jesus. Here is God as a 12 year-old boy learning what HE wrote in the Bible. Here is Jesus being cared for by a family, a structure that HE created for the care of children at the beginning of time. Why would Jesus be willing to do this, to humble himself to this extent? Because Jesus understood that this was what it was going to take for us to be with him in heaven. He was going to have become like us so that he could trust God for us, follow God’s will for us, be obedient for us, and die for us. He did that because he knew that otherwise our sinful doubt and our repeated disobedience of God’s will, would separate us from God and his blessings for eternity. And so Jesus lived in our place and faced that separation from God in our place. The 12 year-old Jesus understood that. He knew who he was and what he was sent to do – to be our Savior.
Although Mary and Joseph may not have fully understood everything, did you notice what Mary did? “But his mother treasured all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51). One of the Christmas traditions that our family has developed over the years which I don’t think is unique to us, is that we put together puzzles during Christmas vacation. When you first dump all those pieces out it doesn’t look like much of anything. Then you start putting them into piles of similar colors. And slowly the pieces come together and you see the picture – a picture that was difficult to see when looking at the hundreds of individual pieces of the puzzle before they were put together. Mary was collecting the pieces of the puzzle. She didn’t always immediately understand how they all fit together or what the full extent of the picture was going to look like, but she kept them, treasured them because she knew that they were significant – because they were words and works of God’s Son and her Savior Jesus.
I think that’s a good reminder to us when it comes to our studying the Bible. There are some things that we might not understand, that we read and we wonder about. But no matter how much we understand we can be sure that they are significant and important for us to know. How can I be sure? Because of all the things that God COULD have revealed, he specifically chose these things in the Bible to be written down for us to know. They are certainly significant. Sometimes we might wonder how that specific thing that we’re studying applies to us, but what do we do? Like Mary, we treasure them, keep them. And sometimes, later on, God shows us how that piece perfectly fits into the situation we find ourselves in. We see how that piece we’ve been carrying around for years perfectly fits together with something we learned later on. The point is simple. Gather as many of those pieces as possible, grow in your knowledge of the Bible, because God wants you to have as many of those pieces as possible, because he has great things to show you now and later on.
Yes, that Passover when Jesus was in Jerusalem alone, was not only a memorable trip for Mary and Joseph, but a significant one for them and for us. Jesus, their son, was also the Son of God, sent to do his Father’s will, completely capable of perfectly carrying out the work of our salvation. Amen.