First Sunday after the Epiphany
January 7, 2018
St. Luke 2:49
To Be Among My Father's Things
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The shame of the Virgin Mary
An obedient child is easy to neglect. And so it is that Our Lord’s parents assume He is with them.
And when the Virgin Mary found Him in the Temple, she felt the shame of having left a twelve-year old unattended for three days. Perhaps the shame was compounded because the Temple was the last place they looked.
Because of that shame, she lashed out. She accused Him of having made her feel that way, claiming that it was His fault.
We choose to feel the way we feel. We choose our reactions. We may be provoked, but that doesn’t excuse us. No one makes us angry. Rather, we give in to our anger. We blame others at every step. It is possible to have righteous anger. Jesus did not sin when He cleansed that very same Temple years later.
But most of the things about which we’re angry, if we examine them, reveal our self-righteousness. We have a tendency to think that we know more than people in authority. We think that we are smarter and have more common sense. We assume that our motives are good and those of others are self-serving. We give in not to righteous anger but to self-righteousness.
Having done one bad thing, neglected her Son, the Virgin Mary made it worse by panicking and then blaming Him.
His rebuke was gentle. He did chastise her when He says: “Why were you looking for Me?” That means, in part, “how is that I came to be lost? What went wrong? Whose responsibility was it?”
But it also hinted at the answer. They were looking for Him not just because He is their charge and He was lost, but also because He is their Savior and they were lost without Him.
The next bit has bite as well. He wants them to remember that contrary to Mary’s heated accusation, Joseph is not His Father according to the flesh but only His guardian.
Mainly, however, our Lord confesses who He is and what He is about. He must be among His Father’s things.
“Why were you searching for Me? Didn’t you know I had to be in My Father’s house?”
LUKE 2:49 NIV 1984
The things of My Father
Our translations here all fail. I don’t know why. St. Luke doesn’t record either the word “house” or “business.” He also doesn’t render it in the first person. It is not “I must.” Rather it is simply “It is necessary.” So literally rendered it would read: “Did you not know that it is necessary for Me to be among My Father’s things?” (οὐκ ᾔδειτε ὅτι ἐν τοῖς τοῦ πατρός μου δεῖ εἶναί με;)
It is necessary to leave “it is necessary” in that form. That form indicates prophecy. Here our Lord announced the necessity of His betrayal, beating, and crucifixion. It's not that translating “I must be in My Father’s House” is way off but it misses the nuance and fails to connect this saying with the predictions of the crucifixion—connections that need to be made—for the Virgin Mary and for us.
The next problem is rendering “things” as either business or house. Business is not that bad, but not that good. House is terrible. House simply inserts the idea from the space and not from the words. The idea is not all bad, but it misses the edge of the sword, and swords are all about the edge.
Jesus is not in His Father’s House. He is among His Father’s things. What things? The lampstand, the altar of incense, the altar for whole burnt offerings, and the like. He is there among the stuff of sacrifice, in the midst of the stuff that renders God’s people clean through blood and reconciles them to the Father that they might bring their prayers and petitions to Him. The entire purpose of the Temple was to give God’s people safe access to Him. God doesn’t need the Temple. We do.
Jesus is not simply there near and around that stuff, among His Father’s things, rather the point is that is what He is.
He is one of the Temple things, one of His Father’s things, one of the things that God gave for cleansing and forgiving the people. In fact, He is THE Thing.
He is where He belongs, not simply in His Father’s House, but on the Altar, as the Priest and the Victim. Where else would He be?
We live in the third day
Here is another little clue from St. Luke that this is about more than a lost child: they find Him on the third day. That is not accidental. Luke isn’t merely foreshadowing the Resurrection, though He is doing that, but He is also telling us where to find Jesus.
We live in the third day, post-Resurrection, when every day is Easter.
So where is Jesus?
Just as He was finished with cleansing the Temple in His good and right anger, the Jews confronted Him.
The Jews then responded to Him, “What sign can You show us to prove Your authority to do all this?”
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and You are going to raise it in three days?”
But the temple He had spoken of was His body.
After He was raised from the dead, His disciples recalled what He had said.
Then they believed the Scripture and the Words that Jesus had spoken.
ST. JOHN 2:18–22 NIV
The new temple is the Gospel, received by ear and mouth
He is among His Father’s things.
But isn't the Temple gone? No, it isn’t.
They tore it down and He built it again on the third day. That is the Temple of the Lord, that is where God dwells and abides with men, where men have safe access to the Father—in Jesus Christ, who is the new and greater Temple—risen from the dead.
So where is He?
He is present in His Body and Blood, in His Holy Word, in His gathered people, in the preaching of His Gospel, and the Holy Absolution. Here is where you find Jesus, where He remains for you.
So it is that our Lord welcomes back His mother Mary. He even submits to her.
He welcomes you as well. He didn’t die in vain. Your sins, even your fits of angry blame, do not stop His love. He is faithful to the end, patient and long-suffering. His mercy endures forever. Treasure these things up in your heart, bend the knee and submit to the grace of God in Christ Jesus, be fed, be forgiven, be here.
In Jesus' Name. Amen.
God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Thanks be to God!
With thanks to the Rev. David Peterson.
His Epiphany preaching was the basis of this sermon.
His Epiphany preaching was the basis of this sermon.