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Edward F. Markquart

Series B
Age Twelve In The Temple

Christmas 1     Luke 2:41-52

Christmas. How we love Christmas and all that Christmas means.

We love the Christmas traditions. What would Christmas be like without all those traditions that we love? The Christmas tree. Christmas cards. Christmas decorations inside the house. Christmas decorations outside the house. The holly. Santa Claus. The exchange of gifts. The traditions go on and on and we love them.

We love the Christmas carols. Silent Night, Holy Night. Joy to the World. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Holy Night. The list of carols goes on and on and we love them.

We love the Biblical Christmas stories from this time of year.. Most of our Biblical Christmas stories come from the Gospel of Luke. We love the story of old Zachariah and Elizabeth getting pregnant and later was named John, who  became the Baptist. We love the story of the story of Angel Gabriel visiting Mary and telling her that she would become the mother of the Messiah. We love the story of Mary going to visit her auntie Elizabeth and Mary feeling her baby in her womb.  We recall the baby lept for joy in her womb.  We love the story of the story of Jesus being born in a manger, with the cows, sheep and goats around. We love the story of the angels singing to the shepherds.  We love the story of Jesus being brought to the temple at eight days old for circumcism and meeting old Simeon and old Anna who knew they were seeing the infant Messiah.

And today, we come to another great story that we hear at Christmas time. There are nine infancy stories in the Gospel of Luke. Today, we focus on the last of these nine stories. Jesus in the temple when he was twelve years old.

It is a great story. It is a boyhood story. How I loved my boyhood, and the word, “boy,” stands out in this story. Jesus is no longer an infant, no longer a child as he was in the previous story when he was deliberately called a child. In this particular story, Jesus has become a boy.

This story has inspired artists. Look at these images. What do you see?

Most of us know this story. Jesus had been to the Passover with his parents. He was 12 years old, the time of his bar mitzvah. After the eight day long celebration of the Big Passover festival in Jerusalem, it was time for the family to return to Nazareth. The Mom and Dad, Mary and Joseph left Jerusalem, assuming Jesus with other friends and relatives. After a day, they knew he was not there. His parents returned to Jerusalem and searched for him for three more days. Fours days he had been missing. How would you feel about that, parents? How would you feel about your child being missing for four days in a big city? Little nervous? Much nervous? Frantic? They went into the temple, the new temple being built by Herod the Builder, and there they discovered Jesus, sitting among the teachers, listening and asking them questions. Such as in this picture. The picture here has Jesus standing and seemingly lecturing, but the Bible emphasizes that Jesus was sitting, listening, and asking questions.

And all these doctors and scholars were amazed at his understanding and answers. I think that Jesus was a child prodigy in spirituality and his understanding of God was enormously precocious for a boy of his age.

When Mary and Joseph saw him in the temple, they were astonished and said to him, “Child, why have you treated us this way, not knowing where you were for four days?” Your father and I have been searching for you frantically. In other words, Mary was irritated that Jesus had not been more sensitive to her feelings and situation.  Jesus answered them, “Don’t you know that I must be about MY Father’s business? That is the key line. That will be our focus in this sermon. MY FATHER. “Don’t you know that I must be about MY Father’s business?”  The story concludes, “And Mary pondered all of these things in her heart.  And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and people.

We will now examine the details of the story for today. Would you please pull out your bulletin insert .You can read along in your bulletin and circle the words as we work through them and make notes if you want.

Now every year There are certain festivals that we love every year such as Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving. Those annual festivals and their annual festivities bring pleasure to our lives. The same was true with Jesus as a boy. He, too, loved his festivals such as the one for today. Festival times are great; they are usually party times, happiness times.

Jerusalem. Jesus went to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the capital city, the city of David, the Holy City set on a hill. Jerusalem was important to Jesus. Jerusalem was nearby Bethlehem where he was born. He was circumcised in Jerusalem. He went to Jerusalem every year for the Passover. Jesus would wail and cry over Jerusalem, knowing that the residents of the Jerusalem were forever killing the prophets.  Jesus would be killed in Jerusalem.

Passover. It was Passover time and Jesus was going to the Passover in Jerusalem with his family and friends. Passover was eight days long and a grand vacation from school and work. Hundreds of thousands, maybe a million people, jammed into Jerusalem for the party. The Jews had three great religious festivals, Passover, Booths and Weeks; just as we have three great festivals in our Christian faith, Easter, Christmas and Pentecost. The Passover was the festival that remembered when during the days of slavery in Egypt, the angel of death “passed over” those homes with blood above the doorpost and the life of the eldest son was spared. Passover was sacred time.

Twelve. Jesus was twelve years old and no longer regarded as a child. At eight days, Jesus was circumcised, as required by law. The foreskin of his male penis was slit to remind him he was a Jew. That was their custom. Then, at twelve, there was a second custom, a Jewish bar mitzvah. There was both an infancy ritual and a puberty ritual; just as in our church, we have baptism and confirmation. Jesus himself was now under the Jewish law; he was no longer regarded an infant or child. He was now a boy. At age thirteen, he will be considered a young man. … This reveals about Jesus that he is no longer an infant or child. He is now of age, of discretion, of thought, of greater responsibility. He is twelve and just been through the bar mitzvah. In the previous story Jesus was labeled a child; now he has outgrown his childhood and is no longer a child

As Usual/Custom. Jesus went to this Passover “as was his custom.” Luke explains many of the Jewish customs to the Roman Theophilus to whom this letter was written. Luke uses the phrase, “as with his custom” often in the early chapters of this book. It was the custom that Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day; it was the custom that he attended Passover; it was the custom that he worshipped on the Sabbath.  Jesus’ parents realized the value of religious customs in their upbringing of their son. The same is true today: parents who see ourselves as Christian use our many religious customs to teach the Faith.

Boy.  In the previous stories in Luke, Jesus was referred to as an infant and then a child. In this text he is referred to as boy. As the English language has three words for infant, child and boy, so does the Greek language. In the previous story about an old widow, Jesus is clearly referred to as a child but now in this story, a boy. He has outgrown his childhood.

Relatives and friends. His parents thought he was with “family and friends.” I like the concept found in this text about family and friends. Both are important to rearing a child. We can never raise a child without the help of good family and loyal friends. Initially, the parents were not worried about Jesus when he was missing because they felt he was in the safe care of other family and friends. We never rear a child alone, two thousand years ago or today. It takes the security of family and friends to rear a child.

Three. Jesus was missing for three days. Not one, not two, not four, but three days. Three days is important in this gospel because Christ was in the grave for three days, the temple was supposed to be destroyed rebuilt in three days, and Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days. Luke knew the way he was going to use the concept of “three days” later in the gospel. “Three days” are important to the story.

Temple. His parents found Jesus in the temple. This temple in Jerusalem will be important in the future stories about Jesus. When Jesus comes back as an adult, he will cleanse the temple of the moneychangers, teach at length in the temple, and will argue with the religious leaders in the temple. This was the temple that Herod the Great began rebuilding in the year 18 BCE.

Sitting, listening, questioning. Jesus was sitting among them, listening, and asking questions of religious teachers. His position is that of a humble pupil and not of a learned teacher. In a famous picture of this scene by Hoffman, Jesus is portrayed the learned teacher and the teachers are learning from him, but this picture by Hoffman is not accurate. Our bulletin cover today is a medieval portrait of Jesus in the temple, with Jesus being portrayed as a great teacher who is seated above those around him. But in Luke and Mary’s reminiscence, Jesus is portrayed as sitting, listening and asking questions. This is a sign of humility. A humble person listens and asks questions which is a primary source for a growth in wisdom.

Amazed and astonished. The teachers were “amazed and astonished” with Jesus and his answers. Throughout the whole gospel, people will be constantly amazed and astonished at his words and works. People were astonished and amazed at his teachings; astonished and amazed at his healings; astonished and amazed at his resurrection. Disciples today continue to be astonished and amazed at how relevant and wise are his teachings two thousand years later. We too are astonished and amazed when we experience healing. We too are amazed at his victory over death. We, too, continue to be astonished and amazed at God’s miracles in our own lives. The first doctors of the law in the temple that day were astonished and amazed at Jesus’ understanding and wisdom.

Your father. His mother speaks to him first, “Your father and I have been looking for you.”  This is a key line. YOUR FATHER and I have been looking for you. She is assuming that Joseph is the father. She seems to have forgotten, for the moment, the visit of the angel so long ago or they have gotten so used to life that Mary is the mother and Joseph is the father.  This sometimes happens to those of us who are adoptive parents; we sometimes forget that we aren’t the biological parents of the child. Mary erroneously states that Joseph is the father of Jesus and we assume that Joseph had been raising Jesus as a father would raise any child. Joseph was Jesus’ father in as in childhood.

Great anxiety/Anxious. His mother indicates to Jesus that she has been “anxious” over his behavior. The translation has been softened. Luke is the only gospel writer who uses this word and it needs to be translated “anguish” as it is in other places in Luke. Anguish has more pain than the word, anxious. The parents were deeply distressed and in pain that Jesus had treated them so. Lots of us have anxious moments with young people and anguish over them. We could preach a long sermon about over anxious parents who waste time and energy being overly anxious.

Jesus first words. This is the first time we have heard him talk in the gospel. That moment is important. What is Jesus going to say? His saying or teaching will be crucial because it is the first theme from his lips.

Must. Jesus said, I MUST be in my Father’s house. The word, “must,” or “dei” in Greek. Luke uses that word all the time, nine times, the word, “must.” This is the first time: I must be in my father’s house. Soon Jesus will say in chapter 4, I must preach the gospel. Then we will hear that he must heal the sick. He must do the ministry entrusted to him. At the end of the gospel, we hear four times that he must suffer and die on the cross. Must. It is his God’s given destiny. In the first of his use of the word in Luke, Jesus MUST be in MY father’s house.

My Father’s house. Jesus said, “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  The first thing that Jesus says about himself that God is his Father. My Father is not Joseph but my Father is God. … This same concept was found on the lips of the angel to the Virgin Mary when he said that Jesus to be the Son of the Most High and the Son of God. … The same words will be spoken in the next scene eighteen years later with John the Baptist when Jesus as baptized. God spoke from heaven, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” … These same words are spoken in Luke 10, “No one knows the Father except the Son. No one knows my father, the same words, MY FATHER, except the Son, and no one knows the Son except the Father who sent him. The Son reveals the Father.” … So this fundamental truth of this story at age twelve is found in the first chapter of Luke, the baptismal story, and in Luke 10 about the Son revealing the Father and Jesus calling God, MY FATHER. Jesus’ awareness of his identity as the Son of God was in him by the age of twelve; it didn’t happen eighteen years later in his baptism.

These words, MY FATHER, is why the Jewish leaders plotted to kill Jesus. Jesus had the audacity to teach that the Lord God was MY FATHER and this incensed the Jewish leaders so much that they killed him.

The two words, MY FATHER, was said by Jesus 43 times in the first four gospels, especially in the Gospel of John.

Did not understand. Often in this and other gospels, the disciples do not understand the saying of Jesus. You would have thought the disciples would have understood; you would have thought Mary and Joseph would have understood because of the visitation of the angels some twelve years before. But like most disciples, they don’t understand at the moment and only later do they come to understand. That is the way it works with most of us.

His mother treasured. Mary is the person who is recalling all of these nine stories. As the gospels were being written down, it was important that the source of these stories were eyewitness of the events, people who had seen and heard Jesus first hand. The authors were thinking of adult stories. Someone finally asked, “What about Jesus’ birth and childhood?” Mary then became the source for these stories. Mary became the eyewitness.

Wisdom, stature, favor. The last story of Luke’s infancy stories concludes. Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. This is a quotation from I Samuel 2 about Samuel. Luke adds the word, “wisdom.” Jesus, in the next epoch of his life, will grow in wisdom, stature and favor with God and other people.

Jesus grew in wisdom his whole life. That is what all of us want to do: grow in God’s wisdom. Not only when we are children or old children or young adults. But throughout our WHOLE lives, we want to grow in wisdom and understanding, to have the wisdom of God living inside of us.

What does this story mean for us today? How do we apply this Bible story to our lives? What can we glean from these Bible verses for today?

First, Jesus taught that I must be in MY FATHER’S house. Let’s focus on the words, MY FATHER. These two words are at the heart of the text.

The primary reason that the Jewish leaders plotted to kill Jesus was because of those words. They didn’t try to kill Jesus because he taught that “God is love.” They didn’t try to kill him because that he taught there were two great commandments, to love God and neighbor. Those teachings didn’t get him into to trouble. But when Jesus said, MY FATHER, implying that he was the Son of God, they decided to kill him.

Those two words, MY FATHER, are at the core of the Christian religion. Let me explain.

In Judaism, only God was God and God ALWAYS chose prophets to communicate God’s message. In the Jewish religion, God would NEVER become a human being. Rather, God would speak through human beings who were called prophets. In the Jewish religion, Jesus was and still is one of the prophets.

The same is true of the Islam religion. God ALWAYS speaks through the prophets, such as the greatest of all the prophets, Mohammed. Allah would NEVER stoop to becoming a human being with flesh and blood. Rather, Allah would always speak through a human being such as Mohammed. Jesus was one of the prophets.

But in Christianity, in contrast to Judaism and Islam, we believe that God came to earth as a human being in the flesh and blood of Jesus of Nazareth. Incarnation, in the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was the Son of God and not merely a human prophet.

In the Christmas story, we heard the story of the virgin birth, that the Holy Spirit hovered over the womb of Mary and impregnated her. In other words, the Spirit of God was the Father of Jesus.

We also hear the words, the “only begotten son.” Only begotten means, “of the same genesis,” the same genetic code as the Father. You and I are the ADOPTED children of God whereas Jesus was/is the only Son of God in the flesh, with the same genes, chromosomes, and genetic disposition. Jesus was “of the same substance” as God the Father.

That is one reason that I did this particular children’s sermon for today. What was in the huge Christmas package? The children all guessed the contents of that huge Christmas package. And then…out popped my grandson and shouted SURPRISE. You laughed and smiled and clapped. I want on to say that our heavenly Father is the GRANDEST of all fathers and the GRANDEST of all fathers gave the best gift to the human race when the Lord God gave us his GRANDEST Son. The son is just like the father. My grandson has my genes and chromosomes in him. Jesus, the Son of God, had the same substance, the same genes and chromosomes, as God the Father.

If you want to know who God is, don’t look at the beautiful starry skies at night. If you want to know who God is, don’t look at the majestic beauty of Mount Rainier at sunset. If you want to see God, don’t look at the sunrise over Puget Sound. If you want to see God and know God, look in the flesh and blood of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus of Nazareth is just like his Heavenly Father.

A second gleaning from this text: I must be in my Father’s HOUSE. And I would briefly like to focus on the word, house. Jesus believed that that the temple he was in was his Father’s house, and I believe that the church building we are now in is our Father’s house. This sanctuary we are in today is sacred space, is holy, is a space dedicated to prayer and worship.  We are in God the Father’s house at this very moment.

Now I am keenly aware that the presence of God is found elsewhere. Such the Lord God is present in our apartments, condominiums, houses and mountains and Puget Sound and our gardens, but I also want to be clear that God is present here in this place, here in this sacred space, here in this holy house of God called Grace Lutheran Church at 22975 24th Ave. South in Des Moines, Washington.

A mark of Christians is that we gather together all over the world in millions of different places and each place is a sacred place, a special place, a space dedicated to worship, prayer and praise. I love my home and you love yours, but that space is not like this space at Grace Lutheran Church. The space here, our temple, is dedicated to God for prayer and praise. We could stay home on Sunday morning but we gather in a sacred space and sing our praises together here in this holy house. This is dedicated space. It is dedicated HOLY space.

Just as Jesus was in God’s house when he was in the temple at age 12, so we are gathered together today in God’s house as well. When we come here to God’s house, we hear the voice of God, the words of God, the Spirit of God, the ways of God. God is in all places but God is particularly here as well. Especially here as well.

What else can we glean from this text? Let’s focus on the words, Jesus GREW IN WISDOM. That is what we want. All of us to, to grow in wisdom. Wisdom, understanding, sound judgment, mature judgment. We all want to have this quality of the wisdom of God living inside of us.

I believe that Jesus was a child prodigy in spirituality and his relationship with God. That is, I believe that Mozart was a child prodigy in music. I believe that Einstein was a child prodigy in mathematics. I believe that Jesus was a child prodigy in spirituality, that at a young age, Jesus knew that he had the gift of the Presence of God within him in a very special way.

Jesus grew in wisdom. You grow in wisdom your whole life, from the time you are young to the time you die. Life is a life long laboratory where we are forever learning wisdom. You don’t learn wisdom simply when you are young but as you grow older, you still mature in wisdom.

There are two other stories in the Bible which tell us about a person growing in wisdom.

The first is Samuel in the Old Testament lesson for today. In a dream, Samuel heard someone calling him, and Samuel finally answered, “Speak Lord for your servant is listening.” Wisdom always begins with listening to the voice of God. In the Bible story for today about Jesus in the temple at the age of 12, we hear that Jesus was sitting, listening and asking questions. That is always where wisdom begins, with listening to the voice of God, the voice of Jesus.

The second story in the Old Testament is about King Solomon and his dream. In his dream, as a young man, God asked him what he wanted. Solomon could have asked for wealth or long life or fame, but he didn’t. He asked for wisdom, for God’ understanding to live in him so he would be able to discern good from evil as he worked for justice.  And God granted him wisdom.

Who are the wisest people you know? Who is it that are your sounding boards? Those people whom you respect more than any others? Those people to whom you go for guidance and direction? Do they have the most money? I think not. The biggest house? I think not. The fanciest educational degree? I think not. You go to those people for guidance who have that intangible quality of wisdom and understanding. That is why they are a are sounding board for you. We all want and need those people whose opinions we HIGHLY value. Why? Because they have the wisdom of God living inside of them.

Yes, Jesus grew in wisdom his whole life. It is my prayer that you and I will grow in wisdom our whole lives as well.

Merry Christmas. And Happy New Year.

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