Sermon for Sunday, January 5th, 2020, the Second Sunday after Christmas
The Lessons: Jeremiah 31:7-14; Psalm 84; Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a; St. Luke 2:41-52
The Text: St. Luke 2:41-52
The Topic: Be concerned to do the will of God and learn what it is by reading and studying the Bible.
Missionary John Paton never forgot his father’s deeply ingrained habits of daily devotions. Day after day, he would hear his father praying in the next room of the little cottage where he lived, and even as a boy of six, he noticed the bright countenance his father perpetually wore. He later said that while the outside world might not understand the light on his father’s face, “we children knew that it was a reflection of the Divine Presence in which his life was lived.”
Paton recalled, “Never in temple or cathedral, on mountain or in glen, can I hope to feel that the Lord God is more near, more visibly walking and talking with men, than under that humble cottage roof of thatch and oaken wattles. Though everything else in religion were by some unthinkable catastrophe to be swept out of memory, my soul would wander back to those early scenes, and would shut itself up once again in that sanctuary closet, and hearing still the echoes of those cries to God, would hurl back all doubt with the victorious appeal: He walked with God; why may not I?”
Later John Paton experienced grave difficulties and breathtaking dangers as a missionary in the South Pacific. “Without the abiding consciousness of the presence and power of my Lord and Savior,” he wrote, “nothing in the world could have preserved me from losing my reason and perishing miserably. His words Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end became to me so real that it would not have startled me to behold Him, as Stephen did, gazing down upon the scene. It is the sober truth that I had my nearest and most intimate glimpses of the presence of my Lord in those dread moments when musket, club, or spear was being leveled at my life.”
Ch. 16, A Frank Boreham Treasury. Chicago: Moody Press, 1984.
THE LORD JESUS AS A CHILD IN THE TEMPLE: ST. LUKE 2:41-52
Our Gospel Lesson today provides evidence that, at the age of twelve, the Lord Jesus was determined to do His Father’s will by spending time with the teachers of the Law in the temple, even if it meant inconveniencing his parents.
We must be careful to read this account without imposing on it any of our twenty-first century assumptions. Family and neighbors used to make the annual journey to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. After the Festival, the boy Jesus stayed behind in the temple at Jerusalem without the knowledge of his parents. This caused them anxiety and distress, although they really only knew he wasn’t with them after a day’s journey with their friends and relatives without finding him among them. But this twelve year old boy was not up to mischief, nor was he doing something wrong with bad friends. Instead, he was asking the rabbis’ questions, they were asking him questions, and he was giving answers as well. He was concerned to spend time with God hearing his word, learning as much as possible. Everyone who heard Jesus was amazed at his understanding and at his answers, which means that he was not only asking the rabbis questions, but also answering their questions. This must have been quite a wonderful interchange of ideas for his parents to hear, and yet they were distressed, since they had been looking for him for three days. Instead of bursting out in anger at Jesus’ not telling them that he would stay behind in the temple, Mary asked why he had treated them in this way and told him that she and Joseph had been in distress looking for him for three days. The reply that Jesus gave them escaped their understanding. What did it mean, they must have wondered, for him to be about his father’s business? (Luke 2:49, KJV). The Greek for this literally means “to be in the things of my Father”. In St. Luke’s account here, this saying is one of those which she keeps in her heart (Luke 2:51). Jesus’ word to his parents did not mean that he was no longer subject to their authority to which God had committed him for the time being. He returned home with them and submitted to their authority. Thereafter he advanced in wisdom, and grew in stature and favor with God and men (Luke 2:52).
What does this incident reveal about Jesus? Apart from being a prophetic symbol of his future death, and being lost to his family and disciples on earth from the day of his crucifixion until the third day, the day of his resurrection, it shows us a child who knew that obedience to God the Father is most important, but obedience to his parents is also necessary. We learn even from Jesus’ example as a child that we must all find out the will of God by studying and knowing the Holy Scriptures, and by asking questions of those who have studied and do continue to study the Holy Scriptures. If Jesus as a child thought he knew everything there was to know about God and about the Law, the Prophets and the Writings, would he have stayed behind at the temple to put questions to those who were learned in the Old Testament Scriptures?
If we think we don’t need to keep learning about the Bible and studying it, we are mistaken, since we cannot grow in obeying God’s will without reading the Scriptures, which teach God’s will. I am reminded of a comment made by Bishop Mott before he retired from his ministry as Bishop Ordinary of the Diocese of the West. He remarked that as he traveled around, visiting parishes in the Diocese, he did not see much learning taking place. In our own parish we have a Bible study meeting on Sunday mornings attended by only one of our parishioners. The opportunity is there for people to take, if they want to.
The principal lesson we learn from the Lord Jesus’ example of sitting among the scribes, Pharisees and teachers of the Law, listening and asking them questions, is that we should continually be about God’s business, learning his will, as best we can from the Bible, by frequently studying it, and trying to find out how God wants us to live our lives.