1 Christmas Proper C1
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 2:41-52 Sermon
December 30, 2012
Click here for internet service broadcast/podcast.
Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal & With One Voice):
TLH 87 "Joy To The World"
TLH 76 "A Great And Mighty Wonder"
WOV 644 "Away In A Manger"
TLH 136 "Angels From The Realms Of Glory"
THE FATHER’S BUSINESS CAN BE ANNOYING
TEXT (vs. 46-52): “And it came to pass, that after three days they found [Jesus] in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”
There are many so-called “left behind” stories that happen every year. Some are humorous, some are sad, and some are downright tragic.
The one that sticks in my mind is one that happened some years ago. A couple had retired, sold their home, and bought a lovely motor home so they could tour the country.
One morning the husband couldn’t sleep, so he decided they should get an early start. His wife wanted to get some more sleep, so he got dressed and began driving down the road with his wife sleeping in the back. That was all well and good.
A couple hours later, the husband pulls into a truck stop to fill up with diesel fuel. While the husband is filling up, the wife gets out of bed and gets dressed. She grabs her purse and heads into the station to use the restroom and to buy both of them a cup of coffee.
The husband had no idea she had done this. So while she was in the restroom, he goes in and pays for his fuel, gets back into the motor home, and takes off driving down the road. He was certain his wife was still asleep in the back.
Of course the wife comes out of the restroom, gets their coffee, and heads back outside, only to discover that the motor home was gone, and her husband had left her behind. She was certain that he had seen her leave the motor home and go inside the service station.
All of this happened in the days before cell phones were as ubiquitous as they are today. They didn’t have one, so she couldn’t just call him. She wound up phoning the Highway Patrol. It was several hours later before the Highway Patrol in the next state spotted him and pulled him over. Even then, he had to go to the bedroom in the back and look for himself before he believed what the patrolman was telling him.
The man reported that the drive back to the service station was the longest drive in his life. He and his wife had been married for a long time, and they hardly ever had a cross word between them. The knot in his stomach convinced him that was about to change. “Why didn’t she tell me she was going inside?” he thought to himself.
Of course the wife wasn’t any too happy either, having to wait those hours at the truck stop. “Why didn’t he check to see if I was there before leaving?” she thought to herself. She knew too that her husband wasn’t going to be too happy about having to backtrack those miles to go back and get her. But at least she was dressed and had her pocketbook with her.
For both the husband and the wife, the situation was annoying to say the least. Both of them were upset, and for good reason.
This story is one of many about someone that has been accidentally left behind somewhere. If you’ve ever been on a school field trip, the first thing the chaperone does when everybody gets on the bus is to count noses. It’s easy for kids to get separated from the group. And since the chaperones are responsible for the kids in their charge, they want to make every effort to be sure that none get lost or left behind.
In our text for today, we have one of the classic “left behind” stories. And oddly enough, this story is the only record of Jesus’ life between his birth, and when he began his ministry when he was around 30 years of age.
Jesus is 12 years old. He has just come “of age” according to Jewish tradition, where he makes the transition from being a boy to becoming a man. He has been faithfully instructed in the faith—Mary and Joseph had seen to that. In his hometown of Nazareth, he had been faithful in his church education. He had done everything he was supposed to.
But now it was time to celebrate the Passover, one of the high holy days in the church. An entire entourage journeys approximately 68 miles from Nazareth to Jerusalem to celebrate this festival at the temple. Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the rest of their immediate and extended family are amongst this large group of people. This was something they did every year. And since it was done mostly on foot, it was not a very fast trip.
When the celebration was over, everybody prepared to leave for their journey home. Mary and Joseph were guilty of making some assumptions. First, they assumed that Jesus knew they were all getting ready to leave. If he had been around them, could there have been any question about that?
Secondly, it would have been a common thing for the children to keep company with one another during the journey. What kid wants to be forced into keeping company with a bunch of adults? So Mary and Joseph thought that Jesus was probably with the same children he was with on the first leg of the journey. Maybe he was with his cousins or friends. After all, they had no reason not to trust him, or to think he would run away from them.
It wasn’t until they set up camp for the night that they began to look for Jesus. They talked to all of the usual people, their relatives and friends. He was nowhere to be found.
So they turn back to look for him. They had already traveled for a day, and it would have taken another day for them to get back to Jerusalem—and then where do they begin to look? It took them an entire day of searching to find him. They probably went to all the places where they thought a twelve-year-old boy would go and hang out. The last place anybody would have thought he would be hanging out was with a group of the Pharisees at the temple. Any normal twelve-year-old would have probably avoided these stodgy old men like the plague. But of course Jesus was no ordinary twelve-year-old boy.
Jesus was a very precocious child, which of course is an understatement. In our definition of a precocious child, we often think of a primary school child who can read at a high school level, or in some way is advanced beyond his or her years. Precocious children are often put in advanced classes in school.
Jesus, being true God that he is, was many levels beyond precocious. He was able to sit with these Pharisees and converse about things on their level. He asked them questions that would have searched their very soul. He challenged their way of thinking, and he brought new life to the words of Scripture they knew so well. He had them absolutely rapt with what he had to say.
When Mary and Joseph finally caught up with him, they weren’t pleased with him at all. They were annoyed at the very least, and probably a bit angry too. In our text for today, Mary says to him: “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.” Or in the English Standard Version translation of the Bible, it says: "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress."
I think that when we read both the King James and ESV translations, we can get a good idea of the amount of emotion attached to all of this. They were “searching in great distress” and “sorrowing.” They were very upset, and basically worried sick.
They were probably thinking that here they were, two people that God trusted beyond anybody else, specifically chosen to be the mother and stepfather to his only Son; and what do they do? They go and lose him! What ever is God going to think? Is God going to punish them for being irresponsible parents? Is God going to take him away from them and give him to another family?
When Mary and Joseph eventually find him, I believe that God’s fatherhood of Jesus wasn’t the first thing on their minds. They were more concerned about why Jesus had done what he did to them. Mary asks, “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us?” In other words, "Why did you treat us this way? Why did you make us search for you and worry us half to death?"
Jesus’ answer almost seems flippant in a way. He responds, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” Or as it says in the King James translation, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?”
This rebuttal of Jesus had a two-pronged meaning. First, Mary scolds him and says, "Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress." Jesus responds by reminding her of exactly who his father was.
Second, Jesus reminds her of why he came in the first place. He had to be about his Father’s business. He came to be the Saviour and Redeemer of the world, and that was his primary purpose.
I can only imagine how annoyed they might have been with this response. This cost them three days! Joseph would have lost work during this time. A day out, a day back, and a day in Jerusalem, all the time searching for Jesus, worrying about what might have happened to him. And when they find him, they don’t even rate an “I’m sorry” from him! All they got was this “being about my Father’s business” stuff. How annoying is that!
I believe that we do the same thing however. I think that far too often we find the Father’s business to be more of an annoyance than anything else. How dare God interrupt our busy lives with his business? When we open our checkbook, are we annoyed sometimes that God wants a small fraction of the money he has blessed us with to go back into his business? When we have to give a little time to the Lord’s work, are these an annoying interruption of our busy schedules? When it comes time for worship or Bible Study, do we see these as opportunities or annoyances? Do we go about the Father’s business begrudgingly or joyfully?
Jesus was no stranger to annoyances. When he entered the temple court and saw the merchants and moneychangers cheating the people, he became annoyed. When he healed ten lepers and only one could find the time to return and say “thank you,” Jesus asks, “Where are the other nine?” Definitely an annoyance there too.
Jesus came to this earth to be about the Father’s business, which was saving all of mankind. From the manger at Bethlehem to the cross on Golgotha; from the empty tomb to the Mount of the Ascension, it was all done for you and for me. Jesus took the time to come from heaven to this earth, to take upon himself all of the annoyances and sins of the entire human race, just to save us, just because he loves us.
Jesus breaks into our lives with words of love and peace and good will and salvation. Through faith in him, we become part of his family and heirs of eternal life. Jesus has come into our lives to do the Father’s business, which is to save us and lead us safely home to heaven.
In our text for today, we read: “And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”
Mary and Joseph didn’t quite understand what Jesus was talking about here, but Mary was especially aware of who Jesus was, and the fact that he was God’s own true Son. Whatever business Jesus had to do, she knew that it was correct and proper. And she also knew that many things would happen that she might not understand at the time, but that God was the one in control. Therefore, she kept all these things in her heart.
An African missionary once reported that this text was one of the more difficult ones for the natives to grasp. They couldn’t figure out how Jesus could have done what he did, and have gotten away with it. To them, it seemed like nothing more than childhood disobedience.
But Jesus wasn’t disobedient. He didn’t openly defy his earthly parents. He didn’t intentionally hide out and stay behind when he knew his entourage was leaving. He didn’t devise a scheme to make them worry. He didn’t run away from them.
Mary and Joseph left without him. They left him behind. They merely assumed he was with some other people, and never bothered to check any further until they were a day’s journey down the road. They were worried, and then became annoyed with Jesus when they found him. But the only people with whom they could be annoyed were themselves. Our text tells us that Jesus was obedient to them, and he was.
In the beginning, I told the story of this couple in their motor home, and how the husband drove off and left his wife behind at the truck stop. There is an ending to this story.
When the husband rolled back into the truck stop, he was met by the local news media that had picked up the story. The couple had their picture taken beside their motor home; and after topping up his tank again, this time both of them were on their way.
The husband and wife were still annoyed and angry over the whole situation. They sat in complete silence for several minutes, both fearing what the other one might say. The wife finally broke the silence by saying, “You know, in the future we’ll look back upon this experience and laugh. We might as well start now.” And with that, they both broke out in peals of laughter. The worry, the fear, the anger, and the annoyance they both felt all just melted away. They couldn’t let the events of those few hours spoil the years of love and happiness they had together.
When Jesus told Mary and Joseph that he had to be about the Father’s business, it annoyed them. Does the Father’s business annoy us sometimes too? You know that it does.
So when we are tempted to become annoyed when we are asked to spend a small fraction of our time or money to do the Father’s business, just remember what the Father’s business is. The Father’s business is to love you and care for you like none other. It was the Father’s business to send Jesus into your life, so that through faith in him, you would have eternal joy and happiness in the world to come.