2nd Sunday after Christmas (C)
January 2, 2016
“His Father’s Business”
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Gospel, which was read a few minutes ago.
How many of you followed in the footsteps of your parents when it came to a career? I know that some of you did; you took over the family farm or the family business, but many of you went your own way like I did. I didn’t follow my dad as an engineer and he didn’t follow his dad the career Navy man. As I think about my classmates at the seminary, only a few of them came from families in which there were pastors, the rest of us were kind of blazing our own trails. I know it can sometimes be disappointing to parents when a child doesn’t want to follow their footsteps or take on the family business. But not all children are meant to be engineers, military men, or farmers like their parents, some have different path laid out before them. Take Jesus for example. As the son of a carpenter, He should’ve been a carpenter His whole life, but He wasn’t. Instead what we see in our text for today is that Jesus was all about His Father’s business, not His step-father’s carpentry business, but His Heavenly Father’s salvation business.
The remarkable thing about Jesus’ early life is that we know very little about it. He’s the Savior and yet we know practically nothing about His childhood. We assume He worked as a carpenter with Joseph and that He was the oldest of at least seven children. But the rest is just speculation based on what we know of the times in which He lived. We can guess what kind of house He lived in, what kind of food He ate, and what the family dynamics were like, but they’re only guesses. The only account we have between the time Jesus was born and the day He was baptized by John is our text for today, and yet, in these few verses we learn so much about Him.
Luke writes, “Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.” Like all good Jews, Mary and Joseph obeyed God’s command and went to the Temple in Jerusalem for the Passover. For Jesus though, this trip was not just about doing something God had commanded (although that was one reason He went), it was also a chance to enter His Father’s house to learn, to perhaps teach by way of His answers, and to reveal His true purpose. Right away, Jesus was thinking about His Heavenly Father’s business and it’s not a coincidence that His first recorded words didn’t take place at home or with His friends but in the Temple.
In these first words of Jesus He reveals that what His mother and step-father should have remembered, that He was different. Yes, Joseph was, as Mary said, Jesus’ father, but Jesus knew that His purpose wasn’t to be a carpenter like His earthly father, it was to follow His true Father, His Heavenly Father. For this reason, Jesus says, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Jesus’ words “in my Father’s house” can also be translated “about my Father’s business”, and the Temple was all about the Father’s business because it was there that God met His people. But now that God had come to His people in the God-man Jesus Christ, the place of God shifted from the Temple to the Son. The business of the Father would no longer be attended to by priests and sacrifices but by His Son. And I wonder how Jesus must have felt, coming to Jerusalem, knowing that the fulfillment of His Father’s business would occur in same city. He knows this is going to happen, so He heads to the Temple focused solely on what His Father demands.
As a parent reading this story, I admit that I would probably side with Mary for coming down on Jesus as she did. She and Joseph must’ve been terrified as they spent three days frantically looking for Jesus. One can only imagine what they were thinking and so we’re not surprised when upon finding Jesus she says, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” We’d probably say the same thing when we caught up with our wayward child. Now, it appears that Jesus may have disobeyed His parents, He didn’t, He merely focused on what His true business was – the business of His Father. In His response “Why were you looking for me?” Jesus is saying He didn’t do anything to hurt His parents, but they should’ve known where He would be – learning His Father’s business in His Father’s house.
And part of His Father’s business was for Him to live a perfect life on earth, so Jesus goes home with His parents and continues to perfectly obey them as He had done in the past. Luke writes, “And He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.” This is called Christ’s active obedience, He perfectly did what we can’t do – He perfectly obeyed each and every commandment of God. Where we tend to worship material things, Jesus worshipped only His Father. Where we fail to give God one hundred percent of our lives, Jesus gave all. Where we sometimes disrespect our parents or others in authority, Jesus was perfectly submissive to both (even to the point of death). Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” And He had to fulfill the Law because we couldn’t. God demands that we keep the Law and He wants us to keep it, but He also knows that because of our Sin we’re going to repeatedly break the commandments, for that reason He sent His Son whose fulfillment of the Law would be our fulfillment of the Law. He did what we couldn’t do and His perfect life became our perfect life. This is part of the Father’s business – that we would no longer be cursed for failing to keep the Law but we would be forgiven and strengthened by Christ who did all for us.
And eighteen years later we would see all that Jesus would do for us, as His obedience to His Father once again leads Him back to the Temple and Jerusalem. It was there that He would teach the people the Father’s business, and because His Father’s business was no longer limited to Jerusalem or the Temple Jesus and took His teachings throughout Judea and the surrounding region. The Father’s business had to be shared because it was not business as usual for the people but it was a business of forgiveness, healing, love, and grace.
But like Mary and Joseph, not everyone would understand what Jesus had to say and do, and so twenty-one years after His first words in the Temple, Jesus would see the Temple as a prisoner. The religious leaders who at one time had been amazed by Jesus’ answers and understanding would be repulsed by His answers and they would plug their ears to His divine wisdom. This though was all part of His Father’s business. It didn’t look right, but the Father’s business always takes precedence and He’ll always use those things which don’t seem right or aren’t right to accomplish His plan for this world.
Even now, when things seem to go against His plan for this world, we can trust that it’s His business to set things right. Where things are unfair, when evil seems to triumph, when Satan is getting the best of us, we know that all things work for the good of those who love God. And things work for our good because Christ is still in His Father’s house doing His Father’s business. He’s here in our church where we come into His presence. We come here to hear His Word of forgiveness, peace, and comfort. We come here to be reminded of our baptism where God enters our hearts and minds to make us one of His own. But we don’t need to just come here because the Father’s business isn’t limited to this church or any other church. His business is done in us, for it’s in us that God makes His home. As Jesus says to all of us, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” It’s in us that the Father’s business is worked, for it’s in your hearts that God comes to bring you salvation, to forgive your sins, to defend you from Satan’s accusations and attacks. This is the Father’s business – to save you, and because of Jesus’ perfect life and death, His business is always and eternally good.
In our text for today Saint Luke tells us that while Mary didn’t understand all that Jesus did and said, she still “treasured up all these things in her heart.” She pondered them, she held them close, she drew on them when her Son amazed her with His perfect love and obedience. In the same way we may not always understand how God can love us so much and so deeply. And it’s hard to comprehend how God’s business always succeeds when sometimes it looks like it completely failed. But we don’t have to understand! We only have to treasure. We treasure in our hearts the love of God and the grace of Christ that tells us that because the Father’s business was done by Christ, we are forgiven. This is the Father’s business and it was done so that all of us, His Sons and Daughters in Christ, would know that the Father’s house is not the Temple, but it’s in us, where He does His business every day of our lives.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen