January 17, 2019

Epiphany 1 - Luke 2:41-52

Theme: Is Jesus Welcome in Your heart?
1. When He lingers longer than expected
2. When He instructs
3. When all you can do is trust

Luke 2:41-52 His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. 43 When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; 44 but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day's journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45 So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. 46 Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. 48 So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, "Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously." 49 And He said to them, "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" 50 But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. 51 Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

We’re finally moving forward from a very popular holiday season in our lives. From Thanksgiving, to Christmas, to New Years, I’m sure many of you have had your fair share of guests in your home during the last few months. Did any of you have the awkward exchange of an acquaintance who over-stayed their welcome? We all know what it feels like. It’s great to have guests over. It’s a privilege to host. But we all have our limits too. Sometimes, it’s extremely difficult to show someone the door. We don’t want to be rude, but even good things have an end and sometimes we need our own personal or family space. Confronting the over-stayed welcome guest can be a troublesome task.

Mary and Joseph found themselves on a similar footing in this, the only account in the Bible from our Savior’s adolescent years. For them, it wasn’t that Jesus was an unwelcomed guest or that He was intruding too much. Rather, it was, as verse 43 tells us, that Jesus lingered too long in Jerusalem. Mary, Joseph, and the attendant family had journeyed to Jerusalem for the Passover festival but it was now time to head home. Not according to Jesus. He had unfinished business in Jerusalem – business of the highest and most pressing need. It wouldn’t be the last surprise from Him on a Passover in Jerusalem, either.

What we see in this story first of all is one of the bumps that comes along with sinful parents caring for a sinless child. There was a learning curve here. Mary and Joseph no doubt felt that they were in the right, yet Jesus’ actions were proven just as He was invested in fulfilling His Father’s business here on earth. Along with this somewhat minor lesson is a monumental teaching point for Mary, Joseph, and you. Put yourself in Mary and Joseph’s position and ask yourself, when your Savior does the unexpected, is He welcome in your heart?

It may not seem like this was the question that needed answering from Mary and Joseph, but it was. Their struggle with Jesus’ choice to stay in Jerusalem ultimately was a struggle about whether or not they would trust His will as their Savior. Did He have a place in their hearts in that manner? Does He have a place in our hearts or has He over-stayed His welcome? In three similar ways, that same question comes into our lives. 1. When Jesus lingers longer than expected. 2. When Jesus instructs 3. And when Jesus presents something that requires faith. We ask for the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us through His Word today.

Part 1: When Jesus lingers longer than expected

Maybe all that Mary and Joseph wanted was a heads up. Perhaps they were okay with any decision Jesus made so long as He let them know ahead of time. But, Jesus did what He did for a reason. It was a necessary reminder that He was not here for any ordinary purpose. Within that moment of surprise and anxiousness for Mary and Joseph was a built-in memory that would always remind them why Jesus was different.

In many ways, Jesus can be equally surprising to us. When He is, do we follow, trust, and obey Him or does He become an embarrassing burden? It’s commonplace to want Jesus on our terms – to fashion Him into the God we want or bind Him by our wishes and desires. Many people today accept Jesus – so long as fits into their terms and stays there. That is not faith. It is treating Jesus as an unwelcome guest.

This kind of thinking is often marked by preaching the positivity of Jesus. The mantra goes that Jesus loves all people, therefore He is constantly seeking the best for His followers and affirming their dreams and desires. If anything about the Christian faith veers of this course of self-fulfillment then it is quickly jettisoned from a person’s confession. This positivity is dangerous because it allows lies to enter a person’s heart while veiled under half-truths. Jesus does love all people. Jesus does want the best for us. Jesus wants all to be happy – that’s actually what the Biblical word “blessed” means. But, Jesus doesn’t do that by affirming all lifestyles. Jesus doesn’t always tell us yes. And Jesus does not bend His will to fit yours. In addition to what we perceive as positive things Jesus does, He also acts in truth and justice. What we need to understand about being a sinner is that what we want or what we call good will not always be true or just. If it was, we wouldn’t be a sinner.

What do you do when Jesus lingers longer than expected? This isn’t saying that Jesus remains in the Temple. Rather, it’s symbolic for the times when Jesus confronts us with something unpleasant to our ears; times when Jesus tells us no, or says with the full authority of God “Thou shall not…” Have we fallen into the seeker-salvation trap of wanting Jesus sometimes but not at other times? Does He become a burden when our friends aren’t Christians and we’re afraid of offending them by living our faith? Is it awkward when relatives don’t confess the Christian faith and we’d rather not have Jesus around if it means causing commotion? It’s so easy to treat the Lord of heaven and earth, our Savior and Redeemer, like a doormat in our hearts by accepting Him in certain circumstances and being ashamed of Him in others.

Mary and Joseph were in that same boat. Jesus confronted them as Lord, God, and Savior; not just as a child. And when Jesus lingered in the temple it was also a test of Mary and Joseph for the other times He would do something unexpected. Would they follow, trust, and obey? Do we?

Part 2: When He instructs

That test would be given in Jesus’ response to their rebuke. He replied in verse 49 "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" While Jesus had been instructing the teachers of the temple earlier, the true lesson was given in this question. For Jesus, the work before was not an optional thing – like so many approach religion today. For the majority of the world, even Christians, faith is a mere “take it or leave it” thing in life. And, that’s before we even question what kind of faith we’re talking about. Religion has been denigrated to the masses, becoming a mere social choice that is no more than wish-fulfillment thinking. Such is what we do when we get our hands on God’s creation. For Jesus, though, the principles of the Christian faith were not optional, they were His Heavenly Father’s business. Jesus found it absolutely necessary to follow through on His work, not just because He subjectively believed it and because others could believe what they wanted. Jesus believed this because it was a fact; and one that was absolutely necessary to accomplish. And finally, a fact one that equally applies to all people.

The test was whether Mary and Joseph believed the same. For us, the test is whether we do. When Jesus instructs, do we listen, or is not what we’re here for? When Jesus says it is necessary that He complete the Father’s business, do we agree? At another time Jesus said the same thing to His disciples, three times actually, He told them that “it was necessary” that He go to Jerusalem, suffer at the hands of the Pharisees, die on a cross, and rise again the third day. This was His Father’s business.

And don’t we all remember Peter’s famous rebuke at Jesus’ insinuation that these things were necessary. “Far be it from you Lord!” Peter said. And Jesus sadly but firmly judged – “Get behind Me, Satan!” Foolish Peter. Yet, isn’t that the same thing we do when we fail the test? Are we any better than Peter when Jesus instructs us of His Father’s business and we scoff at His Word as if it were a mere opinion? You can take whatever it is; whatever rubs you the worst in Bible, whatever is deemed most politically incorrect, whatever modern Christianity has moved on from – if we react the same way at what the Word of God (written or incarnate) instructs then we are no better – and we have failed the test. Jesus wants us to do more than recognizes that He instructs, but to believe it and to cherish it just as much as He did.

Part 3: When all you can do is trust

So, what was Mary and Joseph’s response to this test? It doesn’t sound so good. Verse 50: But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. Even hearing an answer from Jesus baffled Mary and Joseph. They didn’t understand. But this was not a total failure of their faith, rather it was a description of what was at the root of the struggle. What sinner can witness the wonderful works of God and not be left with a puzzled countenance? Who stands in God’s presence without feeling inadequate? If we think we do, then we aren’t paying close enough attention.

Mary and Joseph’s response reminds us why some don’t follow Jesus. There comes a point for every disciples of Jesus, and often multiple points, where they come face to face with things that they can’t understand. And logically, it’s easy to see why so many turn away from Jesus. He isn’t a God that you can contain. He can’t be fashioned and molded like the other idols and false deities of the world. He defies understanding. In one sense that is an indictment of our sin. But, in another sense it’s a comforting thought. The God that invests His business in my salvation cannot be controlled. He power is infinite. His love transcends all human knowledge. His peace surpasses all understanding.

So, as far as the test is concerned, verse 50 is only the beginning of the answer. See the complete picture in the next verse: …His mother kept all these things in her heart. Once again, Mary shows her faith; not in what she is able to understand about God but what she trusts. The idea here for “keep” is to guard or treasure a truth in the deepest way possible. Think of it as hanging onto something at all costs. This was Mary’s faith. Was she perfect? No. Did she know it all? No. But she was not ashamed of her Savior, even in the most trying moments that defied her expectation. She trusted in Him. She trusted in what He could accomplish even if she couldn’t understand. And that is the true sign that Jesus is welcome is a believer’s heart; that he or she trusts Him in all things and cherishes the opportunity to listen to His voice.

Is Jesus welcomed in a trusting way, by faith, in your heart? Remember, He will surprise you. You won’t always understand. But, that’s not what it’s about. Hang onto, treasure, guard, and keep the simple fact that Jesus has accomplished God the Father’s business, the task of your salvation and the entrance right for you to be in heaven. Praise to be Jesus, and may you always trust in Him! Amen.

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