2nd Sunday after Christmas
January 5, 2020
“Let’s Go to Jerusalem”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Good Shepherd Jesus. The text that engages us for the first sermon of a brand-new calendar year is the assigned Gospel lesson for today from Luke chapter 2.
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
Hey…I’ve got an idea. It’s a brand new year, right? In late May-early June this year I’m going on my first-ever overseas trip/cruise to Greece and Turkey to follow in Paul’s footsteps. So…what do you say? What would you think of a little “warm-up” trip? In 2020 let’s go to Jerusalem!
But, okay, before you jump up to find the sign-up sheet, I did some research. You cannot fly directly to Jerusalem from Sarasota. You have to fly to Tel Aviv and it’s going to cost each of us about $1400 round trip just in airfare. If we fly Delta we’ll have to fly to Atlanta first, and then it’s also gonna take us 18 hours of flight time. Also, you’re going to need a valid passport and you may want to convert some of your money to shekels. If we leave soon it’s still winter there, which means it’s about 40-50 degrees outside; you’ll still want a coat…and a hat…and maybe some gloves. On second thought, maybe a trip to Jerusalem might not be that great of an idea. I have no experience in organizing or leading a trip like this. I’ve never done it myself! Maybe we should leave this up to the professionals, so let’s not plan the trip. But that’s okay. Besides, we have a Savior who went there for us.
Today’s Gospel lesson from Luke 2 is unique. This is the only – the ONLY – narrative we have of Jesus as a teenager. In all the Gospel accounts he goes from being an infant to being a 30 year old man in a matter of a verse or two. But St. Luke provides us with a unique and special glimpse of a trip that Jesus and His family took to Jerusalem for a very special purpose. Verse 41 tells us they were going to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the Passover – a significant OT festival. Suffice it to say, their trip to Jerusalem was not for seeing the sights, but for a very special purpose…and a very special purpose for us too.
They didn’t have “amber alerts” – alerts raised when a child goes missing – in Jesus’ day, but if they did, one would have been initiated! The family had made the trip from Galilee to Jerusalem as was their yearly custom (2:41) to celebrate the Passover. Typically many pilgrims made this journey together and they traveled in large groups for companionship, support, and protection. When Passover was done, the group headed north back to Galilee but Jesus, unknowingly, stayed behind in the temple. When his folks realized he was no longer with the group, they did what they could since they lacked amber alerts and cell phone tracking technology. They went back to Jerusalem. For three days they didn’t know where He was (out of sight for 3 days…hhm…wonder when THAT might happen again). After 3 days they find Jesus and He’s in the temple and He is teaching the teachers. He’s only a child – He’s 12 – but everyone including His parents are amazed and astonished.
Obviously, His parents want to know what He’s doing there. In verse 49, we get the following translation of Jesus’ answer: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” I’m sorry…but that is not an accurate translation. In fact, I looked at 10 different translations, from the King James to The Message and, oddly enough, it is The Message that comes closest. Most translations add the word “house” or business.” The Message come close: “didn’t you know that I had to be here, dealing with the things of my Father?” Neither the word “house” nor the word “business” are found in the original Greek text, but there is one critical word there in Greek…“dei”. So what does this mean? Why is Jesus in the Temple? Because it is necessary that He be there; it is a divine imperative that Jesus be where God is found to give attention to God’s Word.
Jerusalem is not a new place for our Lord. As an unborn infant, Joseph and Mary would have passed through Jerusalem on their journey southward to Bethlehem. Jesus’ earthly parents brought Him to Jerusalem every year for the Passover (2:41). And as a 33 year old man, He will once again come to Jerusalem, this time of His own free will for another very special purpose. In Luke 18, Jesus says to His disciples, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again” (31-33, NIV).
As a child Jesus grew and became strong. He increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man (2:52). As He grew in that wisdom and knowledge, He knew where His path was leading. As a child He grew in wisdom knowing that one day He would return to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, but afterwards He would die upon the cross. Can you imagine the pain of living with that burden every day of your life?
But He also knew there was a purpose…a divine plan. Jesus knew that God’s wisdom was that He would be the blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. He knew God’s will, He knew the importance of His sacrifice, and He recognized the value of being found where God Himself is found. He did so as a teaching moment for Jerusalem’s religious leaders and for all of us who believe in Him by faith. If it was necessary for Jesus to be found where the Word of God is found, then what does that say for our worship life in 2020 and every year for that matter? Worship is not so much an optional thing as it is a divine necessity.
So you’re not ready 18 hours in a plane to get to Jerusalem? No big whoop. You’re already there. You are where Jesus says it is necessary that you be: you are in the house of God surrounded by the things of the Father – His Word and Sacraments – and that makes a difference. Dr. Kenneth Korby once said, “We go to the Sacrament as if going to our death so that we may go to our death as if going to the Sacrament.”
Our Lord’s wisdom becomes our wisdom. His values are our values. His integrity and insight becomes our integrity and insight. His love becomes our love. His divine plan changes us in how we treat ourselves and treat one another outside this building. Jesus didn’t go to Jerusalem for the food or to see sights. He went there to teach, to lead, to be an example, to die, to rise again. And we can be eternally thankful that He did.
Happy new year, everyone. Welcome to the year of our Lord 2020.