O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
JESUS AT 12: SAVING YOU ALREADY
JESUS AT 12: SAVING YOU ALREADY
Based on Luke 2:40-52
Preached on January 03, 2016
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In the Virgin-Born and Prince of Peace, good friends!
Every year changes you. On an upstairs wall at our house we've got a full collection of annual school pictures taken of each of our children from kindergarten right through to their high school graduations. Look closely, and you see the changes in size and shape as each little child gradually becomes a young adult. Every year changes you. You're not standing still. Whether it's your self-discipline, your knowledge, your work performance, your personal strengths, or even your habitual sins and weaknesses, you either move forward ... or slide back. Every year changes you. Jesus the Child changed after He was born at Bethlehem. In today's Gospel God's Spirit lifts a curtain. He gives you a glimpse. In all the Bible this is the only mention of Jesus' life between His days as a Baby and when He began preaching as a full-grown Man. It's also the first time you get to hear Jesus say anything. It helps to focus on this moment in His young life. The Holy Spirit can use it to show you Jesus at 12. He was saving and helping you already then. I. THE CHILD GREW AND BECAME STRONG; HE WAS FILLED WITH WISDOM, AND THE GRACE OF GOD WAS UPON HIM. That's how Scripture sums up the time between Jesus as a Baby and as a 12-year old. In body and mind, in heart and spirit, He made progress. In many ways He appeared to be growing as all other children do. When He was 12, it was time for Jesus to start carrying out His duty as a
faithful Israelite. Joseph and Mary went to Jerusalem every year to celebrate Passover. Now their son was expected to make the pilgrimage, too; to walk into the great temple, perhaps for the first time in His life; to stand before the Lord's altar; to eat the Passover meal. There was nothing unusual about any of that. Then came something totally unusual. When the festival was over and the parents set out for home, young Jesus didn't go along. The parents traveled a full day before they realized He was missing. This mix-up is not hard to understand. In those days whole families and groups of friends would walk together on such a trip; that way they were safer if bandits tried to assault them on the road. Adolescent boys might walk with mothers and little kids; on the other hand, they might try to act like cool big guys and walk with the men. I imagine Joseph figuring young Jesus was with His mother, while Mary just assumed He was tagging along with Joseph. It wasn't until the full group stopped for the night that these parents realized to their horror their son wasn't anywhere to be found. Young Jesus, Who seemed to be growing like all other children, was already different from all other children ... and even set apart from Joseph and Mary. The big thing that riveted this 12-year old was being close to God His Father, getting questions answered about God His Father, spending time in the house of God His Father. He wasn't focusing on all the typical family concerns, travel arrangements, or worries about what would happen to Him if He didn't keep up with His
parents and those journeying with them. After the parents rushed back and turned Jerusalem upside down for three days before they found Him; and after His mother reprimanded Him for causing much worry for her and his father, Joseph, Jesus asked, DIDN'T YOU KNOW I HAD TO BE IN MY FATHER'S HOUSE? With all due respect to Joseph, Jesus the Child already counted God His truest Father. Even though He benefited from living in Joseph's house and being cared for as Joseph's son, He already saw Himself above all else as God's Son. It's enlightening to get this little glimpse into Jesus' life during that long, mostly silent period between His day as a Baby and His days as a Man. God's Holy Spirit does not reveal this moment to you for curiosity's sake. God's Spirit shows you this because there is a treasure here. It can benefit and bless you if you have the heart to take it in. II. You see, Jesus was working to be your Saviour already when He was 12. Ask most Christians, "What did Christ do to save you?" and they will answer, quite properly, "He suffered and died on the cross to pay for my sins." It's a great answer. The Bible says it: HE WAS DELIVERED OVER TO DEATH FOR OUR SINS. We call this suffering and death of Jesus His "passive" obedience. It means Jesus obediently and passively accepted the painful things done to Him so that He could ... in your place ... bear the punishment you and I deserved. That's not everything Jesus did to save you. He did not just passively endure. Christ also saved you with His very active life and the total devotion He gave
His Father. When a law teacher once asked Him, "WHAT IS THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT IN THE LAW?" JESUS REPLIED, "LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND." Jesus did not just start showing that total love for God when He began suffering in Holy Week. He was showing total love for the Lord in heart and soul and mind already as a 12-year old when He craved being in His Father's house, when He thirsted to know more of His Father's word, when He asked questions the rabbis in his hometown synagogue couldn't answer. Out of love He wanted to have an ever tighter grip on His Father above. It runs even deeper! Jesus showed that total love for His Father when He faced the temptations of the evil one. Through all His thinking, speaking and doing in 33 years of life in our world, Jesus always said "Yes" to everything that brought Him close to God. At the same time, He always spoke a flat "No" to anything that would pry Him loose from the Father He loved. St. Paul explains why Jesus lived this way: WHEN THE TIME HAD FULLY COME, GOD SENT HIS SON, BORN OF A WOMAN, BORN UNDER LAW, TO REDEEM THOSE UNDER LAW, THAT WE MIGHT RECEIVE THE FULL RIGHTS OF SONS. That's why Jesus saved you, the total package: He came into this world at Christmas. He placed Himself under all the demands of God's Law and will. This means He took His place beside you under a burden that was crushing you, so He could redeem you ... in other words, buy you back, and win for you the good favour of God you could never earn on your own.
Yes, Jesus did it with that suffering and dying He passively endured. But Jesus was also busy saving you by the entire life He actively lived, totally devoted to the Lord, unbending against every evil pull and tug. He was so fundamentally different, not just from all other little kids in Nazareth, but also from Joseph and Mary and everybody else in those days. He is also different from sinners like you, like me. When it came time for Him to die, CHRIST LOVED US, the Bible says, AND GAVE HIMSELF UP FOR US AS A FRAGRANT OFFERING AND SACRIFICE TO GOD. By His dying He paid the penalty for every wrong you ever did. And by His life He had prepared a God-pleasing offering also for all the good you failed to do. The 12-year old in the temple made His life an offering for all those moments when you and I never give the Lord a thought, when you turn a deaf ear to the words God speaks, and are quite happy to live for a hundred other things. It's really true, isn't it? Jesus at age 12 was busy saving you already! III. It is a colossal blessing from God that this reading from St. Luke would come before you on the first Sunday of January. Jesus, Who saved you by the life He lived; and Jesus, Who saved you by the death He died; can also spare you now from wasting the New Year. When Jesus Christ gets through to a person with pardon for the sins and failures of the past, He doesn't stop there. He begins kindling a new heart inside. He starts creating in His sons and daughters the drive to live life to the glory of God. St. Paul put it like this: I HAVE BEEN CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST AND I NO LONGER
LIVE, BUT CHRIST LIVES IN ME. In other words, I'm not running the show inside here anymore; Christ is! He knows how to take up residence inside you so that your mind and heart, your desires, your words and actions, begin to be completely re-directed. You actually start to want to go God's way, as opposed to always going your own way. Jesus Christ does this to people, not so you can prove how deserving you are in a bid to win God's mercy. You know you're a sinner and that any attempt to deserve God's pardon will fail. But Christ can give you a love for His words and ways precisely because you're so grateful to have His mercy as a free gift. This new heart and new enthusiasm God gives for going Christ's way is the living fulfillment of what the apostle John tells us about Jesus: FROM THE FULLNESS OF HIS GRACE WE HAVE ALL RECEIVED ONE BLESSING AFTER ANOTHER. It's quite a pile of gifts the Lord has loaded you up with now that the Christmas season is nearly ended: He's given you His Christ, your Saviour! In Christ He's given pardon for all sin and the assurance of living in the sunshine of God's acceptance, now and forever! He's given you heart and will to live for Him and not for yourself alone! Now ... He gives this New Year as an open door, a glorious gift to take and use for Christ and to show love to the people Christ has placed all around you. I was talking with a good friend the other day from another church who got visiting after Christmas Eve services with a woman who only comes to worship there
that one time each year. "It's our tradition," the woman told my friend. That's all Christmas is for a great many people ... too many, alas. The evil one will be very smug if he can seduce you with it, too, with the temptation to pack Christmas away for another year and to live rather aimlessly in 2016 without really seeing what life is for and Who is giving it to you. It doesn't have to be like that. Jesus, the 12-year old, shows you the way. He was absolutely riveted with the drive to know His Father and to grow closer to Him day by day. He didn't stay behind at the temple because He was out to annoy His parents, or didn't appreciate their care. It's just that He put love of heaven's great Father over every other love. And so, a sincere and humble student, Jesus the 12-year old immersed Himself in God's words and God's thoughts. With all my heart, I wish for our Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church and for all our congregations across the land, that many more of our people would immerse themselves in God's words and His mindset on a daily basis. I told you at the beginning that each year changes you. You're never standing still. It's also true of your knowledge of God and your love of Christ that you and I are always either moving forward ... or sliding back. This is why every-day Bible reading at home is an urgent practice. I know how strange it feels at first and how even many active churchgoers don't know how to get started. We, your pastors, can help you with that. To begin with, you'll hardly feel the difference it makes; it's kind of like learning a language or daily
walking or some physical exercise. For a time it seems to make no difference at all. But if you stick with it – and I know this from my own experience – God will begin shaping in you more and more the mind of Christ. It will begin affecting your personal life; will start giving direction to your priorities. And it can deepen the life of our entire church family beyond anything you imagine. Economists and commentators are making forecasts right now about 2016. Truth is, none of us knows precisely what this New Year will bring ... and especially what it will bring you personally. Will there be unexpected joys? Will it bring very deflating sorrows? Will all routines stay comfortably "as is," or are big changes headed your way? I don't know. You don't, either. The Lord brings you and me to the close of the Christmas season with one thing you do know. "God is with us" ... that's what "Immanuel" means. He was already with you in Christ's little baby-manger, already with you through that 12-year old in Jerusalem. On the first Sunday of another January, He has opened the door as wide as He knows how, and has given Himself to you as totally as He can. Every year changes you. What a glad blessing it is that the Father of Jesus Christ is the One directing the changes headed for you right now. Amen.