Sermon on Luke 2:41 - 52

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Luke 2:41 - 52
1st Sunday of Christmas
SMAS 10.30am
(30-12-12)

It’s very frustrating when we lose something. Linda began her talk for this morning with a story about how she lost her jacket last year. She did mention that one of the reasons that she wanted to introduce the subject of the loss of her new olive green waterproof was that she may have left it in your house and that you would now know to whom that unidentified jacket belongs to and Linda will, as a result, be reunited with her jacket.

However, Linda goes on to note that when we lose something we do the obvious actions of retracing our steps until we find it. Linda says: “I couldn’t do that because I don’t remember losing it and wouldn’t have a clue where to start. The first I knew about it was when I needed it. I now know the best thing to do is to put your car keys in a pocket before taking it off so you can’t leave without it. Too late now though!”

Losing a child is another matter entirely – horrendous. Sometimes we might wish we could – just for the odd half hour or so! But to properly lose them and not know where they are is a horrible experience. Christian and I have direct experience of this when at the age of 2, Felix ‘disappeared’ from his mother’s side in a shop in the Grafton Centre in Cambridge, to be found 15 minutes later in another part of the shopping centre. He was not gone long, but long enough to completely freak out his mother!

In the days when it was safe to leave prams outside of shops, it used to be quite common for new mums to head home without their baby. So before we write Mary and Joseph off as bad parents for losing Jesus on the way back from Jerusalem let’s try and understand the situation a little more.

For a start, they were good Jewish parents and they raised Him according to the law that God had given Moses about 5,000 years before:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, all your might, and these words which I am commanding you today shall be on your heart and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and daughters and you shall teach them when you sit down in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lay down and when you rise up (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)

This is one of the ways that helped Jesus increase in wisdom. Early in life He learned the joy of studying the Scriptures, which encouraged Him to seek Godly wisdom rather than that which the world relies upon.

Devout Jews were required to observe Passover in Jerusalem every year. Three times a year the Jewish men were required to go to Jerusalem to worship, but not all of them could afford this. If they chose one feast, it was usually the most important one, Passover, and they tried to take their family with them.

The way of travelling was with women and children leading to set the pace. Men and young men followed behind. Relatives and whole villages travelled together. It would have been an enormous group, and they kept an eye on each other’s children. Being twelve meant that Jesus could easily have gone from the children’s group to the young men’s group and back again without being missed. Joseph would think Jesus was with Mary and other children; Mary would suppose He was with Joseph and the young men, or perhaps their relatives. They must have had faith in Him and His judgement; if he’d been irresponsible they would never have gone a whole day without knowing his whereabouts.

At evening they would make camp and the men would have caught up with the women. Consequently they had gone a day’s journey from Jerusalem when they discovered that Jesus was missing. It therefore took a day to return to the city and another day to find Him.

What can we gain from hearing this story?

Mary’s loving rebuke brought a respectful but astonished reply from Jesus: “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?

The main point of the passage probably lies in the contrast between ‘your’ father and ‘my’ father. Mary says “Your father and I have been searching for you”. Jesus answers “You should have known I would be at the house of My Father”. Jesus has chosen this crucial stage in His life, on the brink of manhood, to tell His parents that he now knows who His real Father is and what it means for His mission.

The age of 12 is significant. The 12th year was the final year of preparation for a boy before entering fully into the religious life of the synagogue. Till then, parents especially fathers were teaching him the commandments of the law. At the end of his 12th year he goes through the ceremony in which he becomes a ‘bar mitzvah’ (son of the commandment). Jesus was demonstrating, for those who had eyes to see, that He would be more than an ordinary Jewish bar mitzvah; His insight into the commandment was more profound than that of ordinary men and His relationship to God was unique. This probably marks the beginning of His own understanding of who He is and what He is about. He recognizes His unique Sonship to God and that His mission will require of Him a devotion to God's purposes so great that it takes precedence over even the closest of family ties. He must follow his calling even if it brings pain and misunderstanding. In this way, Luke sets the stage for the adult ministry of the Son of God.

But for ourselves, think for a moment, in a similar way to Linda losing her coat last year, how far might we travel before we realize we have misplaced Jesus?

Are you, in fact, sure that Jesus is still with you in your travels? Are you sure you have not misplaced him? When is the last time you felt that you really needed him? When was the last time you had to call on him?

Maybe you haven’t felt like you needed Jesus for some time. Maybe you feel like you’re smart enough or strong enough on your own? You save calling on Jesus for times of desperation.

Maybe your relationship with Jesus is a bit on the shallow side and, although you think Jesus is with you, really you’ve misplaced Him and haven’t realized it yet? The needs in your life have just not made you notice it yet?

Sometimes we can be so busy rushing around and we take it for granted that He’s there somewhere. A bit like Joseph and Mary taking it for granted He was somewhere in their crowd?

Another way we can lose Him is in wanting Him to be where ‘we are at’ instead of where He is.

As Christians we’re responsible for maintaining and developing our individual relationship with Jesus. Like He did at the age of 12 we need to see that nothing else matters as much as spending time with God - which we do through Jesus! By this I mean QUALITY time. Listen to this warning story:

A foolish old farmer decided that the oats he’d fed his mule for years were costing too much. He hatched a plan to mix a little sawdust with the feed. Then a little more the next day, and even more the next, each time reducing the amount of oats in the mix. The mule didn’t seem to notice the gradual change, so the farmer thought things were fine and kept decreasing the amount of oats. But weeks later, on the day he finally fed the poor beast nothing but sawdust; the mule finished the meal and fell over dead.

The point is that nothing can substitute our relationship with Jesus. We must set ourselves on guard lest we misplace him, or drift from him. The change is often so subtle it is hardly noticeable until our spiritual life collapses. We must each take day-to-day responsibility for our relationship with Him.

We must be challenged by the example of Jesus to strive for the increased wisdom and understanding of His heavenly Father through His study of the Scriptures (the Bible) with the teachers at the Temple. If Jesus had to do this, how important is it that we should too!

Because, and take heed of this, Mary and Joseph were most certainly not the last people to lose Jesus in a religious establishment.

Sometimes we lose Jesus. Busy in our daily routine, we never give him a thought. Then, one day we wake up and realize that He’s gone out of our lives. When that happens we need to go back to the place we left Him, in the Bible, in the church, in our prayers. That’s where He will be, right there waiting for us! Amen.

Written by Reverend Linda Liversidge & presented by Mark Osbourn