Sunday, January 3, 2010

Christmas 2 Sermon -- Luke 2:40-52 (LSB Christmas 2C)

January 3, 2010 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

“The child [Jesus] grew and become strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon Him. . . . And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”

Solomon, the great King of Israel, prayed for the Lord God to grant wisdom to him. Newly ascendant to the throne, Solomon was approached by the Lord God in a dream. The Historian records the king’s request: “Give Your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern Your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this Your great people?”

The Lord God grants this request, noting that it pleased Him to hear it: “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has ever been before you and none like you shall arise after you.” In granting the gift of discernment and wisdom, the Lord God makes Solomon the epitome of learning. His fame goes before him, even today, as the accounts of the king’s decisions and his teachings have been passed down through the millennia.

But this morning, you heard of someone even wiser. Yet, the main character in the event was not a grown man. Instead, it was a youth. The Evangelist records: “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.” Jesus in His youth came to the Holy City of Jerusalem. He was present in the Temple. And while in the Temple grounds, Jesus exhibits what was spoken of Him—that He was “filled with wisdom.”

Jesus speaks in the Temple as a twelve year old boy. Mary and Joseph search for Him, and they find Him engaged in the discussion of the Lord God’s will: “After three days they found [Jesus] in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. And when His parents saw Him, they were astonished.” Jesus’ actions in the Temple reveal His identity. As the Word of God incarnate, Jesus is able to amaze and astound the Teachers of the Word. For what they had attempted to master was now mastering them.

This marks the difference between Jesus and Solomon or any other of the Lord God’s prophets, priests, and kings. What Solomon and the Temple Teachers knew, they had received. The Palmist writes: “Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. . . . I do not turn aside from Your just decrees, for You have taught me. . . . Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.” These words speak about what he has learned, what has been given to him by the Lord God.

But what Jesus knew came from who He was. It is inherent to Him. Jesus does not request wisdom from the Lord God. No, He is the Lord God in the flesh. As He sits as a boy in Jerusalem’s Temple, Jesus is doing teaching. Jesus’ identity allows Him to fulfill what the Psalmist wrote: “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep Your precepts.” But these testimonies and precepts are not taught to Jesus; rather, He is the testimony and precept, as He is “the Word of God [who] became flesh and dwelt among us.”

Jesus’ words are what give the teachers who are listening knowledge and understanding. For every time Jesus opens His mouth, He reveals the truth about Himself—the truth about who the Lord God is and what He will do. This is what He does, even in His youth, just as the Evangelist declared in the Gospel Reading for Christmas Day: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Full of grace and truth, the Only Son of the Father sits in His Father’s house. And He gives to its visitors and workers the truth about the Father’s will for them. The great wisdom and truth is that Jesus will atone for their guilt, that He would redeem them from their condemnation and bondage to sin. Though only a youth sitting in the Temple during that Passover, that same Jesus is the Lamb of God—the eternal Paschal Lamb—who takes away the sin of the world. As He reveals that great truth in His words, His hearers and believers receive the great result of His works: eternal life and salvation. This is not taught to Jesus, but is taught by Jesus. He does not receive it, but delivers it. And that truth which continues to come from Jesus’ mouth, passed on from generation to generation, continues to amaze and astonish those who hear it.

The Apostle Paul writes of God the Father’s will that Jesus reveals in His words and works: “In love He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.” This is what Jesus discusses in the Temple and everywhere He goes in His life on earth.

The teachers in the Temple were privileged to hear this from Jesus’ own lips. “All who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.” But it is not limited to only those who heard the sound waves from Jesus’ mouth. No, it is meant for you. What Jesus reveals in His words and what He achieves in His works affects you. His death and resurrection mean your salvation. And as that is proclaimed to you and you believe it is made yours. For the grace and truth that Jesus reveals is taught to you. Through His words, His Spirit delivers salvation to you, so you can be amazed and astonished. Be amazed at His statement that you who have broken every divine commandment are heirs of everlasting life. Be astonished at His revelation that you who are frail, weak, and feeble will dwell forever in the presence of Almighty God.

That is the grace and truth which Jesus reveals to you, as the Word Incarnate permits His fellow men to repeat His words. This is what the Apostle Paul declared to the Ephesian Christians and to you: “In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.” It happens here and other places where the Word of God turns a building into His Father’s house. It happens again and again, as the Word of God turns you and other sinful human beings into members of His Father’s household. It happens wherever the Word of God teaches people and makes them wise for salvation.

The wisdom of Christ is made yours. It isn’t kept by Him, but is entrusted to you. You are made to understand and believe it. You may not be able to fully master it, just as the teachers in the Temple and Solomon could not. But you are fully mastered by it, so that you are no longer confounded by your sin and ignorance to know nothing of the Lord God’s grace and truth for you. No, what the Psalmist describes as happening to him is what happens to you through the Word of God’s application to you: “Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. . . . I do not turn aside from Your just decrees, for You have taught me. . . . Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.”

Full of grace and truth, the Word of God reveals salvation to You. What He commands makes you wiser than your enemies of sin, death, and Satan. His just decrees declare you to be righteous for His sake, though you have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. His precepts allow you to understand the Father’s eternal will for you—to possess true life forever—so you do not seek any other religion or philosophy with their false promises of wisdom. No, you have the gracious truth that the Word of God in the flesh has spoken from His own lips. The great and mighty wonder that God has taken upon Himself human nature and has chosen to adopt you as His heirs: that is the gracious truth—the truth that astonishes and amazes—made known to you.

But as what the Word of God has revealed and made known is repeated and believed by you, so you also grow and become strong. You are filled with wisdom, so that you may boldly confess that the Father’s will for you is salvation. Declared righteous by the Word of God and granted the Holy Spirit, the favor of God is upon you. This is what you have heard and what you believe. So you may rightly say with Jesus: “I must be in my Father’s house.” And so it will be for you, not only in this earthly sanctuary, but in heaven above.

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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