Sunday, January 2, 2011

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

January 2, 2011 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“The Child [Jesus] grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon Him.”

Wisdom was Solomon’s request of the Lord, when he was made king by Him. You heard the Lord’s instruction to Solomon: “At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, ‘Ask what I shall give you.’” Solomon’s knowledge of his father’s life and his own limitations led to his request: “I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. 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?”

How did the Lord respond to this request? You heard the answer: “It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, ‘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.” The new king is given what he asks. The Lord is pleased to do so. And for good reason: Solomon asks for what he needs to care for the Lord’s people and for something which only the Lord can give. Solomon will be the Lord’s servant for Israel’s benefit.

This incident in Solomon’s life shines forward into the life of Christ Jesus, the greatest Servant of the Lord. Those of you familiar with Isaiah’s prophecies about the Messiah may recall words heard on Christmas Eve: “For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over His kingdom, to establish it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”

Solomon stands as a type—a pattern—of the Christ. His names—Solomon (“peaceful”) and Jedidiah (“beloved of the Lord”)—apply even more to Jesus. Solomon was the Lord’s chosen successor to David, but not the eternal heir. The wisdom that the Lord gave to Solomon would be surpassed by Jesus. Solomon would build a Temple to the Lord, but Jesus would be the Lord’s very earthly presence.

You heard of that Jesus’ presence in the Temple as a youth, as He was reaching young adulthood: “When He was twelve years old, they went up [to Jerusalem] according to custom.” Like Solomon, Jesus was nearing the beginning of His work as the Lord’s Chosen One. And what does Jesus do in the Lord’s dwelling place? “And when the [Passover] feast was ended, as they were returning, the Boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. . . . After three days, [his parents] found Him 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.”

The Boy Jesus displays a wisdom and understanding not found in normal human beings. He has a perfect knowledge, untainted by sin or any other defect. Speaking with the teachers of the Lord’s ways, the twelve-year-old Jesus holds peerage. He has a place at the table with them. What was happening in that Temple? The incarnate, fleshly Word of God was speaking with those who could only study what the Lord spoke through the prophets. Literally sitting in front of them was their subject of study: the Incarnate Word of God and what all the written Word of God was about.

Why does Jesus possess such wisdom, knowledge, and understanding? That question could be answered by speaking of the Two Natures of Christ (human and divine) and the Mystery of the Incarnation. That would help to explain the mechanics of the situation. Perhaps it would answer the question “How” more than the question “Why”. The “Why” question concerns purpose more than mechanics. There is a reason for this event—the reason of the Christ’s appearing. And part of that reason can be found in the pattern that Solomon provided.

Remember what Solomon said when the Lord spoke to him: “And now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. 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?” Even more than Solomon, Jesus was destined to rule over countless people for eternity. He is to have an endless reign over the people whom the Lord chooses and acquires. And for that to happen, Jesus must have an unsurpassed wisdom to reveal salvation to them. That helps to answer the “Why” question.

The Apostle Paul writes of this, as you heard this morning: “In love, [God] 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.” It is not a simple paragraph! But it tells that you were chosen to be the Lord’s people and that Jesus has overcome your sin, so that you may be eternally united with the Lord instead of separated forever from Him by your imperfection.

But this great accomplishment is not something that everyone knows. It is not innately understood. The purpose of the Lord’s will is foreign to humanity. Solomon’s observation is not hyperbole: “I do not know how to go out or come in.” That is completely true concerning walking in the Lord’s way. Like the king, all humanity needs an understanding mind to discern between good and evil. Even more so, all need divinely-given wisdom to know the Lord’s “glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved.” For only in Jesus—the Greater Solomon and Jedidiah, the Prince of Peace who is eternally beloved of the Lord—is salvation for you and the world given. That is His Father’s business which Jesus was about, a purpose fulfilled by offering Himself as the greatest Passover sacrifice.

So how is this saving wisdom given? How do you acquire an understanding mind about the Lord’s will? The apostle’s words speak of it: “In [Christ] 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.” Receiving the Lord’s word of truth is the way that you learn His will.

That word of truth comes to you this day. It is everything which testifies of the Lord’s will, especially His gracious purpose revealed in the life and work of Christ Jesus. Through that you are given understanding, being made wise to salvation. Only by hearing that word of truth can you truly know and believe what has been done for you. You are given the identity of being one of the Lord’s people and shown the way of life which comes with it. As the Lord speaks and you listen, you are made to discern between good and evil—not just moral teaching, but also knowing the eternal altruism which the Lord has for you.

But you must always remember that such knowledge is given to you. It comes from outside of you, not from inside you. The source is not the ruminations of your mind or the logical calculations of your brain. No, the source of wisdom for salvation is the word of truth spoken from the Lord. That word was first received by the prophets and apostles. That same word of truth is handed over to others to hear, believe, and repeat, so that you may do likewise. Without that, there is no hope, only condemnation instead. The Lord’s words to Solomon are true for you: “If you will walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and My commandments . . . then I will lengthen your days.” In order to walk in the Lord’s ways, one must always be hearing His word of truth which makes it known. And walking in His ways will lead to the everlasting lengthening of your days.

The word of truth has been given to you. As long as the Church on earth exists, it shall be so for humanity this side of Paradise. You do not have the twelve-year-old Jesus sitting with you making that word of truth known. But the gospel of salvation is found in the things where Christ Jesus—the Incarnate Word of God—has placed His words of promise. Receiving them, the Holy Spirit will work in you. You will be the beloved children of God. So the description of Jesus will apply to you in your earthly days: “The Child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon Him.” And that will lead to the greatest favor: being in your heavenly Father’s house for all eternity.

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

No comments: