Seward United Methodist Church
Saturday, August 24, 2019
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Finding Ourselves in God

Luke 2:41-52

This is good news for every parent who has ever “misplaced” a child, which is to say every parent. Mary and Joseph lost Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. We can’t top that. So if you’ve ever lost a kid for five minutes in the grocery store, you are not the worst parent in the world. And that’s good news!

This is also our only glimpse into Jesus’ life between his birth and adulthood, which makes it unique. Other than this, we have 30 years of blank space. This tells us that Luke must have written his Gospel with firsthand testimony from Mary. Mary would have been the only person left alive at the time of Luke writing who would have had first-hand knowledge of these things. All of chapter two reads like firsthand testimony from Mary. Verse 51: “His mother kept all these things in her heart.” That really sounds like Luke wrote this after talking with Mary.

We think Luke wrote his Gospel during the time when Paul was a prisoner in Caesarea, which is recorded in Acts chapters 23 to 26, an imprisonment that lasted longer than two years. We know that Luke went with Paul to Jerusalem but he was not arrested with him. And we know Luke stayed in Judea for that time because he went with Paul to Rome in Acts 27. So that is most likely when he wrote his Gospel. He would have had plenty of time and access to witnesses like Mary, Peter, and others.

The story also tells us that Mary and Joseph were faithful in observing the rites and rituals of the Law. Technically, they weren’t required to make this annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover. Joseph was required to go at least once, but he lived far enough away, about 70 miles to Nazareth, that he didn’t have to go every year. Mary actually wasn’t required to go at all. Only men were required to go, though wives typically did go along.

The 70 mile journey would have taken three to four days. They would have traveled in a caravan for safety. The caravan would have included many others from Nazareth and surrounding villages, including friends and extended family.

When they start out for home, Jesus stays behind, and they are not aware of it. The custom was that men and women would travel separately in these caravans. Actually, men and women did most public things separately in Jesus’ culture. The women and children would travel in front and set the pace, and the men would follow after. At this time, the “age of accountability” for young men was 13. Jesus, at 12, was

almost there. So maybe Mary assumed he was with Joseph, and Joseph assumed he was with Mary. Or they could have thought he was with friends, neighbors, or family. Whatever the reason, they don’t find he’s missing till that night. They spend the next day traveling back, and on the third day, they find him in the Temple Courts.

The Temple Courts were the seminary and Sunday School of the day. Rabbis would go to the courts to teach or debate with each other. The method of teaching was this back-and-forth questioning and answering. And we learn that Jesus impressed others with the depth of his understanding. This is not because he was God and knew it all. Philippians chapter two tells us that in the incarnation, Jesus “emptied himself,” laid aside his divine power and knowledge. He understood because he had been learning.

Mary and Joseph are not real happy with him. “Your father and I have been looking for you!” And Jesus answers, “I must be in my Father’s house, or I must be about my Father’s business.” Note the contrast between Mary saying, “your father,” and Jesus saying, “my Father.” That’s important.

Jesus knows something of his identity. We have no way of knowing what he knows of his identity or his purpose, but he knows something. Part of the experience of adolescence, that time between childhood and adulthood, is to discover and affirm our identity. “Who am I? Why am I here?”

And I would contend to you that it is impossible to know ourselves truly without knowing ourselves in relationship to God. We are created by God, in the image of God, and for relationship with God. We can’t really know ourselves without knowing ourselves in relationship to God.

Jesus goes home and is obedient to them. There are other claims on our lives. They are real and meaningful. And often, we struggle to live with the balance between them. But in the end, all other claims are subordinate to God’s claim on our lives. God is not God if another claim on our life takes precedence over him.

Jesus spent another 18 years or so in their home. Joseph dies during that time. It’s never recorded in the Gospels, but when Jesus starts his ministry, only his mother is ever mentioned as being present, so we know Joseph has died. That may have been the reason Jesus’ ministry didn’t begin till he was 30. He may have had responsibilities to his earthly family that required him to wait. But in the end, he had to be obedient to God’s calling. God’s calling could be delayed, but it could not be ignored.

Jesus went home and he grew. He grew physically, in his wisdom, and in his favor with God and others. Jesus laid aside his divine power and knowledge to become human, so he had to grow. To be human is to grow. We are less than fully human when we stop growing. Obviously, physical growth is something that only happens for a part of our lives, but in all the other ways, we should never stop growing. We should never stop growing in our wisdom and understanding. We should never stop growing in our favor, our relationship with God. And we should never stop growing in our favor with others.

In just a couple days we begin a new year. It’s just a date on a calendar, but it serves as a reminder to re-evaluate our lives and our living. Can we become better than we are? Can we find our identity more completely in our relationship to God? Can we put God’s claims on our lives in the first place? Can we grow to become more than we are in our knowledge, our understanding, and our relationships?

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