What Are We Looking For?
After three days they 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 (Luke 2:46-47 ESV). As we begin a new year together here at International Lutheran Church, we are blessed to reflect on the words of Luke as he tells us of our Savior Jesus and His early presence in His Father’s temple. Jesus is present with His wisdom and understanding that brings us peace even as we enter another year of uncertainties and unknowns.
I don’t know if you have ever had to undergo a stressful moment in your life. The Bible is filled with these “three-day” ordeals and episodes of uncertainty. Here are just a few examples of these three-day waiting events that show up in the Bible: Abraham and Isaac who journey for three days into the unknown as God commands Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son to God (Genesis 22); Joseph’s plight in the dungeon as he awaits the outcome of dreams and whether he would be remembered (Genesis 40); Jonah’s journey to the bottom of the sea and the gates of death (Jonah 1); Hezekiah’s anxious three day time of prayer for healing (2 Kings 20); and Esther’s three day fast for wisdom (Esther 4-5). Each of these and many more had to go through a stressful time of testing.
Luke records for us what must have been an unforgettable moment in the early years of our Lord. This young boy of 12 had gone missing for three whole days! Yet, what Mary and Joseph learn (and you and I in the process) is beyond our human understanding. While it was customary for the Passover feast to be celebrated in Jerusalem by Jesus and his family, this moment took on new significance as He remained behind in His Father’s house – the temple of God - asking questions, listening and learning and at the same time teaching the teachers. We can only stare in wonder at the wisdom and glory of God come down into our very midst.
Now many of us at some point in our lives have been a student or sat in the classroom. I will be honest that I didn’t always favor attention in the classroom, especially if I hadn’t quite finished the readings or wasn’t confident in my ability to answer. The silent prayer of many students (“Don’t call on me!”) was something I still remember muttering. Some of us have even been at the other side of the desk as the teacher in the room. Teaching is not an easy profession as it requires great wisdom and understanding, not just in knowing the content but in knowing how to draw the students in and invite their engagement of the subject. How often the teacher’s prayer, “Help me understand this child’s motivation and passion!” is the only way we can begin.
Jesus was not just a know-it-all, cheeky 12-year-old, but rather fully engaged in the discussion and interested in the subject at hand – the very truths of God, His Word and His presence in our lives. The Temple of God had in fact come to the temple. The Sacrifice was able to offer up His own perspective. While Jesus was certainly able to wow the grey-breads with all the right answers, perhaps it was His ability to help them see these things in a new light – His light. Filling in the gaps and probing the unknown can be an enlightening experience. Jesus’ presence brings the pieces into a wholeness that is divine. His being makes sense and creates connections in the randomness and chaos of our understanding and a new appreciation for the beautiful complexity of God’s design. His very person removes the fear of the unknown and invites us to connect with Him on the most personal level. The Mercy of God is seated before them and speaks of God’s mercy in ways we could never have imagined.
Just as Luke’s gospel begins with this mind-blowing account, it also ends with the story of two travelers whose eyes are opened to the good news of the three-day resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The stranger who opened their hearts to the Word of God showed Himself to their recognition in the breaking of the bread. For us, too, as we hear the account of Jesus’ submissiveness to His earthly parents, we also see more fully His submission to the Father’s will and plan to give His life for ours and bring us to His eternal self.
Today as we begin a new year in God’s house, we are again brought to the knowledge of this One who looks for us and has found us in His Son.
Blessed New Year!