Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr, Iowa;
And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. 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. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 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. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:40–52, ESV)
(From a Devotion by Matt Wait http://visualfeast.csl.edu/2013/03/25/christmas-2-luke-240-52/)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
It’s a bit like the movie isn’t it? I mean, the family has been gathered for Passover in Jerusalem, and the vacation is over. Everybody’s packed the caravans for home. Everyone is in a rush and isn’t very observant. It is only when they are finally out of Jerusalem that someone does a headcount and finds “the boy” missing. Then panic! Mom and dad rush back to town. It takes three days to find him.
Jesus has been hanging out in Jerusalem. But he hasn’t been perusing the candy stores or playing games with the other kids. Jesus is sitting in the temple hanging out with the teachers of the law and asking them questions. The teachers are amazed. The questions he’s asking are beyond a 12-year-old without any schooling. He seems to be more than just an inquisitive child. Apparently Mary and Joseph are confused also. After a long search they find him and they ask “Why did you do this to us?” Even though both of them had multiple messages from God by angels. They are surprised at finding him in the temple. The family that lived with Jesus had eyes to see and yet they didn’t really see him. The teachers in the temple watched Jesus ask questions beyond his years and yet they really didn’t seem him. They were shocked at what they saw. All through Jesus life people looked straight at him and yet didn’t really see him. “That isn’t God! I know what God is, and that isn’t him.”
People today do the same thing. They love the baby in the manger. For most people he’s the embodiment of love. They love Jesus the story teller that tells them to love other people as you would love yourself. They love the self-sacrificing Jesus who gives up his life for his friends. They love the non-violent Jesus that says to pound swords into plowshares. They love Jesus, as long has he is human. “I know what God is. And, although Jesus has lots of good stuff to say, that’s not God.” “No god that I would have would tell me that all other religions are false.” “No god that I would worship would tell me that I’m hopelessly sinful.” “No god that I would have would send people into eternal punishment.” “No god that I would have would make me stop doing what makes me happy.” “No god that I want to worship would let children suffer” “That isn’t God!”
The artist Ad Reinhardt (1913-67) painted a deceptively simple painting around the year of my birth. It’s called “Abstract Image Number 6”. Your first reaction to the painting is “That’s not art!” because at first look it seems to be only a big black square.
While it appears entirely black at first, Ad Reinhardt’s Abstract Painting is composed of an almost imperceptible grid of nine squares distinguished by subtle variations in color. Close examination reveals a red hue in the squares at its four corners, blue at the top and bottom of its vertical axis, and hints of green across its horizontal center. These nuances, however, reveal themselves only after an extended period of careful looking, and the sustained encounter they demand, in Reinhardt’s view, marks the distance between aesthetic experience and everyday life.
The painting, weather you think it is art or not, has something more to offer than you think at first glance. It’s easy to take a quick look and write it off as inartistic.
It’s also easy to look at Jesus and write him off as only human, and nothing but human. He’s actually easier to deal with that way. He laughs, and eats and sleeps, and cries, and talks. All things that mere humans do. The thing is, Jesus as more than human, demands something from you. You can’t just live your life the same way as always. If he is truly what he shows to be, then all that he says and does is more important than what any mere human would say.
He is more than human. The 12-year-old in the temple shows it. He is about his Father’s work. He is in the temple teaching. He isn’t only Mary’s son. Jesus is the Son of God. In fact, the more you look at Jesus the more he shows you he isn’t just human. The words he says are bigger than human words. He claims to be more than human. And he says he’ll prove it by rising from the dead. If you look and listen to God’s Word, the story of Jesus, more and more of his life will show itself to you, and Jesus, who is God, will show through. The longer you look and study, the more you learn and love. He did rise from the dead, and he is God.
That black square painting: If you stare at Abstract Painting No. 5 long enough you begin to see not only shades of black and squares, but also a cross that is formed in the center of the painting, a faint cross but a cross nonetheless. I’m sure the painter wasn’t trying to say anything about Jesus, but the faint 9 squares are highlighted by the 5 in the center. They make a cross.
If you look at Jesus long enough you’ll see a cross, too. He is what God is doing in human flesh. A God-man with a purpose. He is showing what God’s love is all about. Your rejection of God, played out every day in your sin, your rejection of God’s rules, is the reason God comes in the flesh. The boy questioning in the temple begins to show it. The young man who turns water into wine at the wedding in Cana, shows it more. The man who teaches on the road and gathers sinners to himself, shows it more. The healer who has compassion on the sick and sent lepers home clean, shows it more. The exorcist who sent demons into screaming pigs and back to hell, shows it more. The sacrifice who doesn’t speak in his defense when he is nailed to the cross, says it again. The body laid in the tomb, and standing before the disciples in the upper room alive again, says it. Jesus is God, come to do all that is necessary to redeem you from your sin. He has come to restore you and me to God. He has come to heal and forgive. He has come to be Savior of the world. He has come for you. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.