My, but You're Getting Big!
December 31, 2006 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan
Topic: Topical Verse: Luke 2:41–2:52
First Sunday after Christmas
"My, but You're Getting Big!"
I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Christmas celebration. As a child growing up, remember when all the relatives would come together at Christmas and say to you, "My, but you're getting big!" And now we find ourselves saying that very same thing to the children in our own families. The festival of Christmas was only one week ago, but the "little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay" is growing fast and getting big. In fact, today's first reading (1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26) about the boy Samuel and the Gospel lesson about the Child Jesus (Luke2:41-52) end on a very similar note: "Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people" (1 Samuel 2:26) and "And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor" (Luke 2:52). Perhaps good Dr. Luke, the author of the Gospel that bears his name, was drawing on the Biblical account of the prophet Samuel's boyhood to make a connection with the boyhood of Jesus, who came to be our Prophet, Priest, and King, fulfilling Samuel's prophetic ministry. Today's message is based on that Gospel reading from Luke 2, under the theme "My, but You're Getting Big!" May the Lord's rich blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word, for Jesus' sake.
Had Mary and Joseph lived in today's world, they would probably have been accused of child neglect and abandonment, having left their son back in Jerusalem. Child Protective Services would likely have removed Jesus from them, placing him in foster care, until such time as they could demonstrate that they were suitable and competent parents. In all of Scripture, this is the only account of Jesus' life between his infancy and adulthood, and it is an important one for two reasons. First, Jesus reveals already at the tender age of 12 that He understands his God-given task to be in his Father's house (Luke 2:49). The word "house" does not appear in the original text here. Luke records Jesus' words as "Did you not know that it is necessary for me to be involved in the things of my Father?" The "things" here could be the Father's house, or the affairs of the Father. It is not so much place that Jesus is concerned with as it is activity. Jesus is concerned to be about his Father's activity, and the focus on God's Word and its teaching was centered here at the temple. Those who heard Jesus were "amazed at his understanding and his answers" (Luke 2:47), and so already at a young age, Jesus is teaching the teachers. Time and again in his adult ministry, this is the focus of Jesus: teaching the people and instructing them in the way of salvation. It begins here.
The translation before us does not reflect the weight of Jesus' words. "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" is really better put "Did you not know that it is necessary for me to be involved in the things of my Father?" Those three little words-it is necessary-are critical. They denote the God-ordained plan of salvation which Jesus came to fulfill through his birth, his life of service and teaching, his sacrificial death upon the cross, and his resurrection from the dead. In fact, after He had risen from the dead, and was sitting at Emmaus with the two disciples on Easter evening, Jesus upbraids them for their failure to understand and believe. He tells them: "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory? (Luke 24:26). There is a divine necessity going on here! Jesus' humble birth in Bethlehem was not by accident, anymore than was his baptism by John in the River Jordan, his miracles of healing, casting out demons, stilling of the storm, feeding the hungry, and raising the dead. There is a divine necessity that steadily moves Jesus back to where he is standing in today's Gospel lesson: in the temple in Jerusalem. Rejected by the teachers of the Law, betrayed by one of his own, it is necessary that the Christ should fulfill the Law and Prophets here in Jerusalem, offering his blood as the atoning sacrifice for sin, and received by faith. It is necessary-and it begins with the boy Jesus at age 12, already grasping the mission that God the Father had given him to do.
The first reason today's Gospel text is so important is that already at age 12 Jesus grasped that divine necessity of his mission from the Father. The second reason is that although Jesus grasped this divine necessity, he went with his parents back to Nazareth "and was obedient to them" (Luke 2:51). Here is a child, ready to enter the turbulent adolescent years, who actually listens to his parents! Even more astounding, this child obeys his parents! Beyond the initial shock value that this may have, there is also profound meaning for our life in Christ. The mystery of Jesus, the eternal Word of God, is that He became flesh, a living person like us. Jesus entered into our world to fulfill all righteousness in our behalf through his active obedience and his passive obedience. Simply put, this means that Jesus came to live the perfect, God-pleasing life we could not because of our sin-this is Christ's active obedience. God is a God of justice and demands perfection, which we are incapable of doing. Through Jesus' active obedience, he did for us what we could not do for ourselves, giving to us his obedience and perfection. Simply because we are incapable of doing what God demands does not get us off the hook. The penalty of sin and rebellion against God must be made. This is why, in God's divine mercy, Jesus gave himself upon the cross, taking our place and paying that penalty in our behalf. Jesus came to die the death we deserved because of our sin and rebellion against God-this is Christ's passive obedience. Through Jesus' active obedience-living the perfect life in our behalf, and through Jesus' passive obedience-dying the death we deserved, we are reconciled to God, and have peace with our Father. This is God's Christmas gift to us, sealed in the blood of his only Son.
"My, but you're getting big!" may be something which we say to the children in our lives as they grow up. We, too, are called to "get big" and "grow up" in the Lord. There is a divine necessity for each one of us to receive this gift of life freely offered to us in Christ Jesus, and so grow up in maturity, knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, in faith toward God and in love toward one another. If you're going to be making New Year's resolutions, at the top of that list put this: I resolve to strengthen my faith through regular worship in God's house and receiving Christ's Body and Blood in the Lord's Supper, engaging myself in Bible study and prayer time, and discovering how I can best use my gifts and skills to serve Christ and my neighbor. Amen. May it be so with us!