Whose Sin Is It?
In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Last Sunday, we read the story of Mary and Joseph taking the 40-day-old Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem. They went to the temple to fulfill the law. According the law given by God to Moses and the people of Israel, as the first-born son of Mary, Jesus had to be consecrated to the Lord. Also as a woman who had given birth, Mary had to be purified.
Today we once again see Jesus in the temple. This time he is twelve years old. His family had come to Jerusalem to observe the Feast of the Passover. They had come on a pilgrimage with a group of family and friends from their hometown of Nazareth.
When this group left Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph had not checked to see if Jesus was with the pilgrims who were returning home. When they discovered that Jesus was not with them, they panicked and franticly went back to Jerusalem to look for him. Where could he be? Is he okay?
“After three days they found him in the temple,” Jesus was “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” He was not just listening. Luke tells us that Jesus was “asking them questions.” He was challenging them and what they believed by asking questions, questions that would make them rethink what they believed and were teaching the people.
If they were looking for a political savior, I can imagine Jesus asked them what Isaiah had to say “about a savior who would suffer.” If they were thinking they were righteous because of their works, I can imagine Jesus asking them “was Abraham righteous because of his works or because he had faith in God’s promise to send savior?”
Listen to what was said about Jesus, “And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” This was an amazing child. Unlike any other child or adult, he perfectly understood the will and the love of God. He understood the Law and the Gospel and how to use both to reach sinners.
We read that “when his parents saw him, they were astonished.” That did not stop Mary, however, from saying to Jesus, “Son, why have you treated us so? Your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” Mary was feeling the guilt of neglecting her son. She had lost him. It was her responsibility to know where he was.
Mary did what we so often do when we fail in our responsibilities, when we fail in our calling to trust in God and love our neighbor. She did what we often do when we feel guilty for the words we say in anger or the actions we do that neglect the needs of others. Mary tried to shift the blame onto Jesus.
Jesus said to Mary, “Why were you looking for me?” With these words Jesus was gently showing Mary the law and asking her to repent of falling short of her responsivities and then blaming him. In part he was saying, “whose responsibility was it that I not be lost, whose responsibility was it to know where I was.”
Mary and Joseph were looking for Jesus because they had taken him for granted and assumed that he was with them. How often don’t we take Jesus for granted and assume that he is with us. When things go wrong, how often don’t we blame Jesus for not being there, for not keeping us out of trouble?
Jesus also responded to Mary’s statement that “Your father and I have been searching for you.” He said to Mary, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Jesus gently reminded Mary that his father was the heavenly Father and not Joseph. Jesus came to do the Father’s will.
The heavenly Father knew where Jesus was, he was in the Father’s house and among the things of his Father. Jesus was surrounded by the things in the temple that were placed there at the Father’s direction.
There was the altar of incense where prayers of repentance were offered, the altar of sacrifices where blood was shed to show that sin meant death, and the Holy of Holies where the mercy seat proclaimed the Lord to be merciful and gracious.
The temple and the things in it were God’s. They were given to the people to show that in his mercy he would cleanse them from their sins through the shedding of blood. They were given to the people tso they could know that he would listen to their prayers.
Jesus belonged in the temple because he was one of the heavenly Father’s things. In fact he was the Father’s holy thing. He was the one through whom sins would be forgiven and through whom people could come to the Father in peace.
It would be a few years yet, but Jesus came into the world to be the new temple and the new things that were place by God’s direction. Jesus became the altar, the priest, and the sacrifice. It was his blood that was shed and it was his prayer that asked his heavenly Father to forgive us for we know not what we do.
Jesus came to be about his Father’s business, the business of restoring you to being a child of the heavenly Father. He came looking for you, because your looking for him will always be blurred by your sinful nature. Jesus came looking for you, to redeem you a lost and condemned creature.
Jesus came looking for you so that he could dwell in you and be about his Father’s business of creating in you a clean heart and renewing in you a right spirit. Jesus comes looking for you daily because he loves you and because he wants you to know that his Father has had mercy on you.
He died for you and he promises to raise you up on the last day to be with him forever. What an amazing story, what an amazing Savior. Mary and Joseph had failed in their responsibility to watch over Jesus but he loved them and forgave them, even when they tried to blame him.
Jesus loves you and forgives all your sins even when you blame him. Repent. He took all your sins with him to the altar of the cross. He crushed the power of Satan over you freeing you from sin and death. Jesus loves to see you here in this place of worship not because it has some magical power but because the things of salvation are given here.
It is here that he pronounces forgiveness to you, it is here that you are told the story of his love for you, it is here that his Spirit strengthens your faith through the Word and Sacraments. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”
In the name of Jesus. Amen.