As many times as Jesus says something profound, there are many times when those who hear Him say profound things have an “Oh, wow!” reaction.
Simon Peter answered Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. All spoke well of Jesus and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” These reactions are not exclusive to the four Gospels. Take for example this verse from Psalm 45: You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever.
You might be able to come up with a short list of your favorite sayings of Jesus. Some you may know by heart, like John 3:16. Some you may know if I gave you a few words: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Some we get to work through every year, like our Lord’s farewell discourse in John chapter 14 through 16 that we hear midway through Easter to Pentecost.
Then there’s the underdog saying, the first words Saint Luke reports from the mouth of Jesus: Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? That’s good stuff, too. Those two simple interrogative statements show us Who Jesus is as a person. He is God. He is also man.
The season of Epiphany shows us Jesus according to His two natures. We see little peeks of His divinity working through His humanity. We’re blessed to have four Sundays of Epiphany this year, not including Transfiguration Day. This gives us the opportunity to hear four peeks of God working among His people in miraculous ways, capped off by the grandest manifestation of His divinity next to the Resurrection: His transfiguration.
Today we find the high mystery of the personal union of both natures in Christ. That’s the fifty dollar way to explain what’s going on when Jesus “gets lost” and “is found” by Mary and Joseph in Jerusalem. The fifty cent explanation is that this account shows us how Jesus’ divine and human natures work together, yet remain distinct. It’s hard to explain it any better lest we veer off into bad analogies that get us in trouble. So let’s stick with what we hear Saint Luke tell us.
Mary calls Jesus Son. Jesus lets that stand. Yes, He is Mary’s Son and Joseph’s Son according to the flesh. Yet our Lord responds to His mother: Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? Jesus isn’t back in Nazareth helping Dad in the carpenter’s shop. He is the Son of God. Jesus is Mary’s Son and God’s Son.
This is a unique situation in which the child Jesus, our dear Lord God, wishes to let it be known that He was not subject to His mother by necessity or authority. What He did was done freely and with good intentions to show He was not under obligation. He was not only mother’s Son, but also her Lord and God.
Jesus is not being disobedient here. It’s as if He is teaching Mom and Dad that He has authority over them even as a twelve-year-old boy. Mary has treasured so many things in her heart over the course of the last twelve plus years. Our Lord’s two simple questions to His earthly parents serve as a reminder to remember what the angels, the shepherds, Simeon, and others had said about Him. Yes, they should have known better. Yet this is a teachable moment for them, and for us, that Jesus owes primary obedience to His heavenly Father.
Jesus must be found where His Father is found. He is sent to do His heavenly Father’s business: reconciling sinners to the Father. A three-day search for Jesus ends in the temple, the place where their search should have started in the first place. Yet when they find Him, His parents rejoice over a lost son found. They find 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.
Add Mary and Joseph to those who were amazed at His answers, or in this case, His questions. His Father’s house is the place where salvation is proclaimed. Week after week His parents went to the synagogue to hear the Law and the prophets proclaim the coming of One Who would be sent to save God’s chosen people from their sins. Jesus went with them, even though He is the Word made flesh. Even He heard what He is given to do as Messiah. As a twelve-year-old boy, Jesus does not shirk what is given Him to do. He listens to the teachers, and asks questions of what He hears.
There’s a lot of comfort for us finding Jesus in the temple with Mary and Joseph. Like them, the temple is probably the last place we’d find Him. It remains that way today. We try to find Jesus everywhere except where He promises to be. We think, well, He does say I am with you always. Yet He doesn’t give specifics on where He is with us. So I’ll find Him my own way.
Mary and Joseph know about finding their Son their own way. Three days later they find Him where He wants them to find Him. It’s not a cruel game. It’s a comforting thing to find Jesus being obedient to His Father in His Father’s house. Our obedience is actually disobedience. We’ll go anywhere but God’s house to find God. We’ll try to see Him everywhere except in preaching, in baptism, and in His Supper. Yet there He is, in His house, just where He said He will be when He institutes baptism, His Supper, and the preaching of His Good News for you.
As Jesus is in His Father’s house, so you let yourself be found there as well. Stick close to Jesus, for in Him there is forgiveness of your sins. His perfect obedience is cast upon you as you believe He saves you in the shedding of His blood for your sake. You can’t work harder or give it another go. Jesus has gone the distance, and then some, and given you all the spoils of His victory. He alone does wondrous things. Oh, wow, indeed.