Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Epiphany I (January 10, 2010)
TITLE: “The Lord Comes to His Temple”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter two, the Lord comes to His Temple.
King Solomon completed the Temple that his father, David, had promised to make. This Temple was one of the great wonders of the ancient world, probably more ornate and beautiful than any of us have ever seen.
The chief purpose of this Temple was the worship of God. There were sacrifices made in thanksgiving and to atone for the sins of the people. The place would have smelled more like a farm to us than a church, with all of the animals coming and going and being slaughtered. The sights and smells would have been overpowering to us.
Solomon built this Temple because it was where God was to dwell. God had promised to be present with His people. For many years they had traveled with a Tabernacle, or a portable tent, that was God’s dwelling. But now Israel had a king and a palace, and it wasn’t right for God to dwell in a tent when everyone else dwelt in their nice new homes. So the Temple was built, and God’s glory descended upon the Temple in the form of a cloud.
If you were to ask an Israelite in Solomon’s day, or in Jesus’ day, where God was, they could tell you quite easily. He dwells with His people, in the Temple, in the Holy of Holies. That’s where God promised to be, and that’s where He is. This place was the center of everything in their common life together in Israel. We really don’t have an equivalent in our culture of the centrality of this space. Maybe it’s the TV in all of our living rooms.
So fast forward to Jesus’ day. He is now twelve years old, and like a good Jew, every year His family would make the long trek from Nazareth up to Jerusalem at the feast of the Passover. The Passover was that annual festival where the children of Israel remembered how God had delivered them from the hands of Pharaoh. It was a feast day to celebrate and rejoice in how God takes care of His people through all things.
Jesus, being twelve years old now, makes the trip with His parents. He went up according to custom. They travel up to Jerusalem with aunts and cousins and relatives galore. It’s as much a family reunion as it is a trip. You can imagine all of the cousins playing together as they make this trek together. The time comes for them to go home, and so this large family of David’s descendants make the trip down the mountain and on their way home. Three days into the trip home, they realize that Jesus isn’t with them! Can you imagine the fear they must have felt? Amber alert! Talk about frantic. I can almost hear Mary’s heart racing as she asks everyone on the road, “Have you seen Jesus? Do you know where He is?” They shake their heads and trudge on.
So like good parents, Mary and Joseph retrace their steps. What would your child do if they were lost? Where would they go? What would be home base for them? Who would they talk to to find their way? So they go and eventually they find him in the most unusual of places. He is in the Temple. Not only is He in the Temple, but Jesus is talking with the teachers of the Law. This would be somewhat like expecting a ten year old to carry on a conversation with the Supreme Court while they’re on coffee break. It just didn’t happen. Mary understandably is upset, and asks Jesus why he has done this and caused them such heartache. Jesus replies, “”Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49-50 ESV)
Where do you think you would find God? God is in His house, doing His work. And what is God’s work? Saving you. God’s work is fulfilling the Law. God is right where He promises to be, doing right what He promises to do. He draws you into His house, forgives you all your sins, and promises that He will be with you every day.
We of course do not receive this as much as we ought all the time. Are you in your heavenly Father’s house as you ought? Not all the time. Not as you should. But Jesus does it in your place. Do you treasure every word and deed of our Lord, as Mary His mother did? Certainly not. We take God and His holy work for granted. But God, who is rich in mercy and love for you, continues to draw you into His house, slowly, patiently, with with great love and delight for your soul.
This day God draws us to His house, to the new Temple not made with hands. Jesus Christ is the new Temple of God, flesh and blood for you and for your salvation. Trust in Him. Believe that God’s promises are for you, and that He will keep you in His Temple today and always. Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.