My Father’s House
MY FATHER’S HOUSE
You can turn to Luke chapter 2 this morning, where we’ll be. Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Iowa/Penn State football game, and if you’ve ever watched the games on TV or been to one in person, you’ve seen what they call the Swarm at the beginning of the game. There is a hype video playing on the big screen as the players in their home black jerseys come down the tunnel toward the field, while AC/DC’s song Back in Black is blaring over the loudspeakers.
Then with the stadium of 70,000+ fans roaring their approval, the team then runs out onto the field kind of like a Roman army, arm in arm with a two-fold purpose: a) the fans go crazy and b) the other team is intimidated. That’s the idea. The message is clear: We are here to win, and our plan is to crush you.
And what we’re seeing here in the book of Luke so far is that the way the Hawks enter Kinnick Stadium is not at all how the King of heaven and earth entered the world. There were no fans screaming, no AC/DC playing, no announcer over the PA system. Instead, Jesus came to earth as an approachable, un-intimidating baby. Weak. Helpless. Poor. Cheap cloth instead of a crown. A feeding trough instead of a cradle.
We’ve watched the story unfold so far as God continues to make sure his word is accomplished again and again. Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled over and over in Jesus’ birth, and today we come to yet another one.
I want to take you back to Malachi chapter 3, which we visited a couple weeks ago. Chapter 3, starting in verse 1.
 "See, I am going to send my messenger, and he will clear the way before me. We talked about this last time we read it with the birth of John. We haven’t talked about John for a couple of weeks, but he’s coming back next Sunday. We’ll see what happened to him, and what he’s up to. According to the angel who met with John’s dad Zechariah, John will prepare the way for the coming Messiah. He will be the lower-case m messenger. Keep reading:
Then the Lord you seek (the Messiah you’ve been waiting for, praying for, hoping for) will suddenly come to his temple, the (capital M) Messenger of the covenant you delight in-see, he is coming," says the LORD of Armies.
So, according to Malachi’s prophecy, where would you be looking for the Messiah? At the temple. That’s where he’s going to show up. So keep your eyes peeled at the temple.
Last week, we saw this 6 week old baby Jesus being brought to the temple to be dedicated to the Lord. Only two people were following Malachi’s words. Simeon and Anna, two elderly people who had been waiting for the Messiah, praying and fasting, knew instantly when they saw Jesus that he was the one they’d been looking for. The Lord they had been seeking had suddenly come to his temple.
They burst out into praise and blessed Mary and Joseph and little Jesus. After Jesus’ parents completed everything according to the law of the Lord, Luke 2:39, they headed back home to Nazareth where Jesus grew up physically and spiritually.
I know there is this kind of parenting today where we tell our children they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up. We say, whatever you put your mind to, you can do it! And on one hand that’s just bad parenting because it involves lying. You know full well your kid can’t be whatever they want just because they put their mind to it.
But can you try to put yourself in Joseph and Mary’s shoes for a second? How would you raise the Son of God? What would you tell him? How do you train him up to be not whatever he wants to be or whatever you want him to be, but what God said he would be?
I think you would take him to the scriptures, from the moment he could listen to you, and read him the stories. You’d tell him about Adam and Eve, where the serpent came along and encouraged them to turn their backs on God, which they did. You’d tell him that God promised right at that moment, though, that one day someone would come along and crush the head of that nasty serpent.
Then you’d read about a man God wanted to follow him, named Abraham, and how that man was promised a great-great-grandchild who would be a blessing to the whole world. They’d have read about Joseph who saved the nation through suffering; Moses who delivered the people from slavery in Egypt. You’d read how the people put the blood of a lamb on the doorposts of their homes, and when the angel of death came, it passed over any house that was covered by the blood; they’d have read to him about Israel’s sin in the wilderness, how the people were dying from snakebites until Moses lifted up a bronze snake on a pole, and that strangely, anyone who just looked at the snake and believed would be healed; They’d have read to him about the shepherd boy David who killed a giant and became king; Boaz the redeemer who married Ruth to keep her family from disgrace; You’d read to him of Solomon the wisest man to ever live who built the Temple in Jerusalem where God would meet with his people; they’d have read to him about the Day of Atonement where two goats were chosen by the priests – one who would die for the sins of the people and the other who would act as a substitute and one who would be sent away into the desert carrying their sins away from them; and of course, they would have told him about the feasts they were required to attend every year.
Three festivals for Jewish men to attend in person in Jerusalem: Passover, Pentecost, Feast of Tabernacles.
41 Every year his parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival.
The Passover, the major feast celebrated at the beginning of the Jewish year, which in our calendar falls in March or April. It specifically is to remember the miraculous deliverance of the nation from Egypt, which you can read about in the book of Exodus. Passover itself was just a meal, but it was followed by a week of celebration. Men were required to go, but the journey was not a requirement for women. Thus, for a woman to go was a sign of great piety. If the travelers went around Samaria, the journey was about an eighty-mile trip from Nazareth.
Now you can imagine that sometimes small Jewish towns around Jerusalem would empty out as people traveled to Jerusalem for festival days, with entire extended families traveling together with their villages in massive caravans. The journey would be a three- or four-day affair, as the caravan would make around twenty miles a day.
As all the travelers rolled into Jerusalem, you can imagine that the city would take on the feel of Iowa City during a home football game. People everywhere, camped out, in the marketplace, lines of people at public bathhouses, maybe even trash blowing around the streets. The temple would have been incredibly busy too, packed with animals as travelers would need to purchase lambs for the meal and for sacrifices, all of which you could read about in the books of Leviticus and Numbers.
42 When he was twelve years old, they went up according to the custom of the festival.
So Mary and Joseph have taken their role of raising the son of God very carefully. They are honorable, righteous people, obeying the laws of the Lord, making sure to attend the festival every year.
At age 13, a Jewish boy takes on a title called “The son of the law”. He is now accountable to the law. All years up to 13 are preparation for becoming this. So often, parents would bring along their 12 year olds to show them what they can expect for next year. So it’s likely that this was Jesus’ first Passover.
He would observe the meal, the sacrifices, hear the stories being read and talked about, and just watch everything, taking it all in.
43 After those days were over, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44 Assuming he was in the traveling party, they went a day’s journey. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.
We all know how it feels to lose something, right? There are always the little things we lose, like keys, cell phones, wallets, etc. But Joseph and Mary lost the Son of God.
The journey to and from Jerusalem often included roads that were exploited by highway robbers, so people headed there for Passover often traveled in large caravans for protection. (2) So to look for Jesus wasn’t just “let’s quickly run back to Jerusalem.” They didn’t know if a robber took him somewhere along the way or not. They had traveled one full day away from Jerusalem, so of course it’s a full day back.
I know for some of you parents, this story gives you anxiety as you try to put yourself in Joseph and Mary’s shoes. You’re right now getting a little short of breath as you imagine your child being lost for a whole day. You have to imagine Mary and Joseph going to bed at night, staring at the stars, weeping, maybe not sleeping at all, pacing back and forth. Is he hurt? Is he okay? Is he alive? How could we lose the Son of God!? Will God be angry with us? What are we going to do with Jesus when we find him?
46 After three days, they found him in the temple sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all those who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.
The custom in Judaism was that pupils entered into question-and-answer dialogue with their mentors (Bock, 267), where they would ask questions and the teachers would answer their questions with questions that made their students think.
We could speculate a bit about what Jesus and the teachers might be talking about here. Maybe it had something to do with Passover, since it had just happened. Maybe it was about the sacrificial systems, and payment for sin. Maybe it was about the Messiah and what he would do when he came. We don’t really know. Luke doesn’t let us in on that.
But that’s not the point of what Luke is writing about. He’s writing about Joseph and Mary’s astonishment that Jesus would be there.
48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” 49 “Why were you searching for me? ” he asked them.“Didn’t you know that it was necessary for me to be in my Father’s house? ”
Jesus is starting to understand his mission as the Son of the Most High. Because all of a sudden his parents show up and say what are you doing!? And he looks back at them and says, “what are you doing?” “WHY HAVE YOU TREATED US LIKE THIS?!” “You’ve told me all along that I’m the Son of God – so wouldn’t you expect that a Son would be here in the house where his Father lives?” No one had ever called the temple “their Father’s house.” No one had referred to God as their father. Only a few times in the OT did people refer to God as a father, but most often it was referring to the entire nation of Israel as the son with God as the father. So…
50 …they did not understand what he said to them. I think maybe Jesus didn’t start his ministry until age 30 because Joseph and Mary grounded him until then after disappearing on them.
But let’s be honest for a second – how many of us fully understand Jesus and his relationship to his Father or all the aspects of his mission here on earth? Luke is setting this up for us, because throughout the rest of Luke, we’re going to read that line multiple times about various groups of people – “and they didn’t understand.”
Which is to say:
- Understanding Jesus is not automatic. It’s not something you just happen on just because you grew up in church. Mary and Joseph are clearly devout people, doing their best to raise God’s Son in a way that honors his calling as the Messiah, and they still don’t fully get it.
- In John 7, we’re told that his brothers didn’t believe in him.
- In Mark 3 we’re told that when his family heard he was casting out demons, they tried to restrain his ministry because they thought he was out of his mind.
- It’s even possible that eventually Jesus wasn’t welcome in his own home. Someone was applying to be his disciple, and Jesus said you’re welcome to, but I don’t have a home.
- It wouldn’t be until Jesus was resurrected, ascended into heaven, and Mary was filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost that she would finally put the pieces together, and really understand what Jesus was about.
- Understanding Jesus takes time. It requires searching, seeking, asking questions, with the Holy Spirit pointing to him over and over and over.
- So if you’re here this morning and you think, man, there are just some things I don’t understand – you’re in good company. There are things I don’t understand.
- Keep following. Keep asking questions. Stay teachable. He is patient with us.
- In Exodus 34, this Father God describes himself as compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in faithful love and truth.
- Jesus shows us that this relationship to God has priority over all other relationships
- Simeon prophesied back in 34-35 that a sword would pierce Mary’s soul, and here it clearly has started already. She has been anxiously searching for 3 days, so there is the fear and grief that go along with that, not to mention when she finds Jesus he’s not actually very relieved to see her. He’s almost annoyed. Which is perfectly consistent with 12 year old boys and their moms, I get that. But when I was a 12 year old and didn’t want my mom to hug me in front of the baseball team, that was my own selfish pride. Jesus doesn't have any of that.
- Jesus knows his relationship to his Father will take precedence over his own earthly family. He will tell a crowd in the future that his true family are those who do the will of God. This relationship with his Father will overshadow anything else he could do in life.
- For Jesus to say God is his Father indicates an intimate, unique relationship. The Father has authority over the Son. The Son speaks on behalf of the Father. The Son is heir to the inheritance that is coming one day. The Son looks like the Father, imitates the Father, knows the voice of the Father, all of which Jesus would go on to teach about in the coming years of his ministry.
- And if you are in Christ, everything that belongs to Jesus belongs to you! He invites you to call God your Father. He invites you to be his ambassador, and speak on his behalf. He has called us brothers and sisters, and we are also heirs with him! We are made in his image, to look like him, love like him, to hear his voice and learn to know it well. We’re going to revisit that idea in two weeks when we talk about Jesus starting his ministry.
But Jesus’ obedience to and allegiance to his Father did not come at the expense of his own parents. He didn’t push them aside and say, “you did your part getting me to age 12, now I’m on my own” – he came to be a servant… starting with Joseph and Mary.
51 Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them.
He went home with them and took out the trash. Cleaned the kitchen. Helped Joseph with carpentry. Learned how to interact with people, follow the law, pay taxes, etc.
His mother kept all these things in her heart.
How could God’s Son serve me? How could someone who commands the universe be obedient to me? How could the Son of the Most High, the Messiah we’ve been waiting for, the one the prophets talked about, longed for – the King who would sit on David’s throne forever and ever, be here in my house, serving me?
Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus didn’t go around bragging that God was his Father. When Mary asked him to sweep the floors, Jesus didn’t say, “really – You’re going to ask the one who created THE SUN to sweep your floors? You’re going to ask the one who INVENTED LIONS to take out your trash??”
He took on the identity and status of a servant. He humbled himself. He didn’t mutter under his breath while he took out the trash. He didn’t growl when he was asked to help.
Do you believe that is still true? Could it be that when you come to Jesus with that same sin for the 50th time that he doesn’t growl at you? Could it be that when you ask him why he allowed something to happen or not happen, or how he could do this to you, that he doesn’t roll his eyes and back away? Could it be that he is genuine when he says come to be all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest?
When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain in the temple that separated us from his Father would be torn in half, so that all of us – Mary, Joseph, you, me – anyone who believes – could have access to the Father, be adopted in God’s family as sons and daughters! Jesus has made a way for us to come home to our true Father, to find the same love and acceptance and welcome that Jesus had from him. And now, when you feel like you don’t measure up, that you don’t get it, that you have abused his grace again and again, God, instead of glaring at you from the front porch as you stumble back to him with your face down runs to you, and wraps you in the biggest hug you can imagine! Now, when you feel like you have nothing to offer him, that is when he smiles the biggest!
Oh that we could be the kind of church that represents that kind of Fatherly love to the world. Oh that we would give that kind of welcome to sinners; that we would give that kind of patient grace to those who don’t yet understand.
Today, River City, as we sing this closing song together, we sing to a God whose arms are open wide to real sinners. To tired, weary, anxious souls who need rest. We sing to a Father who offers real forgiveness – not some cheap, “that’s okay” – but real forgiveness paid for by the blood of his Son Jesus, who willingly served us by giving his life.
- Brooks Simpson in a sermon called Growing in Wisdom and Stature, October 24, 2010 (https://graceb3.org/resource-library/resources/growing-wisdom-stature/)
- Darrell L Bock, Luke 1:1-9:50 – Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Darrell Bock, 1994), 263-264