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Video of the Divine Service here.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I don’t hear it as much anymore, but there used to be a lot of talk in the wider church about “seekers.” Doing things for seekers; being seeker-friendly; figuring out what seekers want. I’m not sure if that meant that some unbelievers were seekers while others weren’t. It seemed like there were some who were seeking God and others who weren’t. I have no doubt that there were seekers, because everyone is seeking something or someone. Everyone is looking, searching in different places for something. Just like everyone worships. There are not some people who worship and other people who don’t. Everyone worships something or someone. Everyone worships the thing or the person in which they put their trust. Everyone’s a seeker, but Paul quotes the Psalms, which say that no one seeks God; no one does what is right; not even one. They might be seekers, but they’re seeking everything but the true God. Everyone’s a worshiper; the only difference is whether people are worshiping the true God or something or someone else.
There is a lot of seeking going on in Luke 2 that we heard this morning. Four times just in the verses we heard there is a form of the word for seeking, searching, looking. Specifically, Mary and Joseph are seeking. They go up with their 12-year-old to Jerusalem, as they apparently did every year, to the feast of the Passover. On their way out of the city, they assume that Jesus is with their neighbors, or friends, or relatives, among the people traveling with them. But after a while, when they can’t find Him, they start seeking. They look for about a day, then they look for another day, and then, after three days, they find Him sitting in the Temple, talking with the teachers.
Can you imagine? If you have children, or even if you don’t, I’m sure you can imagine Mary’s frantic searching, looking, asking, seeking. And then, when she finally finds Him, she must have breathed a huge sigh of relief, but there might be a little anger as well. “Child, why have you done this to us? See? Your father and I have been seeking you in distress.” We can understand everything that Mary and Joseph do. In the realm of our own experience, we can understand their feelings, their astonishment, their relief, and even their anger. But it is not within our experience to understand what Jesus is doing. He doesn’t do this by mistake. He doesn’t do this by accident. He is not worried. He did this on purpose to demonstrate who He is and what He is doing.
“Why were you seeking Me?” He says. “Did you not know that it was necessary for Me to be among that which is My Father’s?” In English, we have to put a word there: “house.” But that word isn’t there. We assume it because of where Jesus is. But it’s simply the stuff, the things, whatever belongs to My Father. That’s where Jesus is; that’s what Jesus is doing; that’s what He’s making clear to them. Not Joseph, My father, but God, My Father. And Mary hears those things and even though she doesn’t understand them, she gathers them all together in the treasure chest of her heart, as she did with the words of the shepherds, as she did with the words of Simeon, who said to her: a sword shall pierce your own soul also.
Mary is not immune from suffering and anguish and grief because God chose her to be the mother of God the Son in the flesh. She is not somehow shielded from the worry and anxiety that belong to us. She, too, feels it all, and maybe even more. A sword shall pierce your own soul also as Jesus goes about the business of His Father. But for now, Jesus goes back down with them to Nazareth and submits to them as His earthly parents, honoring them as His father and mother.
The next time Jesus appears in Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, there are others seeking Him. But they aren’t seeking Him because angels told them to, or because the Holy Spirit said they would see the Lord’s Messiah. They’re not seeking Him because they followed a star. They’re seeking Him in order to kill and destroy Him. Maybe even some of the teachers of whom Jesus asked questions when He was twelve, the chief priests and scribes are seeking Him to kill Him. Because He is about the business of His Father. He is among that which is His Father’s, and even when they succeed, He is still doing what He came to do, what He knew He was doing when He was 12.
Who was seeking and why? Mary and Joseph were seeking Him according to their own reason, as we would, among their friends and family, in Jerusalem, wherever they could think of looking. But He says to them, “Didn’t you know? I had to be here.” The chief priests and scribes are seeking to kill Him, but He says to them, “I am still about the business of My Father.” Where do we seek Him? Lots of people claim to be looking for God, but when He shows up, they don’t flock to Him. God has revealed His salvation in front of everyone, and who can see it? Who seeks it out? Who knows where He is going to be found? They look anywhere and everywhere except the one place He’s promised to be.
Didn’t you know? I have to be among that which is My Father’s. Where is He? The Temple’s not really the point. He’s going to come back and cleanse it for destruction. The Temple’s not there anymore. The point is that He is where the Scriptures are. He is where the Word of His Father is. And all those Scriptures, from Moses to the Prophets to the Psalms, Jesus says that they are all fulfilled in Him, all point to Him, all about Him, all show Him.
You can’t find Him in the manger, where He was born, dependent and helpless. You can’t find Him in the Temple, which isn’t there. You can’t find Him on the cross, which has long since turned to dust. All of those are necessary, and He does all of it because He is doing the will of His Father, which is His will. He is born into flesh in this world in order to die; in order to be the Temple that they destroy and then He raises up in three days. You can’t find Him in any of those necessary, historical places. But you can find Him where He’s said He will be: where the Word of His Father is. You don’t have to go seeking, uncertainly, anxious, doubting. Didn’t you know? You do know, because you’re here, where He speaks of the Father and His salvation wrapped up in the flesh and blood of Jesus. You’re here, where He speaks of the flesh and blood that were broken and shed for you, which He, the risen Lord, now gives you. You’re here because you know. No searching, seeking, looking.
If you’re anxious, if you’re grieving, if you’re uncertain, if you’re lost, if you’re rejoicing, if you’re happy, if you’re comfortable—no matter what, you know where He is for you. Far more important than all human searching and seeking is the seeking of the Son of Man, who comes to seek and save the lost. It was never Jesus who was lost that you had to find Him. It was you and me, and the whole world, who were lost and never would have found Him no matter how long and how hard and how far and wide we searched. He came to seek and save us in exactly the way and by exactly the means He said He would. He comes in His Baptism, in His Word, and in His Supper, and He saves you and keeps you.
Didn’t you know? Yahweh, whom you are seeking, will come suddenly to His Temple. Who can bear the Day of His coming and who can stand when He appears? the prophet Micah asks. You know. You will stand in that Day because you see and find Him where He’s promised to be, hidden here in word and gift.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 1/4/20