Luke 2:40-52 (Second Sunday after Christmas—Series C)
Was It Necessary?
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
January 3, 2016
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel lesson recorded in Luke 2:
And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found 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. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
What is necessary? People speak about the necessities of life—food, water, shelter, and clothing. These may be the basic needs for us humans, but most of us would probably add to this list other “necessary” things like indoor plumbing, heat and air conditioning, televisions, computers, cars, and cell phones. We might all have slightly different lists of what we think are necessary for us to live comfortably. In our Gospel lesson today, we get a glimpse into what Jesus knows to be necessary for His life among us and how that need fulfills our own greatest necessity.
Today we read about the child Jesus, the twelve-year-old pre-teen, the age of my son Aaron. As Mary and Joseph customarily did, the family traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. All Jews were required by God’s Law to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year—for Passover, the Feast of Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus would have done so as pious Jews. When the Feast was ended, Mary and Joseph returned to Nazareth. Pilgrims traveled in groups, usually of relatives and friends from the same village or area. Mary and Joseph wouldn’t have thought much about Jesus not being directly with them as they journeyed home. However, after a day’s journey, they started searching for the child among their relatives and friends, having no idea that Jesus would have stayed behind in Jerusalem at the Temple because it was necessary. After returning to the Holy City, Mary and Joseph found Jesus after three days. He was sitting in the Temple among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. His parents were overwhelmed and Mary said to Him, “Son, why have you done this to us?” But Jesus replied to His mother, “Why were you seeking me? Did you not know that it is necessary for me to be in my Father’s house, among the things of my Father?” In other words, where did Mary and Joseph think Jesus would be except where it was necessary for Him to be?
Jesus speaks about who He is as the Son of God and what He must do as the Son who is concerned with the Father’s business in the Father’s house. Jesus remained in Jerusalem so that He might be present in the Temple where He belongs. When the twelve-year-old Jesus remained in Jerusalem, the city of God’s presence, God had come home to the place where He would accomplish salvation. Jerusalem is the place of Jesus’ destiny. It was out of necessity that Jesus was there in obedience to His heavenly Father. What Mary and Joseph then did not understand was that in those words, “I must be in my Father’s house,” Jesus was darkly alluding to His future Passion and Resurrection in the Holy City. Thus Jesus did what was necessary for His mission.
Jesus always does what is necessary. Consider again the miracle of the incarnation. Jesus, very God of very God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, was made man. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Why did Jesus have to be God and man? Why was it necessary for the divine Son of God to become incarnate, to be fully human? Jesus, as His name means, came to save His people from their sins. He came to save mankind and so He had to take the place of man and become the substitute for man. Hebrews 2:14, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same things.” To redeem, to buy people back from sin, death, and the power of the devil, it was necessary for Jesus to be true Man.
In order to satisfy the demands of God’s holiness it was necessary that God’s Law be fulfilled. Leviticus 19:2 says, “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” Because all people are by nature sinful and unclean, we have not been nor can we ever be holy. We are poor, miserable sinners in thoughts, words, deeds, and desires. We cannot keep God’s commandments perfectly. We are unable to fulfill God’s demands that we be holy like He is holy. But Jesus does what is necessary. He takes this duty and burden on Himself. But since keeping the Law is really man’s work and not God’s, the Son of God was made man so that in our place and in our stead Jesus might fulfill all righteousness. We read in Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Jesus does what it necessary in order to be our Savior.
The second thing it was necessary for Jesus to do in order to save us was to satisfy the demands of God’s justice. The penalty for sin is death (Rom. 6:23). “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22). It was necessary that Jesus make full atonement for the sins of the world by suffering the penalty. He had to shed His blood and die; therefore, He had to be true Man so that He might be capable of suffering and dying for us. Again we read, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. . . . Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make [satisfaction] for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:14-17)
Our salvation depends on the necessary obedience of Christ to His heavenly Father. It was necessary that Jesus Christ suffer these many things, be killed, and on the third day be raised. It was necessary that our Savior, true God and true Man, fulfill God’s holy Law on our behalf so that through God’s grace alone we can stand before our heavenly Father covered in the righteousness and holiness of Jesus, having been cleansed from all our sins by His most holy blood.
Because of the incarnation, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our greatest necessity has been filled. Our need for salvation is accomplished by our Lord’s life and death. Our need for forgiveness has been completely met because Jesus shed His blood on the cross purchasing our complete forgiveness. Because of the new life we are given by Christ through faith, we are able to do God’s Law and to keep His commandments in response to the forgiveness and eternal life granted us by Christ. We also have the assurance that when we do sin and fall short of God’s glory that Christ has already fulfilled and completed God’s Law for us and is able to stand in our place before God and to cover us in the victory of His death and resurrection where we receive total forgiveness and restoration to our Father in heaven as His daughters and sons. Jesus did what is necessary for us so that we can live in that forgiveness and new life by loving God and serving our neighbor with all that we are and have. That’s our faith’s response to our Lord and Savior who did all that was necessary for our life and salvation.
So what is necessary? Food, water, shelter, clothes? Jesus, true God and true Man, the world’s only Savior—He did what is necessary for us by becoming fully human, by taking our place under God’s Law and under God’s wrath so that you and I and all people would have the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. This life we now live we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us (Gal. 2:20). That’s what’s necessary for you and me, and for all people. Amen.