Sometimes, when reading Scripture, I wonder why the writers linger where they do. If I were writing the account, I would do it differently. It is not that I would tell a different story. No, I would just focus on different details.
For example, consider our reading from Luke. As Luke tells the story of Jesus growing up, he begins and ends with references to wisdom. Jesus is a child “filled with wisdom” in the beginning (47) and then we are told He “increased in wisdom” at the end (52). Framing the story in wisdom, we would expect Luke to celebrate the wisdom of Jesus in the center of the story and, to some extent, he does. Luke tells us Jesus is sitting among the teachers in the temple, asking them questions. All who hear Him are amazed at His understanding and even His answers (47).
The only problem is not everyone gets to hear Jesus; at least, we do not. Luke does not record the conversation, the questions Jesus asks, or the answers Jesus gives. These things are hidden from our view. Instead, Luke asks us to walk with Mary and Joseph and see things from their point of view.
While Jesus is in the temple, amazing the teachers, we are with Mary and Joseph, ignorant of what is going on. With them, we take our leave of Jerusalem. With them, we discover Jesus is missing. With them, we search for Jesus. And, with them, we find Jesus in the Temple. Even after finding Jesus and conversing with Him, Mary and Joseph still do not understand. They walk away not full of amazement but empty of understanding. Luke tells us, “…they did not understand the saying He said to them” (50).
The way Luke tells the story, we see Jesus grow in wisdom, but we stay in our lack of understanding. Luke keeps us in the dark. We begin in ignorance and we end in ignorance. But, in the midst of our ignorance, Jesus is walking with us. That is the amazing thing about this story. God dwells with His people, even when they do not understand.
That is the amazing thing about this story. God dwells with His people, even when they do not understand.
Jesus told Mary and Joseph that He is to be in His Father’s house, doing His Father’s business. What He did not tell them, however, was that His Father has decided to dwell with His people. Even though they do not know it, God is there, with them in their journey on the road.
This is not the only time God comes to be with people who do not know Him in Luke. Jesus comes to Peter when he is fishing. Jesus comes to Matthew while he is collecting taxes. A widow in Nain finds Jesus walking into her son’s funeral. Two disciples meet Jesus as a stranger on the road to Emmaus. Before and after the resurrection, Jesus reveals that God has chosen to dwell with us. We may not understand Him, but that does not prevent Him from choosing to live with us.
This desire of God to be with His people leads to Jesus’ death. First, because people do not understand Jesus, and they kill what they cannot comprehend. But second, and more importantly, because Jesus understands His people. He knows their sin, their separation from God, and their eventual death. He has come to be the shepherd who walks through the valley of death with His people. Sin, death, the Devil, nothing will prevent God from being with you. He willingly bears your sin. He graciously dies your death. He victoriously defeats your enemy, that He might rise and walk forever with you.
He willingly bears your sin. He graciously dies your death. He victoriously defeats your enemy, that He might rise and walk forever with you.
Have you ever thought that religion was beyond your reach? Have you ever felt stupid because you could not answer a theological question? Luke reminds us today how God’s wisdom is indeed beyond our understanding. But this does not mean God is beyond our reach. No, God has chosen to dwell with us. To enter our lives through His Word, to claim us as His own in baptism, and to bring us to Him in life everlasting.
Faith is not always about having the right answer. Faith is holding-on to a mystery. The mystery of God who comes to dwell with you in Jesus. That, in fact, is the beauty of the text: The wonder in the way Luke tells the story. Yes, Jesus amazed the teachers in the Temple, but there is something even more amazing. It is the fact that Jesus has chosen to be with you. Today, God invites you into a life of wonder. Humbly trust that the creator of all things has chosen to be with you.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Luke 2:40-52.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Luke 2:40-52.
Lectionary Podcast- Dr. Peter Scaer of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Luke 2:40-52.