In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Ghost.
"Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” That question from Jesus to Mary and Joseph is the central verse of today’s Gospel. Though the whole verse is important, it’s really just one word that we need to focus on, and that is the word “must.” This is a weighty word in Luke’s Gospel and in Jesus’ vocabulary. Any time He says the word dei=, which is translated either as “must” or “it is necessary,” He is referring to something that points to His death and resurrection, something necessary to fulfill the Scriptures, something necessary to bring you to heaven.
But what does it mean that Jesus must do something? How can the King of Kings and Lord of Lords have to do something? Isn’t it a contradiction to say that God is required to do something? No. This language of necessity shows the very love of God for His creation! Love always acts against self-will and self-interest. Parents routinely sacrifice for the sake of their children out of love. Emergency personnel and members of our military willingly put themselves in harm’s way out of love for country and community. Christians of every vocation have things they must do, conveniently found in the Table of Duties in the Small Catechism. All of our duties are done out of love for the sake of people who depend on our doing them.
So when the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple said “I must,” He did not mean that He was doing His work begrudgingly, or obeying an order, or out of fear of punishment. Rather, He became an infant, was subject to Mary and Joseph, and went to His death out of love for His Father and for His creation. This love is why He took on flesh in the first place, laying aside His glory to live in our fallen world of pain, misery, and death. And out of love He will taste death, not because He must because of His sin, because He is sinless and therefore is not required to die, but rather because it is what must be done to save us.
Jesus must be in His Father’s house because that is what a Son does, that is who a Son is, and that is what the Son of God does. As the Word made flesh, He is found in the flesh where the Wordof God is proclaimed: in His Father’s house. And just as it was true when He was twelve in the Temple and thirty-three on the Cross, it is true today, two thousand years later, as He is still present where He has promised to be, where His Word and Sacraments are present among the people whom He loves, forgives, restores, saves, and gives life.
And if it is true that the Son of God must be in His Father’s house, how much more necessary is it for us, who also are given the right to call God “Our Father,” to be in our Father’s house? To call God our Father means to have a desire to be where He is, to hear His voice. And the Father is most fully revealed to us in His Son, the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15). So to be with our Father does not mean to go out and “commune with nature” or to meditate on hazy thoughts about God, but to be with His Son where He comes with His flesh and His promise.
Just as it was necessary for Jesus to be in His Father’s house, it is necessary for Him to keep His promise to be Emmanuel, God with us. So according to His own Word and promise, Jesus joins His Body and Blood to bread and wine for us Christians to eat and to drink. He joins His Holy Spirit and His death and resurrection to the Water and Word of Holy Baptism to incorporate us into His life, to give us His pardon and peace of sins forgiven. Christ must be present with His Church that calls on His Name and speaks His own promise-laden Words that do what they say. He doesn’t come to us like some sort of captive genie or reluctant slave, but as God almighty, captive only to His own love for us, gladly fulfilling all that He said He would do.
So if you want to see Jesus, want to be closer to God, you must find Him where He must be found. You will find Him here among your Christians brothers and sisters who confess His Name and call upon it in every trouble. If you want to experience the living God, you must find Him where He is living, where His presence and promise are, and where He must be out of love, in mercy, under the forgiveness of the cross, in the majesty of His Word , in the mystery of the Altar, and in the presence of His potent Words of forgiveness and eternal life.
In His submission He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Holding onto Jesus, we join Him in His wisdom, stature, and favor—even as we join Him in His confession and purpose: “I must be in My Father’s house.” We do it, not just for today to give us strength for the crosses of this world, but to be prepared for it for eternity, waiting until we are in our Father’s house forever.
The peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
1 Kings 8:6-13
Sermons from Mount Olive
Mount Olive follows the historic one-year lectionary (series of readings).