"Jesus Discovers What He is Meant to Do"


a sermon based upon Amos 5:21-24, & Micah 6:6-8,

and Zechariah 7:8-11, also referring to Luke 2:41-51

Last Sunday we heard the story from Luke’s Gospel about Jesus (at age 12) visiting Jerusalem with his parents. That was the time Mary and Joseph lost track of their 12-year old among the Passover crowd as they were returning home to Nazareth. They eventually found Jesus three days later"sitting among the teachers of the Temple, listening to them & asking questions."

When Mary & Joseph located him, (Luke tells us) they were astonished…(!) And his mother said to Jesus, "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously." To which Jesus replied: "Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?"

I’m sure from Jesus’ perspective --since he knew all along where he was and what he was doing --there was no need for worry. (!) He could take care of himself. He was, after all, 12-years-old! It was only his Mom & Dad (who had left him behind) who had the problem. Like, Duh!

When Mary said: "Your father and I have been looking for you anxiously"…Jesus replied: "Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?"… So, who’s his Daddy?

Jesus’s claim to be in his Father’s house--doing his father’s business --brings into question his ultimate family allegiance to Joseph, the carpenter, in whose house Jesus had grown up!

You see, if learning Torah and disputing with the priests is Jesus’s true business–and (Luke tells usthat) for a 6th grader, a boy of 12: he showed amazing understanding in his answers –there is clearly a snub to his Earthly Father (Joseph) in favor of Jesus’ loyalty to his Heavenly Father (God).

Last Sunday, I was told about one little boy who knew about adoption because his father ran the Child & Family Services. He said that Joseph was Jesus’ "foster" father.

We are told that Mary and Joseph "did not understand the saying which he spoke to them." But I’ll bet they felt it –first, in their anxiety regarding where he was, and then in their relief to have found him, safe; and then (again) in the amazement of the teachers at the quality of Jesus’ questions; the astonishment of his parents at how he had chosen to spend his time; and, finally,the lack of anxiety on Jesus’ part… I mean, he says (with non-chalance): "Where else would I be but in my Father’s House!?"

Jesus seems to have known what his life was all about…

Jesus has discovered what he was meant to do.

It’s been said that there are two great "beginnings" in the life of every person who has left their mark upon history. There is the day that they were born into the world… and there is the day when they discover WHY they were born into the world.

I believe this journey to Jerusalem --these three days in the Temple, during the Passover, when Jesus was 12 --marks the moment when Jesus made that great discovery.

His bold questioning of the teachers and priests, and the kinds of answers he gave them, will be "unpacked" as Jesus’ adult Gospel takes shape in the decades to come.

The significance of this experience in Jerusalem --which kept Jesus occupied for three days doing his Father’s business in his Father’s house --needs a bit of background to fully comprehend.

The Passover was the greatest annual festival of the Jews. These were their high "holy"days! It was the time when the Jews remembered (and still to this day remember) how the hand of God delivered the slaves from their bondage in the land of Egypt. It was one of three "obligatory" festivals (the others were Pentecost and Tabernacles) to which every adult male Jew who lived within 15 miles of Jerusalem was bound by custom (by biblical law) to attend.

But such was the sanctity and high regard of this festival, that Jews from all over the ancient world made an effort to gather in Jerusalem to celebrate it, even if it meant saving for a lifetime just to celebrate one Passover in the Holy City.

It’s almost 100 miles from Nazareth to Jerusalem. On foot, the slow caravan would take almost a week on its journey to the City. All the time, the pilgrims would be thinking about the story:

The Passover night in Egypt, the Exodus under Moses, how God delivered the Hebrew slaves, gave them the Torah/Law (the Ten Commandments), and led them through the wilderness for 40 years until they entered (and conquered and settled in) the Promised Land.Jesus came to Jerusalem with excitement!

On the day of preparation for the Passover (seder) supper, the lambs (which would be cooked and served as the main dish in the ritual meal) had to be slaughtered. I guess it’s not unlike our American Thanksgiving… which necessitates millions of turkeys to be killed and dressed for our family dinner.

According to the Exodus story, it was the blood of the lamb that each Hebrew family ate for dinner on that first "Passover" night which was used to mark the doorway of the house, in-dicating (to the angel of death) that this home could be "passed over". In other words, the blood of the lamb" saved" them.

All well and good, I suppose, since the slave family had a good, solid, protein-rich last supper before launching out the very next day to escape from Pharaoh. Eating a lamb dinner would have been a luxury for the poor slave family! And the fact that the mark of blood on the doorway indicated to the night-killers that death had already struck this household, was an added benefit.This was the basic meaning of the annual ritual.

However, the priests in the Temple in Jerusalem made a great deal more of it. The priests had a tradition of "blood sacrifice" quite apart from the Exodus story, where by the priest would accepta perfectly innocent and unblemished lamb as a "substitute"for the person who gave it, as an "atonement"for sin. In other words, when the priests killed the lamb, they said it took the place of the person’s sin, or debt, or trespass against God. By the blood of the innocent animal that they slaughtered, the petitioner (they said) was freed from the penalty of their sin…forgiven by God (Hallelujah!).

Those two traditions were blended by the priests in the Temple in Jerusalem in Jesus’ day such that every lamb that was going to be served for "seder supper" on Passover had to be slaughtered in the Temple courts. They said that the lamb had to be "sacrificed", not just butchered, because the blood belonged to God.

The Jews identified the blood of a living creature with its life. After all, everyone knows that when the blood flows away, the life flows away, too. Since life belongs to God, the priests insisted that the animal’s blood belongs to God.

So, Jesus’ father, Joseph, along with his 12-year-old son, would have taken a lamb –a living animal; a little, white, bleating lamb --to the Temple to be slaughtered, so that the blood might be offered to God, and the meat then given back to the family for their Passover dinner. Jesus would have witnessed the blood-letting, and the ritual sacrifice which accompanied it.