“Increasing in Wisdom” (Luke 2:40-52)

Second Sunday after Christmas
January 5, 2020

“Increasing in Wisdom” (Luke 2:40-52)

When Jesus was an infant, he was presented in the temple at 40 days old. From that point on, we know nothing of the life of Jesus, until he began his public ministry at the age of 30–except for two incidents: One is the visit of the wise men and the flight to Egypt, when Jesus was less than two. The only other incident we have from Jesus’ childhood is when he was twelve. It’s the Gospel reading you just heard, the story usually called “The Boy Jesus in the Temple.”

It’s the story of when Joseph and Mary took twelve-year-old Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem, and then they couldn’t find him, because he stayed behind after they left. When they come back and do find him, his mother says, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And Jesus answers, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And, it says, “they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.” Others since then have not understood his response, either. They think he’s talking back to his parents. They would call this story “Jesus the Sassy Tween” or “Jesus the Little Wiseacre,” talking back to his parents like that.

But Jesus was not being a wiseacre! Far from it! Indeed, he was being truly wise, displaying divine wisdom both in his time at the temple and in his reply to his parents. Jesus did nothing wrong by staying behind in what he rightly called “my Father’s house.” That was where he belonged at that time. And Jesus did nothing wrong, either, in his reply to Mary and Joseph. In God’s wisdom, Jesus was where he had to be at that particular time, as part of his mission.

And that was what Mary and Joseph needed to learn: that their son had a higher calling, a divine, heaven-sent mission. Jesus was “theirs” only on loan. He first of all had to be about his heavenly Father’s business, a business that would eventually take him away from them. That Jesus had to be about his Father’s business ultimately would be for their eternal good. For by doing so he would be with them in a much greater way–forever, just as he is with us. Twelve-year-old Jesus was not being a wiseacre. No, he was displaying true wisdom. And as Mary and Joseph learned more about him, they increased in their understanding, as will we. And so our theme this morning: “Increasing in Wisdom.”

Wisdom. This is what Jesus had, and this is what he even increased in. Our text today picks up at Luke 2:40, which reads, “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.” That is how Luke takes us from the time when Jesus was forty days old until he was twelve years old. Then at the end of our text, Luke takes us all the way from Jesus at age 12 to Jesus at age 30. Verse 52: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” Now what jumps out to me in these two bracketing verses, as well as in the story of twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple wowing the learned teachers–what really stands out, even in his childhood, is Jesus’ wisdom. Our text says he was “filled with wisdom.” He amazed people with “his understanding.” And he “increased in wisdom.” This is the common thread running through the whole text.

But how can this be? This is impossible, isn’t it? How can Christ, the very Son of God, “increase” in wisdom? Doesn’t he always, and from eternity, already possess all wisdom, all the wisdom that ever was or ever will be? Isn’t he the very source of wisdom? Why, yes, yes he is. The Bible calls him the Logos, the Word, who was with God in the beginning. It is through him, the eternal Son, that God upholds the universe. All the fullness of God dwells in him, that is, in Christ. As we just confessed in the Nicene Creed, Jesus Christ is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.” So how can he who is Wisdom incarnate–how can he “increase” in wisdom?

Here we are confronted with the mystery of the incarnation. Here we must bow in silence and in reverence. This is the mystery of the person of Christ, both true God and true man, in one person. We can put it like this: According to his divine nature, the Son of God possesses all wisdom from eternity. According to his human nature, the incarnate Christ–Jesus, the son of Mary–can grow in stature and increase in wisdom. And yet there are not two Christs but one.

The Athanasian Creed speaks of the incarnation like this: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is at the same time both God and man. He is God, begotten from the substance of the Father before all ages; and He is man, born from the substance of His mother in this age: perfect God and perfect man, composed of a rational soul and human flesh; equal to the Father with respect to His divinity, less than the Father with respect to His humanity. Although He is God and man, He is not two, but one Christ.”

Likewise, our Lutheran Confessions teach this mystery of the person of Christ. They speak of the union of the divine and human natures in the one Christ. From the Formula of Concord: “On account of this personal union and communion of the natures, Mary, the most blessed Virgin, did not bear a mere man. But, as the angel Gabriel testifies, she bore a man who is truly the Son of the most high God. . . . He did all His miracles by the power of this personal union. He showed His divine majesty, according to His pleasure, when and as He willed.” The Formula then cites our text today as an example of Christ showing his divine majesty: “For example . . . when he was twelve years old, among the learned. . . .”

You see, Jesus was displaying divine wisdom, not just human wisdom, when he taught those teachers in the temple. He was explaining the truth of God’s word as though he came straight from the side of God–because he did! Christ is God’s wisdom–he is God himself, the Son of God come in the flesh. He makes God known to us.

And the real wisdom of all this, what really shows forth God’s wisdom beyond anything else, is the reason why the eternal Son of God came in the flesh. Christ came to be one of us, to be our brother, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law–and that’s us. Only in this way, by Christ taking on our flesh and taking on our sins–only in this way could God redeem us from the curse that we were under. The church fathers put it like this: “That which he did not assume, he did not redeem.” In other words, if Christ had not assumed our humanity, he could not have redeemed us. But in fact, he did assume our humanity, he did take on our flesh, so that he could be our perfect substitute. And in this way Christ did redeem us. He has saved us and set us free! This was God’s wisdom and God’s plan for the ages.

Think of it! Jesus, your brother, came and lived as a little baby and as a twelve-year-old boy and as a fully grown adult. He took your sins and the sins of every child and tweenager and adult, and he carried those sins to the cross. There the Son of God died for you and for me and for all. His holy precious blood has sufficient power to atone for the sins of all mankind. Think of it: Only a man, a human being in the flesh, could die. And only God could rescue us from the death-trap we were in. Thus our Savior needed to be both true God and true man–which Jesus is! This is the unfathomable, this is the wonderful, mystery of the incarnation of Christ!

And having defeated sin and death and the devil by his death on the cross, now this same Jesus, the God-man Savior, is risen from the dead and ruling all things for the sake of his church. Through the church’s gospel ministry of Word and Sacrament, our ascended Lord Jesus now saves the forty-day-old baby, the twelve-year-old tween, and the fully grown adult–whether you’re thirty years old or fifty or seventy-five or eighty. All those who are baptized and believe in him shall be saved. You can count on it! Jesus saves you for eternity. Eternal life is yours. It’s a sure hope even now. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!”

And so, in this church at least, “we preach Christ crucified.” “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” “Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” “Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.”

Dear friends, Jesus is God’s wisdom precisely in living and dying and rising again for you. He did this so that you may have life in him. And now in your seeking and finding Jesus here in God’s house–as you listen to him, as he speaks words of wisdom to you here–the amazing thing is that now you also will increase in wisdom. Regularly being here with Jesus in God’s house, every Sunday of this new year 2020, you will increase in wisdom. You will grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You will behold God in the person of Christ. And like Mary his mother, you will treasure up all these things in your heart.

Brothers and sisters, Christ Jesus is God’s wisdom in the flesh, from his infancy through his childhood, from his baptism in the Jordan to his death on the cross, from his resurrection on Easter morning to his ascension in the heavens. And from there Christ will come again, and he will take you home to be with him in his Father’s house. And together we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Published in: on January 4, 2020 at 7:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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