“Mary and Joseph, Did You Know?” (Luke 2:40-52)

Second Sunday after Christmas
January 2, 2022

“Mary and Joseph, Did You Know?” (Luke 2:40-52)

Every year when the radio stations start playing Christmas music–like, when, around November 1? And then they stop playing Christmas music right on Christmas Day, when the Christmas season is just beginning, when there are eleven more days of Christmas still to go. But I digress. So, when the radio stations start playing Christmas music, there’s a song you will hear–oh, about 157 times–called “Mary, Did You Know?” And every time I hear it, I want to shout back at the radio, “Yes, of course she knew! The angel Gabriel told her!” Well, yes and no. Mary did know some things. But other things she probably did not know. So the question is, what exactly did she know and when did she know it?

The song says: “Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation? Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?” Well, yeah, Mary did know those sorts of big-picture things, because the angel Gabriel did tell her. Gabriel had said about the son she would bear: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” “The child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God.” So, yes, Mary was told and she did know that Jesus is the very Son of God in the flesh and that he’s the Messiah who would have an everlasting kingdom. Mary did know that much.

But other things, certain particular things of what Jesus would do–maybe Mary did not know. She may not have anticipated how exactly his divine nature and his messianic mission would play out in the specific. For example, the song says, “Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?” Well, unless her baby boy was standing up on top of the water when she was giving him a bath in the sink, Mary may not have known that. “Mary, did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?” Again, while knowing that he had a divine nature and that he came to bring blessing to mankind, Mary may not have deduced that Jesus would give sight to a blind man.

What did Mary know and when did she know it? The same questions for Joseph. Joseph did know some things. An angel of the Lord had told him in a dream that Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph knew that this child named Jesus would save his people from their sins. Joseph knew that Jesus was Immanuel, God with us. The Lord had told him those things. But how exactly that would play out in the specific, Joseph did not know.

Imagine being Mary and Joseph, knowing you’ve been given a very special child, unique, but not knowing exactly how that would play out. I don’t think there’s a Parenting 101 class on “Raising the Son of God in the Flesh with a Messianic Mission.” That would present some very unique challenges. As we see today in the incident of twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple. To which I ask, along with Jesus, “Mary and Joseph, Did You Know?”

But first, let’s get the backstory that leads up to this question. Last Sunday also we were in the temple, but that was when Jesus was forty days old, at his presentation. Now we fast-forward to when Jesus is twelve years old. And in between we’re told: “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.”

And Mary and Joseph have done a good job raising him. As good, pious Jews, they would go as a family from Nazareth to Jerusalem every year for the big pilgrimage festivals, including this one, Passover. And they would typically go in a caravan–no, not a Dodge Grand Caravan, but an actual human caravan, a whole big group of families all traveling together. So they’re there in Jerusalem for the festival, and now it’s time to go back north up to Galilee. Mary and Joseph set out, figuring that their boy Jesus is hanging out with other friends or relatives in the group. But when the day is ended and they look for their boy, they don’t see him. “Oh oh! Where is he?” They search through the whole group, and he’s not there. Panic time for parents! “I guess he missed the group when we set out. He must be back in Jerusalem.” Mary and Joseph turn around and head back there.

They get back to Jerusalem, and guess where they end up finding him? In the temple. Like he belongs there. And he does. Remember how it said that, growing up, Jesus was filled with wisdom? Well, now he’s displaying that wisdom. He’s sitting among the Jewish religious teachers, and they are amazed at the understanding and answers of this twelve-year-old boy! It’s like he knows the word of God better than they do! Which he does, because is the Word of God incarnate, in the flesh!

So Mary and Joseph find him there, and they can’t believe what they’re seeing: their son, sitting there, when he didn’t even bother to tell them that that’s where he would be. Mary and Joseph are thinking: “Didn’t you know, son, that we would be worried about you? We’ve been tearing our hair out, not knowing where you were!” And so Mary says: “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” Jesus, did you not know this?

But Jesus has a “did you not know” question for them: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Now Jesus is not being a snotty brat. Rather, Jesus has let Mary and Joseph go through this, in order to teach them an important lesson: that Jesus’ unique identity, his one-of-a-kind calling, will mean that he will have to do things they will not always enjoy or expect. Jesus has a higher calling than simply being Mary and Joseph’s obedient son, which he was. But Jesus has a heavenly Father, who has sent him on a singular, saving mission. And that will lead him to go places and do things they will not understand at first. This staying behind in Jerusalem will help to prepare them for that.

Mary, don’t you remember what Simeon told you way back at Jesus’ presentation when he was forty days old? “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also).” See, Mary, that’s something you did not understand at first. But you will experience it later.

Mary, your son Jesus will be opposed by many in Israel. By scribes and Pharisees, chief priests and elders. Maybe even some of these same priests sitting here in the temple today. And their opposition will boil and brew into outright hatred. These Jewish religious leaders will plot to put him to death. Jesus will go places and do things you won’t like. He will go to a cross, and there he will suffer and die. And you, Mary, you will see this happen, and it will be like a sword piercing through your soul.

Jesus’ unique, messianic mission–doing the will of his heavenly Father who sent him–this will mean going through pain and suffering, both for you, Mary, and for him. But this is the only way this mission can be accomplished. For Jesus, who is at the same time your son and the holy Son of God–he must die that we may live. It will take the death of God’s own Son to redeem us from our sins. He must shed his holy blood so that we may be cleansed. That’s the only solution that works. Jesus must be true man, so that he can fulfill God’s law as a man on our behalf, both in actively keeping the commandments that we so often break and in his passive obedience, dying under God’s judgment in our place. Our Savior had to be true man to do those things. But he must also be true God, because only God can save us. We poor sinners cannot save ourselves. God must do it.

And he has! Jesus Christ is our God-man Savior! He is your Savior, dear friends! Jesus kept the commandments for you! Jesus suffered and died for you! Jesus Christ rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and will come back one day for you, to take you home to live with him forever! Did you not know this? You do! But it’s good to be reminded of it, again and again, to keep your faith strong and to keep your hope alive.

Brothers and sisters, as now we enter a new year, 2022, not knowing what we will face this year, whether some new virus or variant, know this for sure: The Alpha and the Omega is stronger than the Delta and the Omicron. Omicron is, quite literally, “the little o.” But our hope and our refuge is in the Omega, literally, “the Great Big O”!

And listen, you don’t have to go searching for Jesus. He’s right here in this temple. Jesus is here in this house, doing the things of his Father: forgiving our sins, refreshing our souls, strengthening our faith in God and our fervent love for one another. Every Sunday in 2022, let this be your custom: to find Jesus, doing his thing, right here in God’s house.

And Mary “treasured up all these things in her heart.” And so should you.

Published in: on December 31, 2021 at 5:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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