The First Sunday in Epiphany: About Our Father’s Business

Readings: 1 Kings 8:6-13, Romans 12:1-5, Luke 2:41-52
Hymns: LSB 402, TLH 130, LSB 410, 862, 864

      Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

      Two weeks ago, we observed St. John the Apostle and Evangelist. He wrote a beautiful Gospel of the works and deeds of our Lord Jesus Christ. His Gospel is 21 chapters long and, at the very end of it, John wrote, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).

      You see, there is much Jesus accomplished in His time here on Earth. What the Evangelists write concerning Him is limited. Sure, it does take several hours to read each of the four Gospels, but if you consider that Jesus lived to His mid-30s before He was crucified, there’s much more to His life than what the Gospels recorded. The Holy Spirit guided Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to include only some works and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ in their Gospels.

      Most of what they wrote covered just a three-year span of His life, and even that provides just a small snippet of those three years. The Gospels focus on our Lord’s public ministry. We have been able to ascertain the length of His ministry because the Passover is mentioned three times in the Gospel of John. The Passover is one of three annual pilgrimage festivals the people were expected to participate in. The other two were Pentecost and the Feast of Booths.

      In today’s Gospel, Luke informs us that the Holy Family went to Jerusalem every year for the Passover in accordance with God’s Word. This is one of the few accounts of our Lord between His infancy and His public ministry.

      Let’s review what is written of Jesus in His early years. As you know, Jesus was born in Bethlehem and was visited by the shepherds. He was circumcised and named on His eighth day. When He was 40 days old, He was presented in the Temple, where Simeon and Anna worship Him. Later, the Magi come to worship Jesus and present Him gifts. Herod tried to take His life, so the Holy Family fled to Egypt and stayed there until Herod died. After Herod’s death, the Holy Family settled in Nazareth in the region of Galilee.

      We don’t hear anything about Jesus from that time until today’s Gospel when Jesus is 12 years old. Then we won’t hear anything about Him for about two decades when He begins His public ministry.

      So what did Jesus do during that time? Did He sit back with His feet up and twiddle His thumbs? No, that would be contrary to His nature. Even though little is recorded about Jesus before He began His public ministry, there are some clues given to us in Scripture. In Mark, Jesus is identified as the carpenter’s son when he goes back to His hometown to preach the Word. The people of Nazareth knew of Jesus as a carpenter—not as a preacher—so many would not listen to Him.

      That is one of the very important things Jesus did during those years. He carried out His various vocations.

      A person’s vocation includes all the things he is called to do. This not only includes our day jobs, but also other areas of work and service. Parents parent. Christians serve the Lord and their neighbor. Neighbors help one another.

      In the case of Jesus, He was a Son. So He dutifully carried out His mother’s commands and honored the fourth commandment.

      He was also a citizen, so He paid His taxes.

      He’s a believer, so He participated in the sacrifices and feasts as prescribed by the Ceremonial Law. He was attentive to the Word of God, as we heard in today’s Gospel.

      Jesus served His neighbor.

      And He fulfilled God’s Word in Genesis 3 by holding down a job. Joseph taught Jesus carpentry and so Jesus did work as a carpenter.

      In Genesis 3, God says we must work. He says we will sweat and face setbacks and hardships as we do our work. An important vocation for us is to do the work we are called to do, even when it is difficult or no fun. Work in our fallen world is guaranteed to be riddled with hardship. Yet, we fulfill our vocation. In doing so, we are being of service to our neighbor. We are helping others.

      In fact, we are serving as a mask of God. For God works through us. As we come to the aid and support of our neighbor, we are a blessing to them. And God has chosen not to fill our cupboards with food while we sleep at night. Instead, we work. And when a person is not able to work, we give of our abundance to help them. That’s how God fulfills our needs.

      God expects us to live in service toward our neighbors. So, take time to cheer others up. Buy something for someone in need. Help the poor, the widows, the orphans, and the needy. God gave you life. Use your God-given life to help the lives of others.

      We see one other thing that Jesus does before His public ministry begins. It’s in today’s Gospel. He is “in His Father’s business.”

      Jesus is about His Father’s business when He goes to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. He is about His Father’s business when He spends the next few days in the Temple studying the Word of God with the teachers of the Sacred Scriptures.

      Jesus spends much time in the Word. And He’s only 12 years old! I have found that children are often interested in theology. Just as the teachers were astonished at His understanding and answers, sometimes I am amazed at the understanding and good questions and good answers given by many of my Catechism students. Some have excellent insight and wisdom. This happens most often when their parents show keen interest in the Word of God.

      Because Jesus is 12 and, in those days, that was within a few years of being considered old enough to start a family, it should be no surprise that Mary and Joseph left Jerusalem after the Passover and did not keep tabs on their Son. In our day we frequently hear of violent crime on the news. This makes many feel society is not safe. So they would never think to begin a long journey without keeping close tabs on their 12 year-olds. Also, there would have been relatives and friends making the same journey home from Jerusalem. So, Mary and Joseph figured Jesus was with them.

      They travelled a whole day home without once seeing their Son. When they don’t see Him, they try to figure out where He is. When they do not find Him among their company, they go back to Jerusalem and start looking around. It takes awhile before they find Him.

      After three days, they finally find Him. Where is He? In the Temple. With teachers. Studying the Word of God with them.

      He is perfectly fine and safe. But His parents were worried and

rebuked Him. Jesus responds, saying, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”

      Now, normally, it is wrong for children to speak to their parents like that. And normally, it is right for parents to rebuke their children.

      But it is different in this case, for Jesus never sins. He did nothing wrong. And plus, Mary and Joseph need to realize that because Jesus is God, His Father is God the Father in Heaven. Their role in His life is coming to completion. Jesus must submit to His Father in Heaven, even as He submits to them.

      The words of Jesus, “Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s business?” are good words for all of us. For we, too, must be about our Heavenly Father’s business. There ought to be no greater priority for us than being in the Word of Christ. For it is written, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).

      The world around us in constantly preaching to us that the Word of Christ is unnecessary. The world mocks us for gathering in the House of God to receive Christ’s forgiveness. But we know that we must be in our Father’s business as we hear His saving Gospel.

      What Jesus said to Joseph and Mary are fine words for us to say to our friends and family. If someone tries to get you to do something on Sunday morning when you are supposed to be in Church, you can respond as Jesus did. If your phone rings in church, make it stop ring and, afterward, inform the caller that you were in your Father’s House about His business. If you’ve got housework to do, or if you’d like to watch a ball game, or even if you are asked to help someone with something on Sunday morning, realize that you, too, must be about your Father’s business. Those things can wait. You need to be here, just as Jesus needed to be in the Temple.

      For you are a Christian. You bear the name of Christ. You are a member of His family. Those seated around you—everyone here—are your brothers and sisters in Christ. They are the Body of Christ. You have come because you need to be about your Father’s business. You are here to learn God’s Word, to proclaim His praises, and especially to receive His gifts.

      You are here to receive Christ’s forgiveness. Jesus paid for your sins on the cross. Because He rose from the grave, He has secured your salvation. That salvation is applied to you as the Word is proclaimed and the Sacraments are administered—as you are about your Father’s business. Amen.        

     The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen