" Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”
Luke 2:36-52 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 38 At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. 40 The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
41 Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast; 43 and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware of it, 44 but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and went a day’s journey; and they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45 When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem looking for Him. 46 Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. 48 When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.” 49 And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand the statement which He had made to them. 51 And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
52 And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
“Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” Even at a young age Jesus was drawn to the temple. Contrary to what many people profess or believe, that Jesus was against religion and would avoid the church today, Jesus throughout His life, was drawn to and ministered in the church; in the temple and synagogues. Although people in the church may be broken and flawed, Jesus found a closeness to the Father there. Perhaps it was the reading of scripture. Perhaps it was the singing and worship. Perhaps the same thing is true of God the Father, which Jesus says about Himself. "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst."(Matthew 18:20) The religious people of Jesus day were imperfect. They needed a savior, just like religious people today. I would never argue with someone who says they find God in the midst of creation and nature. Neither would I say that God and His work cannot be found among the desperate people living in the streets. But surely as scripture testifies, God can also be found where people, even imperfect people, gather in His name. God will be found where people worship and praise Him. Psalm 22:3 says: But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Zephaniah 3:17 says: “The Lord your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” God inhabits the praise of His people and He in turn rejoices over those who rejoice in Him.
It does not surprise me that those who are outside of the church would be critical of it. They will say that the church is full of hypocrites, which may be true. But so is every other group of people with whom we can gather. Those who criticize the church do not mind the hypocrisy of politicians, entertainers or athletes who speak openly about things then do and even profit by doing things contrary to what they say. It doesn’t surprise me at all that the world, our culture is critical of, even hates religious people. Jesus says: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19) The world is not hypocritical for hating Christians as they hate Christ. They are hypocritical for espousing an ideology of love and tolerance, when they practice hate and intolerance. Still I am not surprised or even disappointed by the reaction of our culture to the church. What disappoints me is when those in the church turn against others in the church.
Within the church there is far too much division over preferences and traditions. We spend far too much time and energy focused on what is different than on what we have in common with other believers. Look at the account of Mark 9:38-40: John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is for us.” If the gospel of the kingdom is preached, if Jesus, the cross, the empty tomb and the resurrection is exalted, why should we worry about the method or the style? Many who are in the church, but are critical that the church does not do enough to reach out to the world, will use the accounts of Jesus associating with sinners and outcasts to justify their position. They will use the scriptures which say we should love our neighbor and even our enemies to justify their desire to remain outside of the church and among the world. Surely the world needs those who carry the light and love of Christ into the dark places. But we all, those who are believers, we who are or claim to be followers of Christ need to remember what Jesus says in John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus taught that the greatest commandment was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. He taught that the second was like it, that you would love your neighbor, as yourself. In John 13, as Jesus is preparing His disciples to continue on after He is no longer physically with them He gives them this new commandment, that they love one another, even as He does. Jesus commandment is that disciples, believers love other disciples, other believers. Jesus says that it is this love, the love they have for one another which will cause all men to know that we are His disciples.
Is it possible that the worst hypocrisy we can show the world is that we can’t even get along with each other? How can they trust the love we say we have for them when they see the division we have with each other? It is possible that even if we love the world, they will hate us as they did Jesus. But if we will love them, as we love ourselves and as we love one another, then they will know we are disciples of Jesus. In today’s text it says: Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. If we want to be like Jesus and increase in wisdom and stature, even in favor with God and man, we need to be where God is. We need to be where His word is taught and read. We need to be where His name is praised and where God Himself is worshipped. That may indeed be in your own quiet place. It may be on a mountain top, or by the side of the lake or sea. It may be among the outcasts of society, but it also may be in any and every church that lifts up the name of Jesus, every church that teaches that Jesus died for the sins of man, anywhere and everywhere that two or more gather in His name.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit may we the church, Your disciples truly show the world that we love you, the Lord our God. May we also love them as we love ourselves and so that the world will know that we are Your disciples, may we love one another as You have loved us. Amen.