Click here for the reading: Luke 2:41-52.

The hearers whose children are given cell phones in elementary school to keep track of them may be confused by the inattention of Joseph and Mary. Some exposition of the normalcy of very large groups of Israelites going up by villages to Jerusalem and the enormous numbers of people in the city at Passover will be helpful to clear up what appears negligent to many. Joseph and Mary were normal parents, and in a time and place far less violent for the average person than our own time, they were not concerned if Jesus were not, so to speak, home precisely before dark. What is abnormal in the reading is not the behavior of Joseph or Mary but of Jesus.

Jesus displays an unusual knowledge of the Law that astonishes those professionally engaged in teaching it. This surpassing knowledge contrasts brightly with Mary’s slip of the tongue, calling Joseph Jesus’s “father.” She is presumably not completely forgetful of Jesus’s conception but instead speaks according to custom and everyday usage. The yawning gap between what is scriptural and what is normal will only increase from here in the ministry and the passion of Jesus. He will pursue a unique way of utter attachment to the Law of God and to the will of God, and for that he will be named a blasphemer and a troubler of Israel.

Jesus is a priest Whose lips guard knowledge and a reformer in Israel, teaching again the Law of God clearly within His house at Jerusalem. The association between the priesthood and teaching is sometimes forgotten because of the nearer association in most Christians’ minds between the priesthood and the sacrificial system. But the lips of the priest should guard knowledge, and in teaching clearly what God demands and what God gives, Jesus is exercising an office at once prophetic and priestly and according to the tradition of Hezekiah and Josiah also royal.

The evangelist attends to Jesus’s activities whether in Jerusalem or on the way home. Jerusalem now no longer has significance apart from Jesus’s presence. Mary’s confusion is that Jesus’s presence would be where she expected him to be. False significance and deep confusion will always exist where a person does not treasure up in his heart the words and works of Jesus above all else. If he should not grasp them at first, as Mary did not at first grasp what Jesus meant by “I must be about the things of my Father [ESV: in my Father’s house],” they did not then reject what He said. Instead, she pondered His words until the time when they would come clear.

That process of hearing, pondering, and finally understanding is one that many will go through in Luke’s gospel, most emblematically the Emmaus disciples whose minds are opened by the Lord to understand at long last the Scriptures He grasped so easily as a boy. The human growth Jesus went through as a youth is also ours, so that in knowing more than us (of course), He does not separate Himself altogether from our human pattern of growth in wisdom. He knows what we lack and yet allows us to ponder His words. He opens our minds, and at long last we understand what He, our priest and prophet and king, has always taught and still teaches – wonders out of His Law.

The people of God find in each sermon, each reading, each service what Joseph and Mary were seeking – the presence and the voice of the living Lord. Encourage them not to follow their vain imaginings of what God should be doing or saying. Attend rather to the Wisdom of God speaking today in His Word.

Click here for the reading: Romans 12:1-5.

This passage offers a wonderful opportunity to teach the basics of worship, an activity not of a certain time or place but of Sunday mornings and all of life, too. The term “Divine Service” should be taught as the name for what happens on Sunday mornings, but so long as people call the same thing “worship,” then the chance to teach the Bible definition of “worship” is a chance you shouldn’t pass up.

The worship Paul describes is a life of sacrifice. Blood is not necessarily offered; the Hebrews could worship faithfully yet not then to the point of shedding blood. The blood of bulls and goats is of course completely beside the point. The sacrifices God desires consist a life that is not conformed to the world but transformed in one’s mind so that the Christian comes to know what God desires in his life.

The overall shape of that twofold dynamic is clearer in view of the last three verses of the pericope. The world is defined primarily by a lack of humility. This results in an inability to function as a body where there are many different members with many different functions. Arrogance and boasting make one’s own gifts negligible or in need of no improvement and everyone else’s gifts the subject of constant critique. Thus Christ’s body, His temple, His living stones, are strewn every which way in utter disarray.

Instead, humility is the dressing of the living stone, making it fit properly into the structure of the building, as the stones of the first temple were dressed in the quarry and fit exactly when they were brought to Jerusalem. Humility gives a man sober judgment so that he can tell who he is and what he ought to be about – neither more nor less than he ought. He attends to the Lord’s gifts instead of his neighbor’s foibles.

Conformity to the world is arrogance; transformation of the mind is humility’s child. The mind is then attuned to what is good and acceptable specifically in one’s own life. The language of sacrifice is key. No one had to bring his neighbor’s goat or turtledove for sacrifice but only what was due from his household. No one must bring his neighbor’s gifts under scrutiny but only what he has to offer for the good of the body, the household of God.

Click here for the reading: 1 Kings 8:6-13.

After its fashioning in the wilderness and sojourning among the Philistines, the ark has come to rest, according to Solomon a rest that will be “forever.” For a moment in this long chapter of dedications, sacrifices, intercessions, and benedictions everything and everyone seems at home. The son of David is on the throne, the ark is between the cherubim made for its protection, and the glory of the Lord is in His holy temple. Have we all now arrived?

All of this will come apart. The son of David (cf. the verses immediately following the pericope) will depart from the ways of the Lord and attend to the ways of the women whose foreign gods he has taken along with his many wives. Far from the ancient union of priest and king seen in Melchizedek and now seen again in Solomon in 1 Kgs. 8, the king of Israel will finally fail to guard his heart and the Lord’s Word. After his death, the commonwealth of Israel will fracture because Solomon’s prosperity and power, not the Lord’s Word, held it together during his life.

In the ark, between the cherubim, are the tablets of Moses graven at Horeb (another name for Mount Sinai). Moses’ rage at Israel’s disobedience broke the first copy of the Ten Commandments. Israel’s disobedience will make the second copy of the Ten Commandments a standing accusation against them, a witness of their iniquity.

The glory of the Lord will one day depart the temple, never to return. When the second temple is built, there will be mingled crying and rejoicing, so that all the bystanders hear is a very loud sound, nothing distinctly joyous about it. Never again after this pericope will Israel seem so at home again, nor the land and the kingdom so much at peace and so well off, all enemies and rebels put far away. After this every kind of strife inside and outside the land will come upon the disobedient people.

This is an ominous reading, and the inclusion of more text before or after it from the same chapter will add darker shading as all the bright things of that day are overshadowed by their eventual destruction. Sacrifices too many to number will be replaced by the cannibalism of a city under siege. A king at peace with the God of his nation will be replaced by warring kings and illegitimate puppets appointed by foreigners. The ark will be lost not for a while to the Philistines but forever to time.

Since the people of God now share in an altar of which the adherents of the old covenant know nothing, they can rejoice in the presence and peace of God. Since they have a King and a Priest, the Son of David, who is faithful in everything, they can cry to Him for intercession and mercy and find an answer to their prayers. Everything for which Solomon sacrificed and prayed, God’s people now have in Jesus, Whose body is a temple and Whose blood is poured out in the new covenant God has made with His people, atoning for all their iniquity. Solomon’s bright day was darkened by sin, but behold, a greater than Solomon is now here. The building of the first and second temples took years, foreign expertise, and great treasure. The building of the temple of Jesus’s body was raised in three days. God’s mercies are forever in the temple of His body.