Second Sunday after Christmas
January 5, 2020
Speaker: Daryl Walter Series: Christmas
Passage: Luke 2:40–2:52
SERMON for January 5, 2020
The Second Sunday after Christmas
The sermon for today, the Second Sunday after Christmas, is based on selected verses of our Gospel lesson from Luke. It comes from the Lutheran Hour series, written by the Lutheran Hour speaker, Rev. Ken Klaus and is entitled, “Submission”.
Verse 40 reads:
40The child Jesus grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
And then verses 51 and 52:
51And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
52And Jesus increased in wisdom, and in stature, and in favor with God and man.
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Heavenly Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
A living Lord Jesus shows that His lifetime of submission, His years spent living for us, suffering for us, and then dying for us, has come to an end. Now the victorious Redeemer says, "Believe in me and be saved."
It was a number of years ago that our congregation was having a post-Vacation Bible School picnic.
One of the things I remember from that day, was a mother who had her child sitting on her lap. That's not memorable. What is memorable is the speed, or more accurately, the lack of speed at which the young child ate. Molasses in winter is slow. Glaciers are slower, and watching the continents drift is painfully boring. But the movement of these things is measurable. This child’s eating was not. For ten long minutes, the mother patiently urged, "Jeremy, eat your hot dog."
Twenty minutes into this non-eating marathon, it became apparent to the mother that Jeremy had made this, a test of will power. Mom's eyes narrowed, her cheek twitched, her back straightened, she rearranged the napkin on Jeremy's lap and then told him, "Jeremy, we are just going to sit here until you finish eating your hot dog." This contest might have lasted forever if mother had not made a fatal mistake. She knew she had blundered even before the words were out of her mouth, but she couldn't catch herself in time to stop. She continued, "Jeremy, you will make mommy ever so happy if she sees no more hot dog on your plate." Now Jeremy, who up until that moment in time had shown a sloth-like slowness, burst into action. With one hand on the plate to steady it, Jeremy used his other hand to sweep the rest of the hot dog from the plate into the sand which covered the playground.
Then, with triumph in his voice and for the first time in almost an hour, Jeremy turned to his mother, lifted his plate and innocently said, "Look, Mommy, now there’s no more hot dog on my plate." My memory might be flawed, but I think a single tear rolled down her cheek. One-half hour later, she was composed enough to reenter the battle which eventually made Jeremy into one of the finest young Christian men I know.
I don't know if there will be a similar outcome for the young girl I saw last week at a large chain store. We were fifth in line at the register, and this beautiful blonde four-year-old girl was in front of us. The girl, Leah was her name, saw something she wanted and started screaming. Loudly. It was amazing. There had been no warm up; no gradual increase in decibels. There had been silence, and then there was the scream of the little girl that probably shattered the glass in the jewelry display cases five aisles away. Understand, the four-year-old was not in pain. She had just seen something she wanted, and somehow just knew her scream had the ability to bend her father to her, will like a willow in the wind.
Dad didn't argue. He didn't discuss. In his desire to please this little dictator, he simply reached past the customer in line ahead of him and snatched up the item his daughter had demanded. But He picked the wrong item. She sneered, threw it on the floor, and, if humanly possible, screamed even more loudly than before. He wavered for a second, composed himself, and then bought his daughter what she wanted. My thought was, "Poor father, may the Lord have mercy on your soul."
Now I share those stories because they stand in brilliant and stark contrast to Scripture which, with one story and a few verses, covers all the years from Jesus' birth, until the beginning of His ministry at the age of 30. Most of us are familiar with this story in our Gospel. Luke tells us how Jesus with His family, and a whole bunch of local folk from Nazareth, made the annual Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When the festival was over, the whole crowd headed for home. Mary and Joseph, believing Jesus was somewhere in the group, didn't worry about Him. It was only much later that they realized Jesus wasn't anywhere to be seen. Naturally they retraced their steps back to Jerusalem. After a time of searching, they eventually located their Son in the temple, dialoguing with the scholars of Israel.
No doubt Joseph and Mary, like any parents, would have been conflicted when they finally found their Son. Part of them would have wanted to hug and hold Him, while another part would have wanted to yell at Him for making them worry. After a brief exchange, Jesus reminded Mary and Joseph He was on a mission from God. He was on a mission which would end when, during a future Passover, He would be crucified to save sinful humankind. Luke sums up all those intervening years with this single verse: "And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was submissive to them."
In the course of my life I have probably read that particular verse 40 or 50 times. Even so, it was not until preparing this sermon that these five words stood out. Those words? "He was submissive to them." That's five, right? “He was submissive to them”. Those words struck me as being out of place. Those words got me to wondering: how did that play out in the day-to-day living at the home and shop of Joseph the carpenter. Think about it. When I grew up, my father used to say to me, as yours probably said to you: "Son, no matter how smart you get, I'll always be smarter. I've got a 25-year head start on you." But Joseph couldn't say that to Jesus, his foster-Son, whose wisdom and age included the days of creation. But there's more. When I was growing up, I thought of my father as just about the strongest guy in the whole world. But Divine Jesus was omnipotent. How do you work with a foster-Son who is omnipotent? I know, the Savior didn't use His powers, or that He didn't do any miracles until He was at a wedding which took place in the little town of Cana when He was 30 years old. But that doesn't change the fact that they always knew Jesus was the Son of God.
Think about it. How did they deal with a Son who, since He was holy, was never wrong? How did the kids in town treat a classmate who never sinned? Did they call Him a "goody-two-shoes"? Did they play tricks on Him? Did they try to bully Him? They probably would have if their parents kept saying to them, "Why can't you be more like Jesus? Why can't you be good like He is?" Reading these few verses I do wish Luke would have given us a lot more information about the Savior's early years. All we have are those five words, "Jesus was submissive to them." Was it frustrating being submissive to people who were not as smart as you, as strong as you, as talented as you, or as perfect as you? Do you see? Jesus' submission represented His total devotion to His heavenly duty. His submission to his parents showed a quality which Jeremy and Leah from the beginning of the sermon, and none of us, ever had. Jesus was submissive because it was both right and proper for Him to do so.
You see, Jesus' submission to Mary and Joseph was just part of His lifelong obedience to His Divine Father. It was the Father who had sent His Son to earth to make the sacrifice for humankind which only God's Son could offer, and to complete the promise which would change the eternal destiny of millions of sinners who had been condemned to death. Even before He was born on this earth, Jesus submitted to that plan which would call for Him to offer His life in exchange for ours. Read carefully, and you will see this is so. His stepfather Joseph, was told in Matthew 1 verse 21 that, according to ancient prophecy, his stepson would "save his people from their sins." In fact the first recorded words we have from Jesus is His own admission, that He had to be in His Father's house and had to be about His Father's business. Years later, at the Jordan River, He was baptized by His cousin, John. When John rightly admitted that he, not Jesus, was the sinner who needed to be baptized, Jesus told him, in Mathew 3 verse15, "Let it be so now, for it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Jesus' baptism was one more part of His submission to His Father's plan to save us.
Throughout His life, Jesus remained submissive to that plan. When the devil took Him into the wilderness and offered Him the means by which He could save Himself, but would lose us, Jesus remained faithful and embraced the painful plan of salvation. Not many months later, when His life and ministry was numbered in hours, Jesus knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane. There, as He prayed, the crushing burden of the world's sins was placed upon Him. Not for a second could we have borne the accumulated weight of humankind's transgressions. Every sin, every pain, all the guilt, hatred, injustice, prejudice, lust, greed, disloyalty, and betrayal, committed by every person this world has seen, or ever will see, all this hurt became His. Little wonder Scripture records that even the omnipotent Son of God sweat, as it were, great drops of blood.
You understand? He deserved none of that. He earned none of that. Indeed, Scripture tells us three times He pleaded to be released from this plan which called for His agonizing death. But three times, in submission, He also said to His Father, "Not my will, but your will be done." But it was not possible for Him to be released. The plan called for His life to be offered so ours might be spared. And so Jesus continued on, submissive to the sacrifice He had to make and the suffering which would come. And it did come. Before He left the Garden one of His own disciples betrayed Him. Not from the shadows, not from a distance, Judas betrayed the Savior. With an armed contingent in support, Judas approached Jesus as a friend, then greeted Him as a Friend, and finally gave Him a kiss which was reserved for the closest of Friends. And with that kiss, the betrayer set in motion the end of Jesus' life of submission.
Scripture is silent about Jesus' early years. But, it paints in vivid detail His last hours. Centuries before, the prophet Isaiah had told how Jesus would conduct Himself at His trials. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Isaiah foretold how Jesus would submit to the Father's plan and decline to defend Himself. Isaiah promised the all-powerful Son of God, would allow Himself to be led like a Lamb, to be silent like a Lamb, and then to die like a Lamb. And so it was. Beaten, bruised, whipped, mocked, and scorned, Jesus even carried His own cross to the place of His execution. There, on the cross, as He remained submissive to the Father’s plan to save us, Jesus managed to look past the pain, and past the weight of our sins. He entrusted his mother to the care of a friend. He also promised forgiveness and eternal life to a criminal who was dying next to Him.
There, on the cross, you can clearly see how much Jesus loved us, and how deep His commitment was to the plan which would save us. At any time and without any effort, He could have pulled Himself free of the nails which pinned Him to the cross. With a wave of His hand, He could have swept aside the crowd which showed such delight in His agony. But Jesus did none of those things. Instead, looking down on the soldiers who were gambling for His clothing, and seeing the men who had orchestrated His death, He spoke words of forgiveness. Words of forgiveness. Then, when He had finished His life, as death drew near, Jesus willingly gave up the ghost and He died. His entire life had been lived in submission to the plan to redeem us. Now, there on the cross, His work was finally finished.
If you were to ask, "How can I be sure Jesus' submission to that Divine plan was at an end? Or, how can I be sure He has been successful in winning my salvation?" If you were to ask these questions, in response I would say, "Go to the borrowed tomb where the corpse of Christ was placed. Go there three days after His burial, and you will find Him gone. He is not there, because He has risen. But after Jesus' resurrection, you will note a difference in Him. Jesus had died submitting to the Father's will. The risen Christ of resurrection Sunday is the victor who has defeated the devil, who has trounced the tomb; and who has succeeded in fulfilling the Commandments. The triumphant Jesus rose from the dead and shows to a disbelieving world that God has, in His great grace and marvelous mercy, provided salvation to all who would be brought to faith in Him. The Lord of life rose from the dead and says: "Believe on me and be saved."
Today, I share the story of the Savior's submission to His Father's plan of salvation. It can be your story, unless, of course, arrogance and overconfidence, pride and self-importance, keep you from submitting to Jesus and receiving His blood-bought forgiveness. Submission to the Savior. That can be, and often is, a problem. We humans don't like to submit. We want to be leaders, not followers. We want to be sovereign and self-sufficient, not reliant and dependent. Our age and our culture has promoted the myth that being first, being the leader is everything, and being second is inferior. Living as a follower is not seen as being glorious.
Many people just don’t see that self-reliance and self-sufficiency is a myth. The truth is, we must submit to someone. The athlete submits to the coach; the coach submits to the manager; the manager submits to the owner who in turn, submits to the team's Board of Directors. But the pattern doesn't stop there. Not at all. The Board must defer to the people who pay, or don't pay, to see the team. The people submit to following a team. Success is measured in games won and lost. The win-loss ratio is dependent upon the players, who must submit to the coach, who………..... Well, you get the picture.
The question is not, "Will you submit?" It is to whom will you submit? Will you submit to Jesus, coming as a sinner in need of a Savior? If that is where the Spirit leads you, wonderful, salvation is yours. But if you will not submit to Christ, then who shall be your master? To whom will you submit? You may be the strongest man in this world. You may be in perfect shape and gifted with almost limitless endurance, but the day will come when you will, when you must, submit to death. On the day when death arrives, it will expose how mistaken and misplaced your self-confidence may have been. On the day when death comes, what will you do? What will be your soul's immortal fate? On the day when death arrives, if Jesus is your Savior, you will be blessed, blessed beyond measure. But if He is not your Savior, then an eternity outside the presence of God will be yours. Those are the options; the only options.
You may be able to brush Jesus off today, and you may put Him off tomorrow. But the day is most assuredly coming when death will also arrive. You cannot brush off death. Far better to receive the salvation which Jesus offers. Far better to submit to someone who loves you. Far better to submit to someone who gave His life so that you might live.
Again, the question that must be answered, is “Who will we submit to”? Jesus is our example as we see Him being totally submissive to his Father’s plan.
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.