We said a few moments ago that for the next several Sundays between now and Easter we will be asking the question, “Who is Jesus? Who is this baby who was born and became a man and died and came back to life again?” And for the next several weeks, we’ll be camping out in the book of Luke, to see what a man named Luke has to tell us about Jesus. There are others of course, who tell us who Jesus was. There are Matthew and Mark and John. And in fact, this week our children’s story was from the book of Mark. But we’ll be seeing Jesus from Luke’s point of view for the next several weeks.
We can’t be positive who this Luke was. But we’re pretty sure that he was a doctor who went with Paul on one of his trips throughout the Mediterranean region and wrote about that in the book of Acts. (You might remember that last week we had the story of Paul and Silas in Philippi and Luke was with them there.)
We’re also pretty sure that Luke wrote his story about Jesus in about the year 80 or 85, in other words about fifty years after Jesus had died. Now as far as we know, Luke never saw Jesus, or spoke with him. And Paul never saw Jesus or spoke with him in person, either. So at the very beginning of his story, Luke is clear to tell us that he is compiling the stories of people who had seen Jesus and known him and heard him speak.
And in each chapter of his book, and with every story he tells, we’re going to have a more complete picture of who Jesus was. Chapter by chapter we’re going to learn from Luke who Jesus was.
There are going to be several themes in the book of Luke that we’re on the lookout for. Luke is going to emphasize the Holy Spirit. He’s going to talk a lot about the Holy Spirit. He’s going to tell us about the antagonism between Jesus and the religious leaders who knew him and how those religious leaders pestered Jesus and harassed him, and eventually brought about his death. He’s going to pay special attention to the poor and the sick and the disabled and the outcasts. He’s going to insist on the fact that the love of God is for others, not only for Jews. (Which is very good news for us who are not Jews.) He’s going to quote from the Old Testament a lot, and he’s going to tell several stories about women. Women are going to be the heroes of several of the stories in the book of Luke.
So. Now to our verses for today. Luke has already told us about Jesus’ birth and the first few days of his life. Luke has told us how an angel came to his mother Mary and predicted that she would have a child, though she was a virgin. Luke has told us how angels sang at his birth and talked to shepherds, of all people, and how shepherds came out of their fields at night to see him. And now Luke is telling us that Jesus and Mary and Joseph and undoubtedly their other children – all made their yearly visit back down to Jerusalem to worship God in the golden temple.
And you remember how that was - we talked about this a few weeks back when we were looking at the story from Joseph’s point of view. That people came from all over the country, heading south, walking, in large groups of people, camping out overnight, taking all their food and cooking supplies with them, chatting and talking and singing along the way as they came. Walking for sixty or so miles (depending on just where they came from) through what they called mountains and we would call high hills, singing the song that we read earlier today. And other songs that are in our book of Psalms. They worshipped in the temple in Jerusalem. And then they headed home again, that whole crowd of people - children who saw their relatives only this one time every year, sisters and brothers from other villages who walked together on the way home.
But somehow this time, Jesus stayed behind. His parents thought he was in the crowds of people walking together, hanging out with his cousins or his aunts and uncles. And when they discovered he was missing, they ran back to the city and for three days they searched high and low all over the crowds of people in Jerusalem. And there they found him, finally, in the temple, and talking with the teachers there. The religious leaders. Sitting there for three whole days, asking questions, and answering questions, and discussing Biblical passages, and amazing them all. That a twelve year old boy from a very small village in the northern part of the country should have such a clear understanding of the scriptures.
And Luke is building the story of Jesus. And in this little segment of the story he’s telling us, two thousand years later, what a fine student of the scripture Jesus was. Even at the age of twelve. Already he is engaging the religious leaders – already questions are flowing fast and furiously between him and them. And at the age of twelve he is making the point to his frantic mother and Joseph that he has to be in the temple – in his Father’s house.
Because pretty soon, in the next several chapters of the story, Jesus is going to be going to the temple often and quoting scripture all over the place, and having conversations (and fights) with religious leaders almost constantly. And asking and answering very hard questions about faith.
Already Luke is telling us in the second chapter of his story that this kid may look like any other twelve year old Jewish boy from Nazareth. He may have made the trek to Jerusalem with his family like any other young Jewish boy from all over the country. He may have worshipped in the temple with all the other Jews every year. But this is not your normal young Jewish boy. Joseph the woodworker in Nazareth may be raising him, and may be teaching him the woodworker’s trade. But Joseph is not Jesus’ father. He is the son of God. We’re going to see that even more clearly next week. And we are beginning to get a glimpse, if we can see it, of what his life will be like.
And now I am thinking about this congregation. As I do all the time, and as I love to do. And let me say this: You know how it is with Presbyterians at a baptism, don’t you? First of all,and most important of all – God claims the child in baptism and makes promises. Then the parents also make promises in baptism. And then you remember that in a Presbyterian church the entire congregation stands up and promises also, to help raise this new child to know God and love God. And that sometimes means making sure that there’s Christian Education for that young boy to attend when the time is right or that he goes to Camp Greenwood. And confirmation classes, and Christian youth experiences. The whole congregation stands up and makes solemn promises to accept this new member and love her as their own (which she is) and to be responsible, also, for her Christian upbringing. You might remember how you have done that. We have the beautiful example of Nate Waybrant this morning, a son of this congregation, who was raised in love in this congregation and who has been well nurtured in his Christian faith here. And you have heard what that has meant in his life.
So I am wondering to myself why it is so hard for us to find folks to serve in the church nursery. And why the same few people keep doing that week after week? And I am wondering who else will be moved to volunteer. Maybe you will ponder and pray about that for a bit.
And I am thinking of Adult study in this church. We have two quite different options for adult study – at two different times. One on Sunday morning before church and one on Tuesday afternoon. I would guess that about only about fifteen people or so attend these classes groups. And I am wondering if there others who might want to. To sit with other friends in the church to study the scripture and ask and answer questions or to talk about a topic vital to our
Christian Faith. Maybe you will ponder and pray about that for a bit.
I am wondering to myself and watching how this congregation will learn more about Jesus and become more like Jesus in the weeks between now and his death and resurrection.