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LSB Christmas 2B Sermon – Luke 2:40-52

January 5, 2015

January 4, 2014 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“And the Child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon Him.”

He’s getting to be so grown up.” You hear parents speak that way about their sons. It usually happens when their boys begin to mature into adulthood. Certain milestones are passed: the first semi-event requiring tie and jacket; gaining height that reaches to their father’s shoulders; the need for a razor; driving instruction; admission to an honor society or scout rank; the taking on of characteristics and mannerisms of their father. All of these mark the passage from childhood to adulthood.

The Gospel accounts don’t include many references to the passage from childhood to adulthood for Jesus. But one event is recorded: the presence of Jesus in the Temple as a youth. That is what you heard this morning: “Now [Jesus’] parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.” But before this event took place, a detail was given concerning Jesus. He’s getting to be so grown up: “And the Child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon Him.” Like all children, Jesus went from an infant held by His mother to a youth who was beginning the transition to adulthood.

Note the two emphases that the Gospel Writer places on this maturation. He writes that Jesus grew and gained strength. He also states that Jesus was filled with wisdom. Both of these aspects are essential to this process that Jesus was going through. A gain in height and in power is expected of all children, as long as there is proper nutrition and activity. Unless a major health issue is present, every child will grow and become stronger. That is not unique to Jesus.

But the second aspect that the Gospel Writer notes is not always present. Jesus is “filled with wisdom.” This statement is not speaking about what we would call intelligence or smarts, though we might rightly assume that Jesus possessed those. The phrase refers to something a little different. It is knowledge, but not just of facts. It is understanding, but not just of comprehension skills. When the Scriptures speak of wisdom, the reference is to having grasped and learned the LORD’s will.

That form of wisdom is spoken of in Psalm 119, one of David’s psalms. You prayed a portion of it. And in the verses read, several statements were made concerning the Torah, the LORD’s Law that expresses His will: “Oh, how I love Your Law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep Your precepts.” The psalmist speaks of the wisdom and understanding being given to him through the LORD’s Law. That Law directs the psalmist, so that he walks in the wisdom that he gained from it: “I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep Your word. I do not turn aside from Your rules, for You have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.”

The connection between wisdom and the LORD’s Torah is seen in the incident with Solomon, the son of David. When given the opportunity to ask the LORD for anything to help him rule over Israel, Solomon asks for wisdom: “Give Your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern Your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this Your great people?” The LORD promises to grant Solomon’s request. And in that promise He makes the connection between His words and the wisdom that will guide Solomon’s life: “And if you will walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

The same is true with Jesus as it was for Solomon. Jesus’ being filled with wisdom is connected to the LORD’s Torah. His knowledge of that is shown in the Temple. You were told about Jesus’ remaining in the Temple after His family and friends had left Jerusalem for Nazareth. But remember what Jesus was doing? “After three days they found Him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.”

Jesus holds a colloquy with the teachers of the Torah in the Temple. This conversation between the teachers and Jesus brings about unexpected results. He listens to the LORD’s Torah being taught. But the youth also demonstrates an understanding that astonishes the senior scholars. Wonder overtakes the audience, as Jesus exhibits a wisdom beyond His years.

But this wisdom that Jesus possesses is not kept for Himself. No, it is shared. For what Jesus does in His work after He “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” is to reveal that wisdom. Jesus makes known the LORD’s will to all who would hear and listen to Him. The questions asked to the Temple teachers don’t end on that day. His understanding and answers are spoken for others to receive. You encounter that when you hear the words of Jesus spoken to you.

This benefit is the point of Paul’s statement to the Ephesians. The connection between the LORD’s will and His word is made: “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.”   Salvation is found in that wisdom given through hearing and understanding the LORD’s word. The favor of God is placed upon you. As the LORD’s way is made known to you and you abide in it, your days will be lengthened, even unto life everlasting.

So how does growth in this wisdom occur? It is similar to the way that physical growth and maturation takes place among children, as long as the proper nutrition and activity are present. You are children of the LORD. This has been established in your being born of God, as you heard on Christmas Day. Or as Paul put it to the Ephesians: “In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved.” That adoption took place in your baptisms, so that you were incorporated into the LORD’s household. But as the LORD’s children, you also mature and become like your Father. That maturation, the growth in wisdom, happens as you are hearers of what the LORD makes known in His word.

Hearing the LORD’s word brings to you the salvation that Jesus has won for you. This hearing delivers to you the identity and work of Jesus—that He is the Son of God, that He has lived according to the Law for you, that He has made atonement for your guilt, that He has died and defeated death by His resurrection, that He has earned righteousness for you. So you can make the declaration about Jesus: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

But that hearing also does something else, it establishes a new way of life for you. It renews hearts and minds. It also invigorates, leading to activity. There is the growing up, becoming more like the Father that you have. This is what took place with Jesus: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” But it also takes place among the LORD’s children who are led in the LORD’s ways.

Just like the psalmist, the consideration of the LORD’s Torah becomes a focus in your life: “Oh, how I love Your Law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.… I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep Your word. I do not turn aside from Your rules, for You have taught me.” Your living in that way which the LORD establishes brings about the same result as was promised to Solomon: “And if you will walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

So what should happen among you who are the LORD’s children? The same thing that Jesus did in the Temple, “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” Why is this so? Because wisdom is given there, and you seek to grow in that wisdom. Because this is what your Master does, and you follow Him. Because this is your Father’s delight, and you want to be about the things of your Father. What will be the result? You grow and become strong, filled with wisdom. The favor of God is upon you. And your Father in heaven will gladly say of you, His children: “They’re getting to be so grown up.”

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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