Wednesday, January 1, 2020

To See Jesus Face to Face

Luke 1:41-52 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”[f] 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Over the last five weeks we’ve traveled along the road of Bethlehem, we’ve examined the moments when Mary learned she would bear the son of God. We’ve explored the nativity, the birth of Jesus with the shepherds and the wise men, and we’ve studied the moments when Jesus was brought to the temple as a baby, and Simeon and Anna saw his glory.

Today for our final advent message we jump from Jesus as a baby, to twelve years later when Jesus is a young man. This is the only record we have of Jesus as a teenager. There is a huge gap here in the Bible, we jump from Jesus being born, to Jesus beginning his ministry at the age of 30. So we see in Luke’s gospel account that Jesus is twelve years old. His parents Mary and Joseph have just gone to Jerusalem to participate in the Passover festival.

The Passover festival was a celebration of God delivering the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. This was when Moses was blessed by God to lead God’s people out of Egypt.

So they had just been at this festival, and then they head home. They travel for a full day, and then they realize Jesus is not with them. He’s missing! So they go all the way back to Jerusalem looking for him.

I remember as a kid when my mom was shopping me and my sister would hide inside the clothing racks at stores. One time she couldn’t find us, and when we finally came and found her she was extremely angry. Where were you she said. Can you imagine how scared joseph and mary were, looking for Jesus?

They were probably freaking out!

So they look for him around Jerusalem for three days. And finally they find him in the temple, in church, talking with the priests asking them questions and sharing wisdom with them.

His mother was probably in tears, wondering where he was. And his dad was probably pretty mad.

So they look at Jesus and ask him, “How could you treat us like this? Where were you?”

And Jesus’ reply is very interesting and mysterious. He says, ““Why were you searching for me?” “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”[f] 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

In Jewish custom, at this age a child would go through the bar mitzah. You’ve probably heard that phrase. It’s a ritual in which the child becomes a man. And it usually includes an oration before the assembled guests. The child becomes a man, and is now responsible for his own actions and conduct.

Perhaps Jesus was practicing a bar mitzah with the leaders in the temple, beginning his adulthood. But there is something deeper going on here.

Jesus at this very moment declares that God is his own father. And it says Mary treasured these moments in her heart. She would always remember this moment in her life. When Jesus declared, I had to be in my father’s house.

His destiny was coming into focus. Jesus is not just a kid, or even just a man, he is something much greater. To be in the room with Jesus must’ve been like… being in the room with pure sunshine. Every word he speaks is perfect. It’s either perfect love or perfect truth or perfect justice. And I would bet that the perfect words from Jesus would include both compassionate love, but also a hard truth with a strong sense of justice. And I imagine my two prominent emotions at those moments with Jesus eye to eye would be incredible love, and a strong fear. A gentle love and a respectful fear. Because Jesus is pure love, an ocean of love for us, but also the king of kings, Lord of all of us.

So I can only imagine what he was saying to the priests in the temple that day. Just a few words from Jesus can change a life forever. It’s not like running into your neighbor or even a family member you love. It’s like running into the meaning of life. The creator of everything. It’s so far beyond what we could imagine.

And we see in these moments with Jesus at the temple a shadow and reflection of something greater that he will do in the future. We know that Jesus inevitably came to die. He came to die as a sin offering. Your heavy load of sins, those regrets, those fears, those anxious thoughts, that depression, that desire to hurt yourself, and hurt others, that shame within, that’s what Jesus came to remove. Jesus was perfect, God on Earth. Flawless. But he went to the cross, to die for our sins. To remove our grief, shame, and darkness, and put it on himself. And he deletes it that way. That’s how it works. You may not fully understand why Jesus had to die to remove your sins. But understanding isn’t required. You don’t have to get it all. Just put your faith in Jesus. Be willing to say OK, Jesus removed my sin in that way, and I accept and receive and believe that.

I don’t fully understand how Jesus dying removes my sin. It’s a God thing. It’s beyond me. But I know how it feels right now to have those sins off my back, and washed away. They are gone. I used to carry that all around and it was so heavy. And now it’s gone. The pain, the regret, the shame, the guilt, its gone, it went to Jesus on the cross, and he deleted it.

So think about this, in these moments, Mary looks for Jesus for three days. And they can’t find him. When Jesus died on the cross 20 years later, he was dead and buried for 3 days. Mary was there watching the whole thing happen, when Jesus was on the cross, and the sky went black for hours. She saw it all. And she saw him die.

But then Mary the mother of Jesus saw Jesus was alive. Three days later she found him. Just like she found him after 3 days of looking for him in the temple when he was twelve years old. Amazing how the actual events of Jesus life point us to his death, burial, and resurrection.

All of this hope in our world today, all of our this peace and justice we find in the United State of America, all of our hope in Jesus, and indeed our own salvation army, are all because of Bethlehem, because Jesus was born as a baby, grew up, and gave his life as a sacrifice for the world.

I can’t imagine a world without Jesus and the cross. It would be a dark, terrifying world. And someday as we know from the book of revelation, the presence of God in the world will be removed, and an incredibly dark and horrible time will happen in history, called the great tribulation. That will be a world without God. But at the end of the tribulation, God will raise up tribulation saints to proclaim the truth, and all of this will culminate with the return of Jesus.

And on that day the face of Jesus will fill the skies, and many who sneered as Jesus, and mocked us, and laughed at us, will suddenly be terrified and realize their day has come. And many of us who loved and followed Jesus and repented of sin, will be filled with awe and joy at his return. That is the ultimate culmination of history, all, because of Bethlehem, because Jesus came. Seek Him and find Him before time runs out. And He will remove your sins and set you free.