Sunday, January 4, 2009

Do You Take Yourself too Seriously?

Second Sunday after Christmas
January 4, 2009
Luke 2:40-52

Jesus was an obedient child. Mary and Joseph were comfortable in leaving Him to come home with relatives in the group without checking in with them. They trusted Him. But when they needed to talk to Him they were struck with the realization that “boys will be boys” evidently applied to their son also. They still didn’t have an understanding of the whole Jesus thing. They were still somewhat stuck on themselves.

Why were they astonished at what they witnessed in the temple? Why did they insist that He should have been with them rather than in the House of God? Why did they not understand what their precocious boy was insisting on?

It’s because they took themselves too seriously. This is a characteristic of us Christians. I guess we should lump the non-Christians in here also. We’re always getting in the way of Jesus doing His thing. Notice how very unseriously He takes Himself. He obediently goes with His parents to Jerusalem for the Passover. When He goes, He seems to be the only one in the group—including His parents—who seems to know why they really were going there. He stays behind. Not to get into trouble as boys can be prone to do. To be in His Father’s House. To be about the business of what the Passover is all about.

And as we know from the New Testament, what the Passover is all about is Jesus. Jesus knew this, even at twelve years old. Jesus was in His Father’s House because it’s communion with Him that is the ultimate goal. The Passover of the Old Testament was the shedding of a lamb’s blood to be painted on the doorpost so that the Angel of Death would pass over that house and the occupants would be spared. By being in God’s House even at such a young age, Jesus was being prepared by His Heavenly Father for Himself being the very Lamb of God whose blood would be shed so that we may be spared eternal death and receive salvation, communing with God eternally in heaven.

Oftentimes precocious little boys can take themselves far more seriously than what they ought to. Not Jesus. He knows who He is, but when He is with the teachers in the temple He is listening and asking questions. Jesus is always Jesus. He is always God and always working His work to bring salvation. But He never is full of Himself. He always is coming in humility. And that is why even when everyone is amazed at His understanding and His answers, it’s not through standing up among men and teaching them a thing or two, but through listening and asking questions.

And even though He corrected His mom, He never once upbraided His parents. Rather, He went home with them and was submissive to them. That’s what we learn in the fourth commandment, and in Jesus it is fulfilled in perfection. That is because Jesus is the ultimate servant, delighting in God’s will. He never took Himself too seriously but always took seriously the passion and will of His Heavenly Father to save the people He created.

That’s why we need to get out of the way. So that we can stop dwelling on ourselves and get caught up in the salvation work of our Lord. It’s a shame we so often take ourselves too seriously. We’re very concerned about our rights. Kids want to make sure everything’s fair. But don’t we want our due? Aren't we envious of those who seem to have more or better when there’s no reason we don’t deserve it as much as they do? When we have difficult decisions to make, aren’t they often difficult because we want to get out of doing the right thing to ensure we can get what we want?

Perhaps you made new year’s resolutions. Look them over. What ways have you determined you’re going to improve yourself? Are they all concentrated on what you need to do to be better? Do they focus on how you can enjoy life more? None of this is bad. But are you taking yourself too seriously? Do you easily dismiss the true and eternal focus and basis of your life? Mary and Joseph did. He was right there with them. After twelve years of raising the Son of God they still took themselves too seriously. They still weren’t ready to see in Him the very salvation of the world. They still needed to think of themselves as the ones who were calling the shots.

They weren’t quite ready for kings bowing down before their baby. They weren’t thrilled with their twelve year old son who wandered off on His own to be about some business they didn’t quite understand. They weren’t ready for a son who went out and got Himself arrested and brutally beaten and killed on a cross.

We take all these things for granted because we’ve heard them so many times. But do we take ourselves any less seriously than Jesus’ parents? We might not have much problem with a baby who has come to save us. Or even a twelve year old. Or an adult. But how much stock do we put in our Baptism when things get rough in our lives? How much do we long for Holy Communion when we’re troubled by our sins? How much do we really take comfort in hearing the Gospel proclaimed to us for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith?

Mary treasured up all those amazing events in her heart. We ought to do the same. Because it was only through her Son that she had true life. It is only through her Son that we see we don’t need to take ourselves so seriously because He has taken seriously our condition and need for salvation. He has taken it so seriously that, even at age twelve, He was about His Father’s business. So seriously that He was ready and willing to suffer for our sin, for our guilt, and in our place. So seriously that it was not beneath Him to become a man as we are. To be a servant and delight in His Heavenly Father calling on Him to love and serve and save.

Do you take yourself too seriously? Try something refreshing for a change. Look to Jesus. Whatever He’s doing, He’s doing it for you. Whatever He is about, He’s about it for your salvation. When He Baptizes you, you’re Baptized—and that means He’ll never let you go. When He gives you His Body and Blood in His Holy Supper, that means He is giving you Himself—so that you know you don’t need to rely on yourself for the strength you need in life and for eternity. When He comes to you in the preaching of His Word, you know that no matter how seriously you take yourself, He’ll strip you down so that all you’ll be able to see are your sins and His eternal sacrifice on the cross that wipes them out. When He comes again in glory you will laugh, or maybe cry, at how seriously you had taken yourself. But because He loved you even when you were His enemy, you will rejoice that He is very serious about saving you and always working out salvation for you for all eternity. Amen.


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