Sunday, January 3, 2010

Leaving Jesus Behind

Second Sunday after Christmas
January 3, 2010
Luke 2:40-52

You’ve gotta wonder what Mary and Joseph were thinking. Leaving Jesus behind.

But I have to wonder, how often have I left Jesus behind?

Oh, I love Him just as much as Mary and Joseph did. Yes, in a certain way they loved Him more, He was their child, they took care of Him, they nurtured Him. But He’s my Lord and Savior, just as He was theirs.

You and I love Him deeply. We are His followers, His children, even His brothers and sisters. We wouldn’t ever leave Him behind would we?

I can’t help but wonder though. How often do we do just what Mary and Joseph did? How often are we well meaning, and yet we leave Jesus behind. I can’t help but wonder how we do love Jesus and want to serve Him, and yet we leave Him behind.


Over the years I’ve heard people tell their favorite Bible verse. There are many wonderful ones to choose from. There are ones that strike you in certain moments of your life, while others seem more pertinent at other times.

I’m not sure if I have a favorite Bible verse. There are ones I gravitate towards, I’m sure like many people. Ones I find myself going back to time and time again. For comfort, for strength, for assurance, for simply knowing that it’s still there, speaking the same message, the same eternal message of God to me when I need it.

I have gotten to thinking though. If I don’t have a favorite Bible verse, I do have one that I have found has made an impact on me more than any other. It wasn’t because I saw it and realized, that’s the one! Or that I saw that this one spoke to me in my times of need, or gave me the most comfort.

It’s just that it keeps coming back to me. It’s that I can’t keep going forward without it coming back to me as the main thing. It’s just that I can’t shake the feeling that if I ignore it I will be leaving Jesus behind.

It might not seem like a big deal. It may very well seem easy to do.

But if I do I will have to contend with the verse. It’s short. It’s a simple pronouncement by Paul to the Corinthians: We preach Christ crucified.

It’s so short it might seem like it’s nothing spectacular. It doesn’t necessarily seem like it will help in the dark days. In the times you need comfort or solace. When you need strength; when you could use some peace from above, not as the world gives.

But I keep going back to it. Or it keeps coming back to me. It’s probably both. But I know it’s from God, because it’s the only way I can see of how not to leave Jesus behind.

If you live as a Christian and it’s apart from Christ and Him crucified you do not have Christ. If you love Him and serve Him and follow Him to the ends of the earth but balk at Him as the Suffering Servant, the One who died for the sins of the world, you have no Lord, no Savior.

You are leaving Him behind and you’re left in your sins.


It’s what makes me think—no, realize—at the outset of this new year that today’s Gospel reading isn’t so much about Jesus in the temple as a twelve year old as it is about Christ crucified. That our Lord telling His parents He must be in His Father’s House is about Jesus suffering and dying on the cross.

That as we gather here today on the first Sunday in the new year we gather because of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. That if each Sunday in the coming year is not centered in, drawn from, and because of Christ crucified, then we’re simply leaving Him behind.

Mary and Joseph went back. What parents wouldn’t? They went back. They had to find their Son. They found Him, but did they understand who He was and what He was about? No, they didn’t. But they would soon enough. After the teenage years. After the apprenticeship as a carpenter. After the three-year Ministry. After the preaching and the healings. After the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

But mostly the cross.

Mary and Joseph’s Son was in His Father’s House because He would be forsaken by His Heavenly Father twenty-one years later on the cross. Their precious child they thought they had lost when they left Him behind would serve them faithfully as their child but mostly as the One who would give His life as a ransom for them and for all.


Here’s the front page of the Union-Tribune for New Year’s Day. The headline is “An Era of Anxiety.” The subhead refers to this past decade as being haunted by devastation and despair. There are various images including the attack of 9/11, the fires of 2003, Duke Cunningham being led off to prison, and the image of a statue of Saddam Hussein.

The front pages of our national newspapers deal a lot with the politics and culture of our society, which often tend to be pretty depressing. While we as a church don’t have much to say to the nation and the society regarding its politics or trends we very much have something to say to a culture and a society that lives in an era of anxiety. Those who are haunted by devastation and despair often in a way they may not even realize leave Jesus behind. They are the very ones for whom we have a message.

It is simply Christ crucified. Jesus understands devastation and despair more than we will ever realize. He took the collective anxiety, despair, and devastation of a world bound in sin and condemnation and the grip of Satan and brought it all to the grave where it belongs. There is now no condemnation in Christ Jesus. There is no despair or guilt or shame. There is only hope and forgiveness and grace. There is no new era, simply an eternity with God in heaven. It is only in Christ and Him crucified. Even as He was submissive to His earthly mother and father He was submissive unto death to His Heavenly Father so that we may know what it truly means to be in our Father’s House. That He will make His eternal home our home forever. Amen.


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