What does the Bible say about the House of God?
We meet the Christ-child in the house of God, the Jerusalem temple, this morning. When you pray the Psalms you learn how important God’s house is to the faithful. The Psalmists write passionately about the temple saying things like, “I was glad when they said, “Let us go to the house of the Lord’ and ‘Let us enter his courts with thanksgiving.’ The temple was where one would go to commune with God for as the Psalmist said, “The Lord is in his holy temple.”
We have begun Epiphany where we remember how God is made manifest in the Christ. On Christmas we receive the gift of the Christ-child, in Epiphany we get to see what that gift is really about and what he will do. Our gospel lesson of Jesus in the temple manifests new light on that Word from Psalm 16. Indeed, “The Lord is in his holy temple.” and he is there as Israel never expected in flesh and blood, as a boy full of understanding, increasing in wisdom and in stature among his own people. St. Luke records this episode from Jesus’ boyhood because it reveals something about him. Even as a child Jesus knew whose he was, who he was, and what he had come to do. He belong to God, he is God’s Son, and he has come to be concerned of the things of his heavenly Father.
Mary and Joseph didn’t understand. Anxiously they searched for the boy for the three days and like many mothers would Mary chastised Jesus when she found him. “Why have you treated us so?” she asks. Don’t be fooled by an overly pious interpretation. Mary is accusing her son of sin. Though it was by her and Joseph’s negligence that they left the boy Jesus behind she wanted to blame him. Being sinless he had never done anything out of the ordinary before. A faithful and obedient son it is no wonder she and Joseph did not concern themselves about whether Jesus would follow them when they left for Nazareth. But, he did not. He remained among the things of God in the temple.
Jesus does not chastise his mother in return. He delicately and gently reminds her of who he is and what he is all about. “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Here is an implicit reminder that Joseph is not his father. It was as if he were saying “Remember mother that you are the blessed virgin and my father is not of this world.” This child who was amazing others with his understanding of the Scriptures was telling his own mother that he is also her Savior and Lord. Obedient and submissive he never once disobeyed and transgressed the commandment to honor his father and mother, but here he reminds his mother that he indeed has authority over her and all people as the Son of God. Just before Simeon had told Mary that her heart would be pierced by this child and indeed this episode would pierce her through. Her child is God and Lord and she had tried to correct him, but now she is corrected in the most loving fashion.
Jesus did indeed love his mother. That is why he is in his Father’s house conducting his Father’s business. It is for her good and the good of all people. He comes to the temple among the things of his Father; the Holy Scriptures, the teaching of the Word, the prayers of the faithful, and the sacrifices for sin. He comes to the temple on Passover to begin showing everyone that he is the true paschal lamb, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. The twelve year old boy is there away from his mother to be her savior. Later he will be taken away from his mother again, but this time Mary’s heart will be pierced with a sword as her son is driven outside the temple to the place of the skull to bleed and to die as was foretold by the Scriptures that he now interprets to the amazement of all who hear. Jesus came to distribute the Father’s gifts of forgiveness and salvation to his mother and to his bride the church according to the Father’s will not the temper tantrums of the bride or his mother.
And what of you? Have you taken Jesus for granted? He has made your body into a temple of the Holy Spirit by forgiving you and making you his own. Have you neglected it with your sins? Have you even been so bold as to blame God for your sins, your lust, your pride, or envy? Many think they would not be envious, prideful, or lustful if only God would give them what they want. Is that any different for blaming God for our lack of composure and self control? We must be chastised too. We come into the places where we come in contact with the holy things of the Father in His Word, in His Sacraments, and we take them for granted and resist their promises. We come and receive them and can still leave embittered and unforgiving and ungrateful. Indeed, now wherever God’s Word is preached and the gifts of Christ are distributed is a House of God where the Son is about his Father’s business, but how often is that lost on us when we let our thoughts wander, when we take for granted that we are receiving the holy things of God?
Yet, as with his mother our Lord is delicate and gentle with us even in our sins. He does not increase the darkness, but brings his light to bear on our sins and to forgive them. As he opened up the Scriptures to the scribes and rabbis in the temple their hearts burned within them for they began to see that the Lord is faithful to his faithless people. Jesus would later teach again in this temple. He would ask, “Which of you convicts me of sin? And if I tell you the truth why do you not believe in me?” The greatest proof that Jesus is the Lord born to save us is not all the miraculous things he did, but in his words and in his works. He does not sin. Not against them, not against his mother, and not against you. He speaks the truth. He opens up the Scriptures. He speaks and through him come grace and truth.
Jesus honored the temple as his Father’s house, but he also taught that it had run its course. “Tear down this temple and I will rebuild it in three days.” His body is the new temple. It was torn down by human outrage that sought to chastise the sinless One. The temple of his body became the true sacrifice, the sacrifice of his flesh and blood, broken and shed for all the people. And then in three days that temple built not by human hands was raised by the Holy Spirit. Now ascended into heaven Jesus is not limited by space or time. In that human body just as before is the omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent God. The finite holds the infinite which is beyond all understanding. That Body sacrifice is now given wherever his Bride the church gathers to eat and drink. Those places, throughout all time whether grand cathedrals, or lowly cabins, are truly and properly called the House of God for there you still find the son about the Father’s business of saving us.
The temple of Jesus’ body is now put into your mouth in this House of God. Now you are a temple too. Consider what St. Paul says, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” How is God’s Holy Spirit put in you? By your Baptism into Christ! By the his gift faith borne of the Word of God. By the Holy Communion put into your body. This is the Father’s business. To seek and save you and to forgive you again and again, kindly, delicately, and lovingly by the forgiveness of His son. In the name of the Father, the + Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.