Summary: Jesus’ visit to the Temple as a boy. The sermon focuses on getting it right on the inside. Also, a new year’s theme.
“Visiting the Temple”
Can you remember what it feels like to walk into a vast, monumental building? Think of some of the places you’ve been. If you grew up in the country, can you remember going to New York City as a child? You crane your neck and arch your back and look up, up, up to the top of the skyscrapers. Wow!
Or can you remember going to a great Museum as a child? You walk in and the ceiling seems to be sky-high. The room is enormous. It is a new feeling as you survey the vastness of this creation.
Jesus grew up in Nazareth. Most of the buildings in Nazareth were tiny one story homes. A very rich family might have a home with an upper room on the roof, but that’s about it. The homes were tiny.
So here is Jesus, making that all-important first trip to Jerusalem as a youth, at age twelve. Now, I don’t know what you believe about this, but Jesus probably wasn’t fully aware yet of his being the Messiah, the Son of God. In fact, when we picture the baby Jesus in the manger as we do every Christmas, we need to think of him as just like any other human infant. That’s what the Incarnation (becoming flesh) means. Someone has even gone so far as to suggest that “if the baby Jesus was totally aware of who he was an fully developed mentally, he would be more like a monster than a human infant.” So it’s okay to think of Jesus as a normal twelve-year-old boy going to the Temple. It is quite obvious from this story that Jesus was a particularly spiritually keen young man – that’s true. But I think it’s safe to say that he gradually discovered his calling – growing and developing like any other boy and then young man. I think if you read the events of Jesus’ life chronologically, you’ll agree. So read about his Temptation, for example. If he knew himself to be the savior from the beginning, then the Temptation would have been something he dealt with long before his thirtieth year (the year he began his ministry).
Anyway for the purposes of understanding the visit to the Temple, we are better off to think of Jesus as not WHOLLY aware of his mission or his identity at this point.
And Jesus goes up to the Temple. He enters Jerusalem, and this boy from the country says, “Wow!” as he sees the great wall surrounding Jerusalem. He can hardly contain himself in excitement. This is David’s city. He himself is a descendant of David. This is where the kings sat. This is where the prophets warned. This is where the sacrifices are made to God. This is the holiest city on earth. And with his family he enters through the gate. And he sees the Temple, gleaming in the sun. “Wow!” He feels something. He isn’t sure what it is. It’s a combination of piety, astonishment but there’s something else. Somehow he senses he belongs here. It isn’t just that this is the city of David. There’s something more. He can’t put his finger on it, but he recognizes the feeling from times when he has prayed to God. As they go up on the Temple mount, he cranes his neck and sees the beautiful Temple soaring above him. He hears many, many voices. It’s like when you go into a museum and it’s crowded. The stone walls echo your voice and your voice gets mixed in with all the other voices. And there are adults seriously looking things over, but there are kids there too. And you hear their laughter and their teasing and their normal noises. That’s what Jesus heard.