Epiphany 1 The Incarnate Son shews forth & manifests the relation of the Father & the Son
In the Eucharistic Lectionary of the classic Book of Common Prayer the Gospel for the first Sunday after the Feast of the Epiphany is Luke 2:41-52.
This is the account of the visit of Jesus, at the age of 12, with his parents, Mary & Joseph, to the Feast of the Passover at the Temple in Jerusalem. It was his first visit there since the Presentation when he was an infant. But now having reached the age of maturity in Judaism, Jesus makes his first visit to a Festival in the Temple. The Law prescribed that Jewish males should attend three Festivals each year: Passover, Pentecost & Tabernacles (see Deuteronomy 16:16). However, it had become normal for those from outlying areas to attend only one, usually the Passover. Mary went out of godly piety for she was not required by the Law to go.
He went up taken by his parents in the caravan [large group journeying together] that traveled from Nazareth to Jerusalem. It was common for the women to travel together with the children and the men separately. As they approached Jerusalem we can imagine them singing the "Songs of Degrees" (Psalms 120-134). In Jerusalem, the men and women would be separated and in different accommodations.
When the time came for the caravan to begin its return journey, Mary assumed that Jesus was with the men and Joseph presumed he was with his mother. But Jesus was on one of the terraces in the Temple listening to the leaders of the Jews from the Sanhedrin who offered teaching and answered questions. So it was only when Joseph and Mary were well into the journey that they discovered that Jesus was not with them and they returned immediately to Jerusalem to find him.
They found him in the Temple participating in the informal teaching sessions held there at the latter part of the Festival. And further, they found that he had caused something of a minor sensation as a young man because of the depth of his understanding of the Law and the Prophets revealed in his questions to the teachers of the Jews.
Mary obviously remembered very well the short conversation that she had with Jesus when they found him there. From here Luke received it and put it into his Gospel.
Both relieved and annoyed, Mary asked Jesus: "Son, who have you treated us so? Behold your father and I have been looking for you anxiously."
In his reply Jesus expresses surprise that his parents did not know WHERE to find him. His reply obviously surprised her and Joseph: " How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house [or engaged in my Father's business]?"
"Where should a child be but in his father's house? And my Father is GOD!" is what he says.
This question and statement from the Twelve Year Old surprised them and at that moment they did not realize what he meant. But Mary who kept these words in her heart and pondered them understood them later.
It is notable that the first recorded words of the Messiah, the Incarnate Son, are an expression ( an epiphany) of his divine Sonship as Man.
We need to focus on the word "Son." Most certainly Jesus was Mary's Son, conceived in her womb, born from her body, suckled at her breasts. Yet Joseph was not his birth father, but his (gracious) adoptive father. Before his conception in the womb the babe whom Joseph named Jesus existed as the only-begotten Son of the Almighty Father, creator of heaven and earth.
Here in the Temple Jesus is conscious of his unique relation to the Father and thus he speaks in a manner that no Jew would normally speak, even when in the closest communion with God. "I must be [it is necessary that] in MY Father's house [or, engaged in his business]." This is a relation that is of a different kind than his being a son of Abraham and therefore a son of the God of Abraham.
Yet although it is a unique consciousness of a relation to God as "my father" it is still the consciousness of a twelve-year old and not a thirty-year old. For after this holy incident Luke tells us that "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man." His consciousness of his unique relation was to grow and mature even as he grew and matured in his manhood. And this occurred as he lived under the Law of Moses and in obedience to his parents.
As readers of the Gospels we have to wait about 18 years for the next Epiphany - the manifestation of Jesus as the Incarnate Son at his Baptism by John in the river Jordan.
By faith we are to live in this age in the light and the power of the Epiphany, for what the Gospels record has occurred and the Lord Jesus Christ is enthroned at the right hand of the Father.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon January 12 2002