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First Sunday After the Epiphany

First Sunday After the Epiphany

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
BY REV. ASHTON OXENDEN, D.D.

ST. LUKE, ii. 41-52.
BY REV. ASHTON OXENDEN, D.D.

ST. LUKE, ii. 41-52.

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FIRST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY BY REV. ASHTON OXENDEN, D.D.

ST. LUKE, ii. 41-52.

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem, after the custom ot the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jeru salem ; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day s journey, and they sought him among their kins folk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed : and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us ? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me ? wist ye not that I must be about my Father s business?
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And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Naza reth, and was subject unto them : but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom, and stature, and in favour with God and man.

FOUR things are told us in this passage of Scripture

First Sunday

1st. Our Lord s visit as a child to

Jerusalem ; 2ndly. His conversation with the doctors

in the Temple ; Srdly. The mistaken reproof uttered

by His Mother ;
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4thly. His dutiful submission to His

earthly parents. Let us take these in order.

First, as to our Lord s visit to Jeru salem. Joseph and Mary were pious members of the Jewish Church. They 1 walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless/ Year after year they went from Nazareth to Jerusalem to attend the great Passover Feast. And they did this, not as a matter of duty merely, but because they loved the House of God, and the religious gatherings of His people. At twelve years old it was customary for Jewish children to accompany their parents on such occa sions. And as Jesus had now reached that age, they took Him with them, anxious that He should share their privileges, and join them in their acts of worship.

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They therefore left their humble dwell* ing at Nazareth, and joined their friends and neighbours who were bent on the same errand. Nazareth was about seventy miles from Jerusalem ; and such a journey in those days was a matter of no small difficulty. They usually travelled in large companies for the sake of protection ; and as there were scarcely any regular roads, it would probably take them a week or more to complete the journey.

The Passover lasted eight days ; one day for killing the Paschal Lamb, and seven days for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And now the Holy Week being over, and the Festival ended, the many thousands who had met at Jerusalem mustered in the outskirts of the city, and started on their homeward journey ; and Joseph and Mary among the number. But
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Jesus was not with His parents. This however did not cause them much concern, as they took it for granted that He was with some one or other of the Nazareth party. ^

It is supposed by some that the men and women travelled in separate com-

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panics on these occasions. And that the children were sometimes in the men s com pany, sometimes with the women. This would account for what might otherwise seem to be carelessness on the part of Joseph and Mary. Joseph, not seeing Jesus in the men s company, might sup pose He was with His mother ; and Mary, not finding Him with her, might imagine
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that He was with Joseph.

Thus they journeyed on for a whole day ; and not till the evening did they discover that He was altogether missing. They then at once halted, and retraced their steps to Jerusalem, anxiously in quiring where He could be.

After some time they find Him in the Temple. This brings us to our Second point our Lord s conversation with the Doctors. Who were these Doctors V They were public Teachers, or Rabbis, who were there to give the people in struction in matters of religion. Here,

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among these Elders, was the last place where they would expect their child to be. But here they find Him, not drawn there

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by mere curiosity, but actually taking part in their discussions. For we read that He was found sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions/ There is no reason to think that this was for the purpose of perplexing or confounding them. The questions were doubtless proposed in a respectful manner, and the answers listened to with deference to the age of those who made them, and respect for their sacred office. But our Lord s wisdom must greatly have surprised them ; for like l)avid he could truly say, I have more understanding than all my teachers. I understand more than the ancients/ And so we read, c All that heard him were as tonished ; and well they might be, for never child spake like this Child.

Of course His parents had already
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had many opportunities of observing the wisdom which marked even His earliest childhood. But this must have been the first opening of their eyes to see that He possessed a power of mind far beyond that of an ordinary child. He now gave them as it were a taste of His divine wisdom

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and knowledge. He allowed a few rays ot His glory to beam forth, but they were soon withdrawn again ; for the time was not yet come for Him to show Himself in all His greatness.

But let us now see, Thirdly, how our Lord s parents addressed Him. We find Mary speaking to Him somewhat reprov ingly ; but it was a mistaken reproof. Son, (she said) why hast thou thus dealt with us ? Behold, thy father and
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I have sought thee sorrowing ? As much as to say, * Thou hast acted wrongly in thus tarrying behind, and causing us so much anxiety/ They knew not as yet that there was a hidden reason for all He did, and that He could never act wrongly. And even when He replied, Wist ye not that I must be about my Father s business? it did not satisfy them ; for we read, that they understood not the saying which he spake unto them/

And yet how much there was in those few words, of which afterwards they no doubt saw the full meaning. My Father 9 -they understood not as yet all that

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expression signified. They knew not that He was the eternal Son of God God s equal, and yet their child the Ancient of
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Days, and yet a growing youth the Lord of life, and yet one over whose infancy and childhood they had anxiously watched.

* My Father s business too what could that business be ? Jesus had come to do a great work, which as yet they understood not a work which He never lost sight of all the time He was upon earth a work for which He was now preparing Himself a work on which His whole heart was set.

It is well if we can feel something of His devotedness. It is well if that thought is uppermost in our minds, so that all else gives place to it ; I must be about my Father s business. There is a work which God has given each one of us to do ; a work for Him ; a work suited to our powers ; a work for the accomplishment or the performance of which we shall be called upon to give an account.

How many of us not only neglect this
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great work, but make the world s business an excuse for neglecting it ! I have so much to do in my worldly calling, that I

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have no time for the things of God. Earthly business must be attended to, and my Father s business must therefore for a time at least be put aside. I have bought five yoke of oxen, and cannot come/

Sharne upon us, that we should ever dare to use such language as this ! And yet such is the feeling of some, if they do not utter the very words. How sad, if we allow anything earthly to inter fere for an instant with the great and pressing work of God if we allow the world and its claims to call us away from
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our heavenly Father s business, which is of far more importance to us than ten thousand worlds.

There is meaning too in that little word must; Wist ye not that I must be about my Father s business? He seemed to say, Do you not sufficiently know me, to be sure that the great object of my life is to be ever doing my Father s will ? And though, perhaps, you cannot understand what I have now been doing, atill you may be certain that I must be employing myself about something that concerns Him Who sent me/

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And, oh, that our character may be such, that when men do not understand our motives, or the particular work in which we are engaged, they may be ready
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to say of us, He must be about his Father s business. This we know is the object nearest to his heart, and doubtless it is this that he is endeavouring to carry out.

These few words, this single sentence, is all that we know of as having fallen from our Lord s lips all at least that has been handed down to us as spoken by Him, during the first thirty years of His life among us. And therefore they are very precious words ; and though Mary at the time only half understood them, they evi dently left a deep impression on her thoughtful mind. His mother (we read) kept all these sayings in her heart/ The sweet sound of them lingered in her ears. They came back to her again and again. And the more she discovered of the true character of her beloved Son, the more meaning she saw in that short sentence, Wist ye not that I must be about my Father s business V
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The two closing verses of our Gospel tell us of our Lord s return to Nazareth, and of His childlike submission to His parents : He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them. What an example for us ! how perfect and complete ! He who was Lord of all, acted as an obedient son to Joseph and Mary ; increasing year by year in wis dom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

This is all we are told of His life at Nazareth, till at the age of thirty He came forth publicly, and announced Himself as the Saviour of the world. During those thirty years He shared the labours of
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Joseph, working with His father as a common carpenter. In that workshop He toiled, unknown and unnoticed. In that peaceful home He lived as a dutiful and affectionate Son, and as a holy Servant of God. The particulars of His home life are hidden from us. But we may well imagine what a calm and constant sun shine must have brightened the very atmosphere He lived in.

To us all, but especially to the young,

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the thought of that early life at Nazareth is most precious. Think often of the holy Child Jesus. Think how He would have spoken and acted, and try to be like Him. Let your temper, your feelings, your con versation, be such as you may suppose His to have been. Especially pray that as
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you grow in years, you may increase in wisdom and in favour with God and man/ Pray, too, that you may ever be about your Father s business ; that you may love, above everything, to be doing His will, desiring nothing so much as to please Him, who is dearer to you than the dearest ones on earth.

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