Humiliation and Exaltation

Sermon for the Second Sunday after Christmas based on Luke 2:40-52

Dear believers who will be exalted: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

God humbled Himself and was born of a virgin. This is really beyond our ability to understand or comprehend. It is God not coming in all His power and glory, but humbly taking on human flesh.

The humiliation of Christ was that He did not always use His divine powers and attributes. We see this most clearly in His suffering and death. Jesus could have simply walked away from the soldiers as they came to arrest Him in the garden, as He had walked away previously when crowds had tried to kill Him. Jesus could have struck them down with a word from His mouth. But Jesus had a purpose, and that purpose was to die for the sins of mankind. He came for this purpose, and He humbled Himself for this purpose.

We see the humiliation of the Son of God in today’s Gospel reading also, as He submits to Joseph and Mary. As God, Jesus did not need to submit to anyone. However, according to His human nature, He entered a human family and thus put Himself under the authority of a human father and mother. Jesus gives witness to the order that God intended in creation by submitting Himself to that order.

We see the humiliation of Christ also in His increasing in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and man. As God, Jesus could not increase in wisdom or stature or favour. Jesus is the wisdom of God through Whom the universe was created (cf. Prov. 8; Jn. 1). But in His state of humiliation, Jesus did not fully use His divine powers and attributes. As a man, Jesus did not fully use His divine knowledge and wisdom. Thus He increased in wisdom according to His human nature. He learned.

At the same time, we see a glimpse of Jesus’ divinity; we see that Jesus is also God. He astounds the teachers of the law in the Temple as a twelve-year-old boy. His understanding and answers blew them away. He had wisdom beyond comparison. The teachers who spent their lives studying and teaching God’s Word learned from the twelve-year-old Jesus as He opened Scripture to them and as He guided them through questions concerning Scripture.

Jesus is still active in His Word, teaching and guiding. The Word of God is not a dead book of mere letters and words. The Word of God is living and active (Heb. 4:12). The Holy Spirit works through the Word to open our eyes to God’s truth and to teach us.

That’s why we should be continually immersed in the Word of God. If we don’t continually seek God’s wisdom concerning all matters in our lives, we can easily be swayed by the world’s wisdom and be led astray. If we don’t seek God’s will for our lives from His Word, we can easily make up our own ideas about what God’s will is, even though such ideas may be entirely false.

There are always and have always been people who claim to be doing God’s will even though they are blatantly going against what God says in His Word. Such people are not following God’s Word, but rather the devil, the world, and their sinful flesh.

According to a recent study by Pew Research Center, 56% of the members of Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) believe that homosexuality should be accepted rather than discouraged. 46% believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. 45% say they look to common sense for guidance rather than the Word of God. 20% are not certain that there even is a God. It is no coincidence that this ties in with 64% of the members of LCMS not reading the Bible even once a week. I don’t know what the statistics are for Lutheran Church-Canada, but I fear they are equally scary. When you don’t follow God’s Word, the only thing left is to follow the devil, the world, and your sinful nature.

This new year, let us make a commitment to read God’s Word regularly. Let us seek the Lord while He may be found (Is. 55:6). Immerse yourself in Scripture every day to learn and to be blessed by the living and active Word of God. All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Attend the Divine Service to receive instruction and the forgiveness of sins. Come to Bible classes to learn and ask questions about God’s Word.

Jesus is in His Father’s house, so come here regularly to receive from Him. Joseph and Mary didn’t understand that Jesus must be in His Father’s house as the Old Testament prophesies. Of course Jesus is to be sought in His Father’s house. This is no different for us today. Why would we seek Jesus elsewhere? He’s promised to be found in His Father’s house, doing His Father’s business. God the Father’s business is forgiveness and He gives it in His house. This was true of the Old Testament Temple where sacrifices were offered for the sins of the people, and it is even more true for the Church where the benefits of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross are given out freely.

Jesus is present here in His Word, teaching and astonishing as He did in the Temple. Jesus is present here in His body and blood, giving us the forgiveness of sins He earned by giving His body to death and shedding His blood for us. As God and man, Christ has bridged the gap between heaven and earth. He brings heaven down to earth in Holy Communion, and will take us from earth to heaven because of the forgiveness we receive in Holy Communion.

Jesus is our Mediator in heaven not just as God, but as man. We have a man, Jesus Christ our Lord, interceding in heaven on our behalf. He speaks for us. He prays for us. As a man, Jesus opened the kingdom of heaven for man.

And Jesus is no longer in His state of humiliation. After He died, it was finished. Jesus entered His state of exaltation. He showed Himself victorious over His enemies in hell (I Peter 3:18-19, Col. 2:15). He rose from the dead, defeating death. He ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father almighty. He fully uses His divine powers and attributes as He wills especially in giving us His true body and blood to eat and drink and in forgiving us all of our sins.

Jesus’ state of humiliation was for us and our salvation. Jesus’ state of exaltation is also for us and our salvation. He suffered and died for us in His state of humiliation. He rose from the dead for us and ascended to the right hand of the Father for us in His state of exaltation.

From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead. This also is for us because we already know the verdict of His judgment. We have already been declared not guilty. Not because we haven’t done anything sinful, but because Jesus was Himself judged for us and found guilty of all of our sins. Through our Baptism into Christ, we are in Him and thus we’ve already died in His death. Our Baptism was our death, and that is the only judgment we will receive.

Now Jesus returns to judge the world and to separate us from it. He comes to rescue us from the world and its sin and suffering. He comes to rescue us from our humiliation. He comes to exalt us with Him into the eternal joys of the Father.

Jesus is in His state of exaltation and will share His exaltation with us. The humiliation we suffer in this world because of our own sins and the sins of others will be replaced with glorious exaltation. Jesus will raise us up with Him into the heavenly places because He suffered humiliation for us, and is now exalted for us at the right hand of God the Father. Our humiliation will soon be over and our exaltation will soon begin. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

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