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First Sunday after Epiphany
“Out of the Mouth of Babes”
Seminarian Brendan Harris, Vicar
St. Luke 2.41-52; 1 Kings 8.6-13; Romans 12.1-5
06 December 2020
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus ☩ Christ; Amen.
Today, we have again heard the annual telling of the tale of the boy Jesus in the temple. Today, we have again heard of the boy Jesus wowing the people in the temple, and of poor Mary and Joseph’s perennial experience of losing their kid in the supermarket—for three days. Now, this particular event is only in the lectionary once a year, and it is only recorded in this one place in the Bible by Saint Luke, only one out of four of the Evangelists of the Gospels. So why then, do we continue to read this story in church? Is it just to giggle with schadenfreude at our Lord’s parents? Is the point of the story just that Jesus is getting older and smarter, and you can already tell that this guy is going to be important? These might be our first thoughts when we hear this account, and they’re not necessarily wrong. But one thing we know for certain, is that we believe, teach, and confess that the Lord is the author of this text, and that our Lord does not use idle words but has given this over to us as an instruction and an example. Saint Luke certainly was compelled to record this event, not only as a record of history, not just as a chronology of the life of Jesus, but also as a confession and fulfillment of all the Scriptures. And so, I invite you to consider, that perhaps there is a deeper layer of something going on in our Gospel today.
In order to better understand any passage of Scripture, one is obliged to search the rest of the Scriptures to inform their understanding. In our case today, there is a text that seems to be a direct fulfillment of our Gospel, one recorded by Saint Matthew. Towards the end of his Gospel, Matthew records the story of Jesus driving the merchants out of the temple—which perhaps we know fairly well, but I invite you to consider especially his account of the events which followed it: Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?” (Matt. 21: 12-16). In this text, Jesus cleanses the temple, He flips tables and completely overturns the place; and if that weren’t radical enough, what does He do next? In the midst of the temple, in the place that was supposed to be the sole business of the priests and the Levites, putting Himself above all of the rabbis and scribes and important men of the Jews, Jesus healed the blind and the lame. Jesus walked into the greatest establishment that man possessed at the time, the place where God promised to dispense His gifts to mankind, and He changed the way it worked, because He is God in the flesh, and so He has the authority to do so. And even though the priests were outraged by this, the children saw the importance of what had just occurred. Instead of asking, “Who is this Jesus that He has the authority to do these things?—and in the temple no less!” they rather jump straight to the answer which is evident to them: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Jesus then further opens the Scriptures to us, for when asked to explain this, Jesus simply cites to them the eighth Psalm: “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength.”
It is in this light that we must hear our Gospel today. This boy Jesus in the temple is acting as a true son, the only begotten son of God the Father, even though He had unintentionally eluded His earthly parents. Even though this was just an ordinary looking Jewish boy, who probably didn’t stick out at all in his appearance from anyone else there, this young boy sat in the new temple of Solomon as one greater even than the king who originally built it. And in Solomon’s day, they may have had the Ark of Covenant itself to adorn the temple, but in Jesus’ day that Ark is long since lost, vanished from the face of the earth with little chance of being found again. And yet, a greater Ark is seated here in its place, in the form of this boy, this one scarcely older than a babe. There can be no doubt, that out of the mouth of this babe the Lord has indeed ordained strength and wisdom, and a Word of power which forced even the greatest of the rabbis to put their hands to their mouths in order to cover their gaping. All of the established human order of things had to bow to the power of God, had to quiver when He put His mighty hand to work on it. If even both iterations of the great and holy temple of Solomon had their day and were still torn apart brick by brick, then there is no human institution, no building of stone or earthly government, no den of thieves which shall not also fall and crumble in the same way. And again, even the little children recognize this, and they understand, and they confess what their eyes have seen and their ears have heard: “Hosanna to the Son of David,” that is, “You are the Christ, the promised Son of David; You are the Lord, the only one who can help us, save us now!” And likewise, He later returns to the same place as a man, as this now grown Son of David, to fulfill the same thing which was written: “Out of the mouth of babes.” Thus, this Son of David will march in triumph through the streets and be taken up to His new mercy seat of the Cross. Upon this throne, He will become for us a far greater temple than Solomon had ever laid eyes on, an undefeatable Ark from which mercy ever flows, before which we children cannot help but sing.
And so with these babes, let us too humble ourselves to be born again as children as we have been in our Baptism, that we might laud and honor this Son of David, this Son of the Father who has come to save us. This obedient Son is here, in His Father’s house, about His Father’s business; and that business is attending to you. From the mount of His Cross, all the graces of the temple are now poured forth for you, and out of the mouth of this beloved Son pours wisdom, grace, and mercy like an everflowing stream. By Baptism you have been cleansed by water and the Word, made vessels of His sanctifying grace, so that the wisdom which He outpours may fill you to the brim. And so do not be ashamed to repeat His Words, to grasp onto the gift of His wisdom which He has given you in His Church. By this Word, by this Word preached here and joined to water and to bread and wine, you too will grow in wisdom and stature. And even though our buildings made of stone may burn to the ground, even though all of our best made plans will be undone, you will always have the temple of Jesus Christ in Word and flesh, you will always have this babe to cling to. Hear His blessèd Words, ponder them in your hearts at all times, and let us too join the song of the children: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Lord save us now. In His ☩ Name; Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus; Amen.