We Have a Code Adam!

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“And when His parents saw Him, they were astonished. And His mother said to Him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for You in great distress.” And He said to them, “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that He spoke to them. And He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them” (Luke 2:48-50).
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
“We have a ‘Code Adam!” More than any other announcement I heard over the speakers during my three plus years of working overnights at Walmart, this was the one I dreaded most. “Code Adam” means that a child is missing. And though it usually only took a few minutes until the child was found, that time between the announcement and the order to cancel was extremely nerve wracking.
In a “Code Adam” finding the child becomes the top priority of every employee on the floor, especially for those who carry walkie-talkies. A description was given of the missing child. Some of the associates closed and monitored all the exterior access to the building. The rest of us would go up and down each of the aisles looking for the missing child until he or she was located—most of the time, in a relatively safe place like the restroom or toy section. This was not such an unlikely place, just not where the child’s parents expected him or her to be.
Because of the seriousness of the situation, you could never take that happy ending for granted. If the child was not found in ten minutes, law enforcement needed to be called. Fortunately, the longest it ever took to locate a child on a night when I was working was about five minutes—some of the longest minutes of my life, but certainly not nearly as long as it seemed to the little boy’s frantic parents.
Imagine what it was like for Mary and Joseph!
But before we get to their “Code Adam,” I’d like to go back to the first.
The Father’s urgent call went out in the Garden: “Where are you?” It was a rhetorical question, of course. The Father already knew; He just wanted His children to realize the seriousness of their situation. They were in trouble, but the source of that trouble was not who they thought. They were hiding from the only one who cared, the only one who could help. Failure to properly fear, love, and trust God had led them to improper fear. But that’s often the case, isn’t it?
To be sure, this was not a case of parental neglect or carelessness, but outright rebellion. He was, He is, the perfect Father—the only perfect parent in history. Still, His children were missing. They were in what would normally be considered a safe spot, but they were not where their Father expected them to be. In their shame, they actually tried to hide from Him. Adam claimed the shame was due to their lack of proper attire, but the Father didn’t buy it. He had created them that way! No, their shame was caused by something far worse than nakedness. It was sin, and it was the shame and guilt of sin that caused them to try to hide.
Adam and Eve had failed to fear, love, and trust God above all things. They had sought to be like God. They had disobeyed God’s Word, failed to hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. They had lied and coveted. Adam had failed to love and honor his wife or protect her, but had tried to shift the blame for his sin to her. The consequences for them and all their descendants were disastrous and deadly. As with all good discipline, they were also directly related to the offenses.
God first addressed Eve, who had believed Satan’s lies and fell for his temptation. Now, in the areas of her life, where Eve would have found the most joy, Eve and her daughters would experience heartache and pain. The pain of childbirth would be a reminder that sin brings sorrow and suffering. Marital strife and jockeying for position would mark marriage rather than mutual submission and humble service under God-pleasing headship. 
To remind Adam of his failure to provide godly headship for his wife and to help him in his daily battle with his sinful nature, the Creator cursed the ground. No more, would food simply be had for the picking. Adam, as well as generations to come, would experience misery and difficulty wringing a livelihood out of the soil. After the fall, all of creation would suffer under man’s stewardship.
The final penalty God announced for Adam’s sin was that his body, into which the Creator had breathed the breath of life, would one day return to the material from which it had originally been made. What a shattering message for Adam to hear! “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” God had warned Adam of the consequences of eating the forbidden fruit. Now, he and his descendants would know firsthand. St. Paul writes: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). 
Which is why the Second Adam came: “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:17-19).
And that brings us to the “Code Adam” of our Gospel—the time when twelve-year-old Jesus, the Second Adam, goes missing for three days.
Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph regularly went up to Jerusalem every year for the Passover. This feast celebrated the redemption of the people of Israel from Egypt and was observed in the spring of the year. It was the most important of the Jewish festivals and the Law made attendance mandatory for all adult males.
At the conclusion of the Passover feast, Mary and Joseph started back to Nazareth, supposing that Jesus was among the group of pilgrims who were traveling together. But at nightfall, the boy was nowhere to be found. A frantic search began for the missing son, a “Code Adam” that lasted for three days.
Finally, Jesus was discovered in the temple courts. He was making quite an impression on the crowd that had gathered. Here was no ordinary boy; His questions and answers showed superior knowledge and understanding. Mary and Joseph were also astonished—and a bit perturbed—when they found Him. This is evident from Mary’s words: “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.”
The words that Jesus speaks to His mother here are the first recorded in any of the Gospels. At this point we might expect a sheepish apology from any other boy; or, at the very least a string of excuses. But no apologies, no excuses, are forthcoming. Jesus, who had so effectively engaged the best religious minds with His profound questions, now respectfully questions His mother to lead her to a deeper understand of His purpose and mission: “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?”
Jesus isn’t chiding Mary for looking for Him. I’m sure He knew, even when He stayed back three days earlier, that Mary and Joseph would be coming for Him. Nor is Jesus a petulant adolescent saying, “I can take care of Myself,” although that would never be more true for anyone than it is for Him. Jesus is asking why it took them three days to find Him, when they should have known from the very start where He would be—at His Father’s house.
There was, in these questions, a gentle lesson for Mary. She was tempted, to think of Jesus as an ordinary child, one over whom she had complete control. In many ways, Jesus was so ordinary it was easy for her to forget who He is. As she would be reminded again at the wedding in Cana, Mary had to learn that Jesus was directed by a greater will, the will of the heavenly Father, in a way no other child was directed.
Luke closes out this story by telling us that Jesus returned with Mary and Joseph and grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.
There are at least two things we can learn from our Gospel that are important to our salvation and our faith in Jesus. The first is that He was obedient to His parents under the 4th Commandment. Though He was Mary and Joseph’s Lord, He obeyed them as their son—and He did it perfectly.
Jesus came under the Law for us. To actively fulfill it. Where Adam failed, where you and I failed, where every man, woman, twelve-year-old boy, and baby has failed, Jesus kept it perfectly in our place. That’s what is going on with His circumcision, His presentation, His appearance at the temple. He is there in obedience to the Law for us, in our place, for our salvation. He is being prepared, yes; but not simply to be numbered with the men of Israel and participate in the Passover. He is being prepared for His own Passover, His sacrifice on the cross.      
Mary and Joseph could not have known that day what the future would hold. The angel had only told them that He would save His people from their sins. But He didn’t say how. In twenty years, Jesus would come back to Jerusalem for His appointed hour. Again Mary would be there, this time without her husband. At the cross, she would know what it meant that He had to be in His Father’s house to do His Father’s will. But for now she treasured all these things in her heart. Understanding what it all means is not a prerequisite for faith.
Jesus was obedient to Mary and Joseph. That’s the first thing to remember on this second Sunday of Christmas. This Child of Bethlehem was born to be like us in every way, yet without sin. Every facet of Jesus’ life reflects your life, except without sin. And it is done so ordinarily, that no one even notices that there is something different about Jesus—not even Mary. So never say it is human to sin. It’s not. Jesus did not sin, and yet He was so perfectly human, no one even noticed.
A second thought for today is this: God works hidden and humbly. We see this throughout the Christmas story and Jesus’ childhood. Jesus’ divinity is buried deeply, completely hidden from human eyes. He appears to be just another twelve-year-old in the temple. A rather precocious, theologically engaged twelve-year-old, to be certain. But no one was saying, “Hey, this kid is God!” You and I probably would have lost him in the crowd, too. The incarnation of God is like that. It doesn’t fit our way of thinking or our pious religious notions about God. A twelve-year-old God just does not compute.
One thing you can’t say about Jesus is that He doesn’t know what it’s like to be one of us. He really is Immanuel—God with us, and “with us” so hidden, so humbly that we wouldn’t have even noticed Him. But that’s precisely how God always works among us. Not out in the open, but hidden. Not in the powerful and mighty, but in the lowly and humble. A manger, a cross. A womb, a tomb. A boy. A man. He embraces your life in all its humanity. Why, He even knows what it’s like to be chewed out by your parents when you haven’t done anything wrong!
That hiddenness is not understood today, nor can it be. Who Jesus is and what He has done must be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit and seen through the gift of faith. There is no other way. Mary treasured these things up in her heart. And that treasured up Word had its way with her, creating and enlivening a living faith in her Son, God’s Son, and that would sustain her as she saw Him obey His Father’s will all the way to the cross and the tomb.
Jesus comes to you today in the same hidden and humble way. Where? In His Father’s house. In water and Word, bread and wine—means of grace, so common and ordinary, so easily ignored and rejected as a twelve-year-old kid in the temple. But the Word says there’s something more there than meets our eyes, our senses, or our reason. This is the power of God to save, God in the flesh come to save us, the Second Adam, Jesus Christ. In Him and through Him and by Him, you are forgiven for all of your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


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