(Please read Luke 2:22-40 in your preferred version of the Bible. My quotes are from the NIV.)
MESSAGE: In Jesus, God fulfilled the hopes of two godly people and they rejoiced to see it.
The front cover of New York’s Daily News for Thursday takes a strong stance against how some politicians are reacting to the San Bernardino shooting with calls for prayer instead of tighter gun control laws.
The headline says, “God Isn’t Fixing This.”
“As latest batch of innocent Americans are left lying in pools of blood, cowards who could truly end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes,” the cover reads.
House Speaker Paul Ryan and GOP presidential hopefuls Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham all responded with “prayers” for the victims of San Bernardino.
The tweet of the Daily News provocative front page is currently the most retweeted of 2015 for the news organization, according to Twitter.
Meanwhile, Democratic presidential hopefuls, including Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, took a different tone and called for “action” to stop gun violence.
President Obama underscored the need for stronger gun control laws in the United States after Wednesday’s mass shooting, which left at least 14 dead and 14 wounded. “There’s some steps we could take, not to eliminate every one of the mass shootings, but to improve the odds that they don’t happen as frequently,” Obama told CBS News.
- The context: Joseph & Mary’s faithfulness (22-24).
Dr. Luke wrote for a non-Jewish audience, so he provides enough detail so that those unfamiliar with the Law of Moses will know why Jesus’ parents brought Him to the temple (22+24). WHEN THE TIME CAME and REQUIRED BY THE LAW OF MOSES are phrases that indicate Joseph and Mary were faithful to observe the Law in all its particulars. Luke uses the word LAW five times in this chapter, more often than it is used in the rest of his Gospel. He very much wants the reader to understand that Joseph & Mary were godly people.
The PURIFICATION RITES were for Mary; her “purification” after birth. This was a period of 40 days after birth if the first born was a son, 80 days if the child was a female (Leviticus 12:3-4). (This is THE TIME referred to in v. 22.) During this time the mother was not allowed to leave the house and was considered “unclean.”
Leviticus 12:8 allowed for the sacrifice of birds instead of a lamb in the case of those who were poor. So Jesus’ family was part of the peasant class; they were poor but pious. One bird was a burnt offering, the other a sin offering. There is a fair amount of chatter among Bible commentators about how a sin offering was not needed in this case, as the Virgin Birth did not involve sin. I believe this is simply Joseph and Mary being careful to observe the full requirements of the Law. Besides, would YOU like to try to explain to the priest why you are the lone female in all of history who did not require a sin offering?
The consecration rite was for baby Jesus, as the Law dictated, EVERY FIRSTBORN MALE IS TO BE CONSECRATED. The firstborn son had to be “redeemed.” This was because the firstborn male of any species was considered to belong to the LORD (see Exodus 13:2; 34:19; Numbers 18:15-16). That’s what CONSECRATED means. In order for the parents to keep the child, they had to buy or redeem him from service to God by paying 5 shekels to the priests.
- Simeon was overjoyed to see the Messiah (25-35).
Simeon’s qualifications as a man of God are impeccable. Luke wrote that he was:
– RIGHTEOUS or “just;” Simeon was faithful in his dealings with both God and man.
– DEVOUT or “feared God.” Luke uses this word three times in the book of Acts to describe Jews who carefully kept the Law of Moses.
– WAITING F/T CONSOLATION OF ISRAEL. This CONSOLATION was in the form of comfort, but also counsel from God, sending a leader who would lead His people to true freedom. This phrase was typically used of people who were expectantly awaiting the coming of the Messiah. This same phrase was used later in Luke to refer to Joseph of Arimathea, the man who provided the tomb in which Jesus was buried (see Luke 23:51).
This hope was so widespread it manifest itself in their culture in a couple of ways. Jews who wanted to swear an oath to verify their statements would say, “May I never live to see the consolation of Israel if I am lying.” This hope was also expressed frequently in prayer; “May I live long enough to see the consolation of Israel.” This was clearly Simeon’s greatest hope and desire in life, the most important thing to him.
– THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS UPON HIM: at this time they were still under the Old Testament system: the Holy Spirit was only given to specific persons to do a specific job, and then withdrawn. THE HOLY SPIRIT…REVEALED 2 things to simeon.
First, that he WOULD NOT DIE BEFORE HE HAD SEEN THE LORD’S CHRIST. From this people guess that Simeon was an old man, but the point is the God had encouraged him w/ a promise that his own eyes would behold God’s salvation. The non-biblical “Gospel of the Nativity of Mary” sets Simeon’s age at 113.
Second, the true nature of the baby Jesus. I’m sure there was nothing about baby Jesus or His family that stood out to the unaided eye. The Spirit gave Simeon true insight.
– MOVED BY THE SPIRIT (v. 27) means that God put Simeon at the right place at the right time to reveal the truth to him. In contrast to Anna, Simeon did not stay in the temple courts all the time; he was MOVED physically and spiritually to be there right at the appropriate time.
Simeon’s relationship with God was manifest in a gift of prophecy. Luke records what he prophesied about Jesus in vs. 29-32, 34-35.
– He would be the means of SALVATION God prepared for His people (v. 30). We are saved because of what God has done for us, never by what we do for Him. The universal offer of salvation is also affirmed in the phrase IN THE SIGHT OF ALL PEOPLE (v. 31). I think this also implies that God had been working toward this end from day one and anyone who had, like Simeon, the Spirit-led eyes of faith, could understand that fact.
– He would be A LIGHT FOR REVELATION TO THE GENTILES (v. 32) so that non-Jews could be saved. Verse 32 uses the word LIGHT in both of its typical biblical senses: revealing and understanding the truth and as the visible manifestation of the presence of God. This was foretold by the prophecies in the Old Testament, Isaiah 9:6-7, 49; Psalms 98:3; Malachi 4:2.
He would bring GLORY to Israel because He was one of their own; a Jew (v. 32). We need to remember that non-Jewish (Gentile) folks like us were ADDED to the Kingdom of God. He has not abandoned His promises to Israel in order to save the rest of us. Instead, as Paul explained in RMS 11, Gentiles were like a wild branch grafted onto an existing olive tree. This means that the most glorious thing Israel is capable of doing is taking the Good News of God’s salvation to the Gentiles.
– He was DESTINED TO CAUSE THE RISING AND FALLING OF MANY IN ISRAEL (v. 34). This is in fulfillment of Isaiah 8:14-15; “[The LORD Almighty] WILL BE A SANCTUARY; BUT FOR BOTH HOUSES OF ISRAEL HE WILL BE A STONE THAT CAUSES MEN TO STUMBLE AND A ROCK THAT MAKES THEM FALL. AND FOR THE PEOPLE OF JERUSALEM HE WILL BE A TRAP AND A SNARE. MANY OF THEM WILL STUMBLE; THEY WILL FALL AND BE BROKEN, THEY WILL BE SNARED AND CAPTURED.”
In any of us, being a stumbling block is a bad thing. But where Jesus is concerned, He is the cornerstone that sets the rest of the building as true. He is the standard that will condemn some as sinners and commend others as saints. Even though the word CAUSE is used here, it is clearly a matter of individual choice, the individual’s destiny chosen by themselves in relation to Christ. Jesus is like the line drawn in the sand and the content of our inner self is revealed by the side on which we choose to stand.
– A SIGN THAT WILL BE SPOKEN AGAINST (v. 34). A SIGN is a symbol; something we can see that points to and explains something unseen. Jesus would be SPOKEN AGAINST because He revealed things about God and from God that people did not want to hear. This prophecy was literally fulfilled when people mocked Jesus at his trial and crucifixion. But earlier, during His ministry, Jesus’ opponents insulted Him in many different ways.
– THE THOUGHTS OF MANY HEARTS WILL BE REVEALED (v. 35). In the first case, the inner state of every person is revealed by their reaction to Jesus. By faith in Him and their righteous living, the true followers of Jesus reveal themselves. On the other hand, a lack of faith and the absence of good behavior are self-condemning revelations. In the second case, all hearts were revealed to Jesus’ mind. He supernaturally knew what others around Him were thinking (see Mark 2:8). In the Bible, the word “thought” often had an evil shade to it; the word was used most often with the adjective “evil.”
What he prophesied about Mary in v. 35 is dramatic: A SWORD WILL PIERCE YOUR OWN HEART TOO. This is a special word for SWORD; it refers to a large, two-handed weapon. In this sense, Simeon may be using it as a symbol of a particularly strong grief. It is the word used for Goliath’s sword in 1 Samuel 17. Simeon predicted that Mary would share in the pain of Jesus being rejected by His own people. Mary already had a strong faith, but God is speaking through Simeon to prepare her for even more heartache.
I had never thought about how unsettling this prophecy may’ve been for Mary over the next 33 years until I read this quote; “The childhood in the Nazareth home, and the early manhood in the Nazareth carpentry, were no doubt her happiest days, though, in those quiet years, expectation, fears, dread, curiously interwoven, must have ever torn that mother’s heart. The days of the public ministry for Mary must have been sad, and her heart full of anxious forebodings, as she watched the growing jealousies, the hatred, and the unbelief on the part of the leading men of her people. Then came the cross. We know she stood by it all the while.” <From the Pulpit Commentary, retrieved from http://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/2-35.htm on 12/4/15.>
We know Simeon found joy in Jesus. There are several clues in the text.
– HE TOOK THE CHILD IN HIS ARMS (v. 28). If he was a priest, this would have been expected behavior. BUT, there’s nothing here to indicate priesthood, so Joseph and Mary were probably surprised at Simeon’s sudden action.
– He PRAISED GOD (v. 28). Every experience in life should turn us to God. Good times and bad should likewise result in praise. Even so, THIS is the most praiseworthy moment in Simeon’s life.
– He blessed Joseph, Mary, and Jesus (v. 34).
– His joy was so complete that Simeon was content to die. Now that God’s promise to him (v. 26) had been kept, his greatest desire fulfilled, he could see no further use of life in this world. Imagine the level of satisfaction that is indicated in these words! He is ready to be dismissed from this life. DISMISS is a word that carries a lot more emotion in the Greek language: it means to “deliver from bondage or misery.” It makes me wonder if Simeon was not old, but had a terminal or chronic illness. We have all known someone in that kind of situation who is admittedly waiting to die. He adds the words IN PEACE, implying that his life previously had not been peaceable. This hymn of Simeon is called the Nunc Dimittis (Latin for “now you dismiss”) and has been used by Christians throughout history as a prayer to end the day.
– FOR MY EYES HAVE SEEN: Ironically, it was the spiritual vision supplied by the Holy Spirit that enabled Simeon to recognize the baby Jesus as Messiah when he beheld the baby with his physical eyes.
Of all the people we’re going to talk about this Advent, Simeon is arguably the best example to follow. He was one focused individual! You get the sense from Luke that Simeon’s life revolved around waiting to celebrate the appearance of t Messiah! That should be our focus during Advent; not all the usual fluff-n-stuff we add during the season.
- Anna was overjoyed to see the Messiah (36-38).
Anna’s qualifications as a woman of God are impeccable.
– Anna was recognized as a PROPHETESS at a time when no men were recognized as prophets. From the perspective of the New Testament, the office of prophet ceased with Malachi and there had been 400 years of silence, no prophecies given. Some consider John the Baptist to be the last of the prophets in the Old Testament sense.
– Her family relationships were summed up as DAUGHTER OF PENUEL, TRIBE OF ASHER. It is strange that Anna is mentioned in connection with her father not her husband. Perhaps this is because her father was a more noteworthy man. The tribe of ASHER was NOT part of the southern kingdom. This woman’s ancestry was Israelite, but not of the tribe of Judah. In the strict sense, she wasn’t Jewish. Women of this tribe were known for their beauty and were frequently wed to important people.
– A WIDOW: the text mentions the length of her brief marriage to establish that Anna was a godly woman and to show how long she had been a widow. The reader would understand that Anna is on equal footing with Simeon in terms of religious authority. In this society, widows typically held a very low spot on the social ladder. Apparently Anna was the exception to this rule. Though an old woman, she had never remarried after her husband died. Her deep piety would have endeared her to the faithful who frequented the temple and always found Anna there.
– SHE NEVER LEFT THE TEMPLE, BUT… Technically, only the priests resided in the temple district. If this verse is literally true, then Anna was exceptional in this detail as well. Her name means “grace” or “gracious,” so her personality may have also endeared her to the priests and they made an exception to allow her to live in the temple district.
Anna did not just occupy a space in the temple courts: she WORSHIPED NIGHT AND DAY. There were set hours for prayer in the temple and she was on hand for all of them. She was FASTING AND PRAYING; godly Jews fasted at least two days a week.
Anna’s relationship with God was manifest in a gift of witnessing. Here’s something interesting; the phrase AT THAT VERY MOMENT means that she must have heard what Simeon prophesied about Jesus & added her affirmation. We often overlook this detail of the narrative, but it’s important to connect these two events.
The witness she gave was not only immediate, but ongoing; SHE…SPOKE ABOUT THE CHILD TO ALL WHO WERE LOOKING FORWARD TO THE REDEMPTION OF JERUSALEM. Like the shepherds, Anna went from the presence of the infant Jesus and told everyone about Him. Like Simeon, she had been looking forward to the coming of the Messiah (the phrases CONSOLATION OF ISRAEL and THE REDEMPTION OF JERUSALEM both mean this).
We know Anna found joy in Jesus because SHE GAVE THANKS TO GOD and SPOKE ABOUT THE CHILD.
- Joseph & Mary were joyful at what they heard.
THE CHILD’S FATHER AND MOTHER MARVELED AT WHAT WAS SAID ABOUT HIM (v. 33). I think the word MARVELED is perfectly appropriate here, because when we “marvel” at something, we don’t fully understand it, but still regard it as something great. We welcome it even though we don’t have enough information to accurately gauge its importance.
Vs. 39-40 make it clear that they raised Jesus in their faith. (Luke made a similar summary statement about the childhood of John the Baptist in 1:80.) The point of these verses is two-fold:
– One, that Joseph & Mary continued to observe the law of Moses in all its details and that they raised Jesus to do the same.
– That Jesus was a human being; He grew as all human beings grow. He was born a baby and grew up through all the stages of life that are common to our experience.
“The Year I Cancelled Christmas”
Author: Jon Weece Date Published: 12/4/2015
Some years ago, Christmas fell on a Sunday: I challenged our church family to spend Christmas visiting people they wouldn’t normally visit to give gifts to people they normally wouldn’t give gifts to.
I cancelled Christmas.
Or at least that’s what I was accused of.
Instead of coming to church that Sunday I challenged them to be the church. Jesus came to us in person. So what better way to capture the incarnation than to go to people in person.
I didn’t feel like I was canceling Christmas. I felt like I was promoting Christmas.
Across town a 6-year-old girl named Rebecca baked brownies and stood at the entrance to the library at the University of Kentucky on Christmas morning and gave a free brownie to any college student who walked by during finals week.
“Why are you giving away free brownies to total strangers?” a Muslim student stopped and asked.
Rebecca is sassy. So she put her hand on her hip, and with a “no duh” kind of tone said, “Because Jesus wants me to. That’s why!”
Little did she know that this Muslim student had been wrestling with what he believed and had been questioning the tenants of his faith for over 2 years. Dumbfounded by her emphatic response he said, “Can I come to church with you?”
“Sure you can!” she blurted out without consulting her parents.
So here’s my favorite part–instead of bringing this PhD student into the big room with all the big people on Sunday, she took him into her children’s ministry environment where he sat on the floor and heard a lesson about Jesus’ love for Zacchaeus.
After months of sitting and listening he took a stand for Jesus and was baptized. His family told him they would kill him if they ever saw him.
As scary as that threat sounds, he’s safe.
He’s safe because he’s saved.
And all of it happened because a little girl partnered with Betty Crocker and the Holy Spirit.
“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5:6)
When we express the love of Jesus in simple ways, people express their need for him in beautiful ways.
<The entire article may be found at http://www.sermoncentral.com/pastors-preaching-articles/jon-weece-the-year-i-cancelled-christmas-2332.asp.>