Pastor Brad Reaves
Grace Community Church Winchester VA
Watch this Message on Youtube: https://youtu.be/XoQ2v6xn_tM
This coming Friday, most of us will be waking up to another Christmas morning. Certainly, as with everything else this year, it will be much different. Our routines and traditions are likely going to be disrupted as a result of COVID and all this year has brought with it. What are your normal expectations for Christmas? How have those expectations changed? My hope is that you are willing to permit your vantage of Christmas and even more importantly, your faith to shift be more prayerful, hopeful, and watchful for God. For those of you who have followed our series over the last few months, I have tried to take you inside the hearts and minds of the people Luke presents in his Gospel.
Luke passes over some very familiar elements of the Christmas story. He mentions nothing about the Maggi and we don’t have any record from Luke of Herod’s slaughter of the innocents. He bypasses Mary and Joseph’s escape to Egypt, nor does he talk about the star. It is not that these events are not important, but for Luke, his focus is on the eyewitnesses. The collaborating testimony of Jesus’ life. Like a skillful attorney, Luke is collecting and establishing the credibility of these people so you may know the truth.
One of these witnesses is a man that I’ve always marveled at over the years. Simeon is mentioned only by Luke among the gospel writers. He enters the scene almost unexpectantly and departs from view just as quickly. Yet his inclusion, as with nearly all of Luke’s accounts, brings incredible value to what is being conveyed in the gospel. For most of us, we read through this as a sideline of the story. An old sage waiting for the prophetic fulfillment of the Christ child. It’s so much more than that and this what we’re studying on this Christmas Sunday of 2020.
I. Coming to the Temple
Luke 2:21–24 ESV
21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
We have to set the scene first before we can fully understand what Simeon is all about. There are 32 days that separate verse 21 from verse 22. Eight days after being born, a Jewish boy is circumcised. Jewish boys were circumcised as an outward distinction as being set apart for God. This was part of God’s covenant with Abraham:
Genesis 17:10–12a ESV
10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring,
The significance of the circumcision was to be far greater than a physical distinction because it was to represent the distinction of the heart:
Jeremiah 4:4 ESV
4 Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.”
Romans 2:29 ESV
29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
So Mary and Joseph, being devout Jews, bring Jesus to the temple in accordance with Jewish law to have him circumcised. Now in verse 22, Luke is continuing on in the narrative for the purification. This second purification happened forty days after the birth of the child. That’s when the mother would bring an offering - 2 turtle doves or 2 pigeons - as a sacrificial offering. A woman was ceremonially unclean for 40 days after childbirth and according to Old Testament Law (Lev 12:4) and this sacrifice as a means to her purification. Additionally, Joseph and Mary are bringing Jesus and an offering of 5 Shekels to dedicate him to the Lord (Luke 2:22-23). The 5 Shekels was a ransom of silver that every firstborn male had to give to the Lord. Every first-born Jewish male, except for those in the tribe of Levi had to pay this ransom.
So Joseph, Mary, and Jesus are coming into the Temple. Incidentally, they would only go as far as the Court of Women. There is nothing about what they are doing that would be unusual. I want you to understand this. There would be a myriad of people doing a variety of things at the Temple. Among those were people like Simeon and it is here in Luke’s narrative we are briefly introduced to Simeon:
II. The Remnant
Luke 2:25–28 ESV
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
As I said before, very little is known about Simeon because there is nothing outside of these few verses the Bible provides us. But let’s zoom out just a little with the bigger picture and identify a couple of things: First, the Jewish people in Israel were quite shallow in their faith. They were Jews by name only. They did proper Jewish things outwardly, but inwardly they were lost and distant from God. Everyone should have been looking for the Messiah as prophetically, it was clear on the time and location of his arrival. The religious leadership of the day was corrupt and hypocritical. The nation was under secular, pagan, Roman rule. So far from God was the Jewish people that they rejected the Messiah when he finally arrived.
There were a few - a remnant of people who were devoutly committed believers. They were anxiously awaiting the Christ for no other reason than because that was God’s promise to them. The condition of the world only intensified their resolve, but more than anything, they wanted to see God’s promises fulfilled because they trusted God in his faithfulness. Simeon was one of those people.
Simeon means, “God has heard.” We gather from Luke’s account that Simeon was an old man. We can safely say this because Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit revealed to him that he would not die until he saw the Christ (Luke 2:27). Upon seeing Jesus. He says, “Ok God, now I can die” (Luke 2:29). I wonder how many times he came close to death and said, “this can’t be the time because God promised me...” But the arrival of Joseph with Mary and Jesus puts his soul at peace and he tells God that he’s ready to be taken to heaven. By the way, there is nothing outwardly extraordinary about Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. They’re common people at the temple doing common things.
Simeon is a remnant of true, believing Jews who are singularly focused on God’s plan. Luke describes Simeon as “righteous and devout” (Luke 2:25). The phrase may not seem to jump out very much, but in the contrast to the days and the condition of Israel I just described to you, it is powerful. If a man is considered in God’s eyes, “righteous” it is because of his faith in God and not of his works or self-righteousness. Simeon was righteous because his trust and his faith were singularly placed in the coming of the Messiah, Jesus. He is a true believer.
Secondly, he is described as devout. In other words, he is concerned about only the things of God. Some versions translate this as “cautious” which I also like. In other words, he lived his life carefully and cautiously to obey God and to honor God because of his faith in God. He was a true Jew. His heart was circumcised. That’s the kind of character we all should emulate.
A manifestation of Simeon’s devotion and righteousness was that he was “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” I love that beyond all things. Simeon was not self-serving. He hears and his passion was for his people. The essence of the consolation of Israel is rooted in the coming of the Messiah
Isaiah 40:1–2 ESV
1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
Isaiah 40:10 ESV
10 Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.
Isaiah 49:8 ESV
8 Thus says the Lord: “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages,
Isaiah 51:3 ESV
3 For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.
So Simeon is holding onto the Word of God and promises of God in His Word and the Holy Spirit was upon him. That’s important. The Holy Spirit is upon him because he is set apart for a special anointing. It’s not for display, or show. It is not set him apart for a specific responsibility and it usually has to do with speaking for God. But don’t let this pass you by either because this is not the first time Luke says this. In Luke 1:15, we’re told the Holy Spirit would be on John the Baptist; in Luke 1:41 we see that the Holy Spirit comes upon Elizabeth; Luke 1:46 we see it with Mary, and then again in Luke 1:67 with Zechariah after he names John the Baptist. I think it is safe to say that it is the Holy Spirit on Simeon that reveals the arrival of Jesus in the Temple.
III. The Blessing
Luke 2:27–32 ESV
27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
What an amazing scene we see and this is the testimony Luke zeros us in on today. I’ve had man a privilege to be a part of Divine appointments, but this must’ve been glorious. This old man sitting against the stone wall, maybe standing and praying. Into the court of the women comes Joseph with Mary and Jesus to do what all good Jewish families do. Simeon stops and approaches the family. There is an elation of Joy all over him as he scoops this little baby not even 6 weeks old into his arms and holds him warmly against his body. I imagine he probably even held him up before him to look upon him and then kisses his face. And then he “blesses God” (Luke 2:28)
“I’ve seen your Messiah, Lord. I held him. With that consolation, you may set me free from this world. The waiting, the watching, and the anticipation are over. For my eyes have seen your salvation. What an incredible place to be in your life. Simply incredible. Will you be able to say that? You should. “God I’ve witnessed in my life your promise. My life is complete and I am content to die.”
The benediction to the blessing is just as amazing:
Luke 2:33–35 ESV
33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
What Simeon said of Mary and of Israel came to pass just as he said. His language is so vivid. If you follow the earthly ministry of Jesus, you know what happens. The whole nation of Israel turns against him. They have him crucified. Only that little faithful remnant would rise and the rest would fall over the rock of offense and the stone of stumbling
Psalm 118:22 ESV
22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
Matthew 21:42 ESV
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “ ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
Joseph and Mary must’ve been in awe. Sword? Rise and Fall of many?
John 1:11–12 ESV
11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
Simeon turns toward Mary. Why Mary? Perhaps prophetically he saw the cross with Mary at its foot. Jesus looking down on them:
John 19:26–27 ESV
26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
Can you imagine the heart of Mary and her life? To go through all that she did with her betrothal, pregnancy, the trip to Bethlehem, and eventually to Calvary and see the Messiah that she bore for God now naked and being crucified by the people he came to save?
Is there are Simeon in you? Today as we go, what is your expectancy with the return of Christ? Are you like the rest of Israel that day - indifferent to God’s plans? Or are you the remnant that is earnestly awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promises?
Take it to the Cross