HG013-014. Luke 2:21–38
21 And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. 22 Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who 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.” 25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just 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 So he came by 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 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, 32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.” 33 And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against 35 (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” 36 Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; 37 and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
Jesus came to fulfil the law not to abolish it. And Mary and Joseph also wanted to honour the Lord by fulfilling the commands given to Moses. Right from the outset Jesus lived the life of a Jew, first through His parents and then through His own decision-making. It follows that parents, grandparents, godparents, Sunday School and others who have influence of children should do so as an example of Spirit-filled living showing that they should live the Christian life so that when they make their own decisions they realise it is the only life worth living. This surely is how we should be before all people.
So, Jesus was circumcised on the 8th day. We often think that this is just to do with the law but it started in the time of Abraham, a man of faith, a friend of God. This was a naming ceremony too, much the same way as Christening is still done today. And He was to be called Jesus, the name given by Gabriel, another way that they were showing their obedience. Jesus means saviour. This was not an uncommon name but it was given to One who was as uncommon as they come, the One who was to be the real Saviour.
Then according to Leviticus 12 it was another 33 days before Mary could come to the Temple to complete her purification. We sometimes think that Leviticus is quite a cumbersome book though in October you’ll all be reading it with me but we have to remember that this was in a time when there was no NHS or decent healthcare and a number of the laws have been found to be beneficial to the health of the Jews. This should not surprise us for God knew that even basic things like washing hands did not happen in other societies and people groups but the Jews were ahead of the times and only in relatively recent times, the last hundred years, was this actually realised to be very important especially for nurses. As well as being hygienic this was a ritual that had significance for it places God at the centre of everything in life. There is no separation of sacred from the mundane - the whole of life is to be sanctified to God.
Mary and Joseph then come to the Temple to offer a sacrifice and to offer Jesus in dedication to and ownership to God also according to God’s word in
that you shall set apart to the Lord all that open the womb, that is, every firstborn that comes from an animal which you have; the males shall be the Lord’s.
We know that they were poor by the fact that they offered birds that would have been relatively cheap compared to a lamb that was the normal offering. But we learn something by what Luke leaves out of this story - Jesus is not redeemed from Divine service as required by law as other first-born males. Why? Because He is Divine and has been set apart for Divine service since birth. In the same way that Hannah dedicated her first-born Samuel to the Lord so is our Lord.
Simeon. I really like this old man. There he was waiting in Jerusalem because He knew that He knew that He knew that something great was going to happen. He was one of the Jews who believed that God had not abandoned Israel despite His silence for 400 years. He knew God would re-enter the history of his people just as there was about 400 years when Israel was in Egypt when God re-entered the fray by sending Moses. Simeon was a man who had been told by God that he would not die before he had seen the salvation that He was sending. In a similar way to Moses being sent to save the people of Israel there would arise another deliverer. Simeon’s own character was on display - a man who was right before God and dedicated and devoted to Him. Such people cannot hide their faith. There is no privation of religion here. If you are out and out for God it will be obvious to all.
Unlike the politicians who claim to be Christians who have an inward faith but has no outward effect upon their political policies. Those of you who were at my induction heard Dave speak of Tim Fallon as a man of faith who had spoken about his opposition to homosexuality. Unfortunately this came to an end this week when, after being pressed again on this issue said it is not a sin. Theresa May was asked the same question last Sunday and unhesitatingly said the same thing. When Theresa was then pressed by Andrew Marr about the opposition that Christians feel she side-stepped the issue. I have said for years now that persecution is coming here in the UK and one of those things we will be persecuted about is our stand against homosexuality. We will be name-called: homophobic and so on but it may get more serious. Some in the UK have already lost their businesses over it and one Conservative candidate on the IOW, also last week, has been forced to stand down because of political pressure over his stand in saying that homosexuality is not normal. Political correctness is used to oppress those who hold opposing views. But tolerance accepts that others will have different views to us. However the new tolerance is not tolerant of views differing to theirs. We have to remember the day in which Paul wrote his words, that there was already such licentiousness and liberal living; that homosexuality and orgies went on in his day too and he still said that these things were wrong - but those who were more wrong were those who approved of those who did them (Rom 1:32) - and that is the place we find Theresa May and Tim Fallon today. Approving by not reproving. And both of whom claim to be Christians.
This is apostasy, something that has been foretold will happen in the Church, and plainly so when only 1/3rd of Christians in Baptist Churches in the UK think homosexuality is wrong and 1/3rd do not know. Don’t get me wrong - I defend the right of someone holding views which are diametrically opposed to mine but I will never say that those views are right and neither should we, we need to be robust in our defense. If someone who claims to be homosexual wants to come here to Church I and we will welcome that person genuinely and if they come to faith in Christ their life will change as did ours - for Paul says that such were some of you.
Being a Christian in parliament is now nearly impossible and we, we need to pray, only God can turn back the tide. Some think that there will be a backlash against this tolerance being foisted upon us - they say, maybe not now but at some time in the future - but I am not so sure - we are getting to the times like they were in Sodom and Gomorrah - so judgement is coming - however, God is at work right here, even in Swansea.
I heard that there has been street evangelism in Swansea city centre this last week where 374 people were led to pray a prayer asking Jesus into their lives. Whilst we might say quality rather than quantity we are yet to see what will become of them - but that is more people than we have ever led to Christ. Let’s pray that if this is of God that it will continue and that He will use us here in Manselton too.
Like Simeon our faith is not for home alone but to be lived out in the world, obviously living wisely, obviously being led by the Holy Spirit. And we will experience the kind of things that Simeon did, being led by the Spirit into the Temple he came face-to-face with the One whom He had been expecting, the Messiah and he took up the Son of God in his arms. How overwhelmed with joy he must have been. This was the moment he had been waiting for all his life and now it had come.
I can die happy now knowing you have sent someone to save Israel and the nations - Simeon was well ahead of everyone here - he knew that he was not just the Saviour of the Jews but of the world. He knew his Scriptures did Simeon:
Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”
That the mission of Israel and of Jesus are the same.
Indeed, now the mission to the world is ours to fulfil following in the footsteps of all those before like Paul and Barnabas:
“Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!”
All these things would have added to the joyous occasion that it is to come to the Temple to dedicate your child to the Lord but it was suddenly turned sour when Simeon continued to prophesy speaking to Mary that the life of this little baby will have a direct effect upon the life of people in Israel for not all will receive the Messiah. Then was the hardest part of the prophesy: the cross. He knew that Jesus had come to die. Perhaps he had read Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 and understood the suffering servant. And Mary’s heart would be ripped out as a consequence.
Then there was Anna of the tribe of Asher, who was a son of Leah, and whose name means ‘happy’. But Anna had not had a happy life. 7 years after marrying her husband he died and now she was 84 years old. But what a woman! She served in the Temple all her life, never leaving, praying and fasting all the time. She is called a prophetess so she is one who heard God and spoke to others what He had said. Now she also met Jesus, thanking God and prophesying about Him that He was going to bring redemption in Jerusalem.
What an auspicious start in the life of Jesus! We’d think that from now on we will have daily occurrences of these things in the life of Jesus but apart from a couple of other instances and at the age of 12, curiously, we do not meet Him again until he is an adult. I don’t know about you but sometimes years can go and many will seem the same or worse but we never know quite what is round the corner. Revival? Maybe! Simeon and Anna had waited a very long time but had quiet confidence that God was still working His purposes out even though it really did not look like it. After all, they were under Roman Occupation, were oppressed, and apart from brief interludes of freedom during the Maccabean revolts they were now in a worse place than they ever had been. But God is at work. God is working His purposes out.
Mary kept these things in her heart for she had the challenge of raising Jesus but she was obedient to the path set for her by God. No easy and ordinary life was hers and nor should be any Christians’.
And we have heard that something might just be going on in Swansea. We surely can pray and fast like Anna and we can see Manselton and Swansea saved for Christ. This is part of Acts 2:42 devotion to prayer. Will we commit to pray for our family, friends, neighbours, our streets, and Manselton?