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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:Divine testimony about the Messiah is revealed through Simeon
Text:Luke 2:25-35 (View)
Occasion:Christmas Day
Topic:The Incarnation
 
Preached:2013
Added:2013-12-26
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

NOTE:  all songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Hymn 16:1,2

Hymn 16:3 (after the law)

Hymn 15

Hymn 22

Psalm 67

Scripture reading: Luke 2:1-24

Text:  Luke 2:25-35

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus,

It was a weekday rush hour morning in Washington, DC.  Thousands of commuters made their way through the L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station in downtown DC.  In one of the high-traffic areas of the station, a busker was plying his trade.  He was a violinist playing some classical music.  A few people stopped to listen, but most didn’t notice.  After playing for 45 minutes, the violinist had collected a grand total of $32.17.

Nobody recognized the violinist.  He was the world-famous virtuoso Joshua Bell.  A few days prior to this, he had played a packed concert hall in Boston.  Hundreds of people had paid over $100 a head to listen to him.  On that rush hour morning, he was playing a Stradivarius made in 1713, an instrument worth some $3.5 million.  This great musician playing great music on a great instrument only attracted the attention of a few in the Metro station.  Even those few had no idea that they were in the presence of true musical greatness. 

Something similar happened some 2000 years ago when our Saviour took on human flesh and came into this world.  There were a few that noticed him.  In Luke 2, we read about the shepherds.  In Matthew, we read about the wise men from the east and King Herod.  But considering that the baby born in Bethlehem was the King of kings, the attention he received was minimal.  Hardly anyone noticed his arrival and hardly anyone had been expecting it. 

One of those who had been expecting it was Simeon.  Here we have a godly man who knew the promises of the Old Testament for a Messiah.  Here we have someone who was eagerly looking forward to the fulfillment of those promises.  Finally the day arrives!  When it does, Simeon is not only someone who receives, but also someone who gives.  He receives the fulfillment of his longing, but then he is also an instrument through which God gives even more revelation about the Messiah.  On this Christmas morning, I preach to you God’s Word as we see how divine testimony about the Messiah is revealed through Simeon

We’ll see that this testimony involved:

  1. A lifetime of preparation
  2. A song of great joy
  3. A prophecy of division

So who was this Simeon?  The Bible only speaks about him in this one place.  He lived in Jerusalem and we’re told that he was a righteous and devout man.  He was sincere in his faith.  He wanted to live according to God’s Word.  He was also a man who had a great hope.  Simeon knew the Messianic promises. 

He knew that already in Genesis 3, God had promised that the seed of the woman would come and crush the head of the serpent.  Simeon knew that this promise became attached to the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  It was concentrated further into the line of Judah and then to David’s royal house.  The Messiah would be a descendant of King David.  Simeon would have known too about all that the prophets had said.  Luke specifically draws our attention to Isaiah.  Verse 25 says that Simeon was expecting “the consolation of Israel.”  That expression was commonly used amongst the Jews to refer to the Messiah and the language comes from Isaiah 40.  The Messiah would come with comfort or consolation for God’s people, bringing them peace, pardon, and reconciliation.  There would be peace with God – her warfare against him would be over.  There would be pardon from God – he would pardon her iniquity.  There would be reconciliation with God – he would give blessings to his people, instead of punishment. 

Simeon had this expectation in his heart and it can be credited to the work of the Holy Spirit.  The end of verse 25 says that the Holy Spirit was upon him.  This is long before Pentecost and here we have a clear instance of a believer who is filled with the Holy Spirit.  From what follows we know that this was a special measure of the Holy Spirit that equipped him for prophecy.  But it is also clear that Simeon was a man of faith, and we know from Ephesians 2:8 that faith is always a gift of the Holy Spirit.  It was that way in the Old Testament as well as in the New.  Simeon’s Messianic expectation had its origins in the work of God in his heart through the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit had been working in him to create this longing to see the Christ.

In verse 26, we read that through the Holy Spirit, God had told him that he would not see death until he had the opportunity to have his longing fulfilled.  We’re not told how God revealed this through the Holy Spirit.  If we look at the patterns from the Old Testament, it could have been in a vision or a dream in the night.  The Bible doesn’t say – that’s not what’s important here.  What’s important is the message that he received.  Before he died, he would see the consolation of Israel, he would see the Lord’s Christ, the anointed of God, the Messiah.  Simeon is usually thought of as being an old man at this time and our text certainly suggests that he was old, though it doesn’t say it directly.  It suggests that he is nearing the end of his life, also when he speaks in verse 29 about God letting him depart in peace.  That language suggests the end of one’s life.  As his days close out, Simeon is finally going to get to see what everything in the Bible and in redemptive history had been leading up to.  God had been working his whole lifelong to prepare him for this moment.

That preparation continued on that special day.  Somehow, and again we’re not told how, the Holy Spirit prompted him to go to the temple.  He went there and waited.  He would have been waiting in either the court of women or the court of the Gentiles.  The temple was set up in concentric zones.  The Court of the Gentiles was on the outermost zone.  Everyone could go there, including Gentiles.  The Court of Women was open to Jewish men and women.  Beyond that, only Jewish men could go, and they could not go past the Court of Israelites unless they were priests.  Along with their baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph could go no further than the Court of Women.  Either there or in the Court of the Gentiles, Simeon would have been eagerly waiting for them.  The Holy Spirit told him to go there; he prepared Simeon for the best day of his life.        

Mary and Joseph had come to the temple for the purification rites required by the law of God and to present their baby before the LORD.  They came with the intent of offering the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.  That was for purification.  But the law of God also required that the firstborn male of every family be consecrated to God.  They had to come to the temple to do that as well.  As a Jewish baby, our Lord Jesus was born under the law and so all these things had to be fulfilled.  This was also God’s providential way of bringing Joseph and Mary and their baby Jesus to the temple that day to bring great joy to Simeon. 

Can you imagine that moment when Simeon could hold in his own arms the fulfillment of everything promised about the Messiah?  Can you imagine the depth of emotion he must have felt right then?  His faith had become sight.  He dreamed of this day, he had eagerly waited and prayed for the coming of the Christ and now here he was.  A little baby who would grow into a man and bring peace, pardon, and reconciliation for God’s people.  This was a big deal.  This was no ordinary baby that Simeon was holding in his arms.  He was elated and that led him to bless or praise God. 

That brings us to look closely at the so-called Song of Simeon.  If you look carefully at our text, it doesn’t say that Simeon sang these words.  Verse 28 simply says that “he blessed God and said…”  There’s no explicit indication that these words were originally sung.  Yet the tradition has developed in the Christian church of calling it the Song of Simeon.  This tradition is not without merit, because the words certainly have the form of a song.  The words are put together poetically in a way reminiscent of the Psalms.  This is certainly an elevated way of speaking and that suggests a song.  There’s no reason to buck centuries of ecclesiastical tradition here.

The song begins with Simeon acknowledging the mercy and faithfulness of the LORD.  God has kept his Word to Simeon.  He promised him that he would see the Christ before he died and now he has.  All the tension is gone, all the waiting is over.  Simeon can die in peace knowing that God fulfilled his promise.  Simeon has seen the salvation of God.  That salvation is totally centered on this child, Jesus.  Remember, he was called Jesus because he is the Saviour, because according to Matthew 1:21, “He will save his people from their sins.”  This baby Jesus is salvation for God’s people from their sins and from all the terrible consequences of sin. 

In verse 31, Simeon says that this is what God has prepared in the presence of all peoples.  Here’s he’s speaking of God’s design of salvation in history.  History is not random.  Neither is everything leading up to this moment when Jesus appears in the temple for the first time. God has put all these things in place.  God has been at work since the Garden of Eden, carefully determining every element in our salvation, sovereignly bringing up Jesus through the generations.  Through God’s sovereign grace, we look through Jesus’ family tree and we see some remarkable people.  We see Jacob and his deception.  We see Judah and what he did to his brother Joseph and what he later did with Tamar.  We see Rahab the prostitute brought into the family tree, and also Ruth the Moabitess.  We see David, his deeds of faith, as well as his misdeeds of wickedness.  The family tree is full of stories, all illustrating the sovereign hand of God working up to this very moment in the temple.  Simeon adds that all of this was done “in the presence of all peoples.”  It wasn’t done in a corner, but publically.  This also reminds us that the salvation that Christ came to bring is not just for the Jews.  It’s something that will have a bearing on all the peoples of the earth. 

That’s why the song concludes by saying that Christ will be a light, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and a light for glory to the people of Israel.  Through the light of Jesus, the Gentiles will have saving revelation.  The Bible is clear that all Gentiles have some revelation from God.  According to Romans 1, all peoples on the earth know that there is a God.  God has revealed certain things about himself to absolutely everyone, specifically his eternal power and divine nature.  But that kind of revelation does not save anyone.  For salvation, people need to hear about Jesus Christ.  It’s God’s plan that this light shine for the Gentiles, as well as for the Jews.  Jesus is a Saviour for all types of ethnicities. 

But he’s also a light to bring glory to God’s people Israel.  We could think here of Isaiah 60:1, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.”  Salvation comes to the nations through Israel.  That fact gives Israel a special place among the nations.  Listen to what Paul says in Romans 9:4-5 about the Jews:  “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.  To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever.  Amen.”  It is glory for the Jews to have Christ born a Jew, as the fulfillment of everything in the past.  And he becomes even more glorious among them as they embrace him in faith – which many will later do.

This man’s great joy is clear from his song.  Simeon’s joy is derived from the great significance of this baby.  This baby is the fulfillment of God’s Word of promise.  This baby Jesus is also a person who will have an impact on both Jews and Gentiles, a global impact.  In the arms of Simeon is one who will make history, one who is the most important person to ever live and walk on this earth.  Hardly anyone else at that moment did, but Simeon recognized that and that’s why he sang.  Today we recognize it because we have God’s Word.  We know that our Saviour is someone worthy of our highest praises and deepest devotion.  He’s the light who’s brought us saving revelation.  He’s the one who’s graciously brought us peace and pardon, reconciliation with our God.  Like Simeon, we have every reason for great joy today and every day!   

Verse 33 tells us that this song left a deep impression on Joseph and Mary.  They were amazed at what they were hearing from the lips of the old prophet.  They had already heard incredible things about their baby son, but with Simeon things were brought to a new level.  If there was any doubt in their minds about Jesus being the Messiah, that should have now been completely dispelled.  Through Simeon, God had made it clear that this baby was the Christ long-promised. 

Then in verses 34 and 35, Simeon turns to Joseph and Mary, especially to Mary.  He gives them a blessing from God as well, and then he follows it up with a remarkable prophecy.  He is God’s instrument to tell Mary that her son is set to be a divisive figure. 

Yes, Simeon has great joy at seeing Christ.  Yes, Christ has brought him peace in his old age and now he’s ready to depart.  But there is more to this baby and what he will do and the impact he will have.  He has been appointed by God for the fall and rising of many in Israel.  What that means is that in reaction to the Christ, many will fall away into apostasy and unbelief.  There will be those who will speak against him and oppose him.  He will have enemies.  Many will not welcome him as the Christ.  During his ministry, the thoughts from many hearts will be exposed.  As Christ preaches and teaches, the Word of God will do its work.  It will show who is believing and who is unbelieving.  The word preached will expose who has repented from their sins and who continues in sin.  Because of Christ, because of his ministry and because of his suffering and death, many will fall.  He is not going to be universally believed upon.

Later on, our Lord Jesus himself would publically acknowledge this.  At this time of year, we speak about peace on earth, but he didn’t come to bring peace for everyone.  Let’s look together at what he said in Luke 12:51-54 [read].  The Messiah divides people.  By nature, his person and work are divisive in this age.  The antithesis between believers and unbelievers manifests itself in how people regard Christ.

At this time of year, people are attracted to the romanticism of the Christmas story.  Even unbelievers get all warm and fuzzy about singing about a baby in a manger.  I saw it the other night on the tail end of a Christmas special on TV.  I didn’t watch the whole thing, just caught the end.  There unbelievers who would otherwise give no thought to Jesus were suddenly singing happy sentimental songs about baby Jesus.  But if you try to move beyond that to why he had to come, suddenly you can be sure they have no interest in the Messiah, in fact, they reject the King of kings and Lord of lords.  They forget that those tiny little hands in the manger, those tiny little hands embraced by Simeon, those hands were made so that nails might be driven through them.  Those baby feet, not yet able to walk, they were made to walk up Golgotha to be nailed to the cross.  The head of baby Jesus was made so that someday wicked men would press down a crown of thorns into it, drawing his precious blood.  This baby’s soft tummy would someday be violently ripped open by a spear.  So many forget that the manger leads to the cross.  Jesus was born to die and when we speak about that, we find rejection by so many.  When we speak about why he had to die, when we speak about our sin and the wrath of God, people turn off and tune out.   When you see the Messiah in the big picture of our salvation, he is a divisive figure.  He divides people into two groups:  unbelievers and believers.  It was that way in his day and still is today. 

There are those who fall because of him, but says Simeon, there are also those who rise.  Many in Israel will rise because of Jesus.  Many will be lifted up to eternal life through this Messiah.  When they hear the gospel message, they will respond with faith and repentance and they will be saved from their sins.  Certainly we see that happening in the book of Acts.  On the day of Pentecost, it was about 3000 Jews who repented and believed.  Later in Acts 6, we read in verse 7, “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”  There were many Jews who believed in Christ and were raised up to life through him.

The point is that there is no neutral ground when it comes to the Messiah.  Either you disbelieve and fall, or believe and rise.  This division has always been there and always will be until the end of the age.  Brothers and sisters, remember that in our text, this division ran through the covenant people of Israel.  This was not a division between Jews and Gentiles, but one amongst Israel.  That tells us that the antithesis stretches into the church, even today.  That reminds us that also in the church, we need to hear the call to repentance and faith continually.  We need to respond to that call to be saved.  We need to be sure that with an eye on Christ in faith, we are risen.  We do not want to be among those who turn away in apostasy and fall away to perdition.  Looking to Christ in faith, we should also be prepared for opposition, even from people within our own family, or even from within the church.  When you’re serious about serving the Lord, this will make you stand out and it might bring hardship, even from people you wouldn’t expect it from.  Our Lord Jesus said it would happen in Luke 12.  The prophet Simeon prophesied that it would happen here in our text too.  Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit would give us strength to stand, help to persevere, faith to withstand all kinds of persecution wherever it might come from.                                         

There’s one last element to consider in our text and that’s the parenthetical comment to Mary in verse 35.  Simeon warns her that pain is coming for her too.  He says that a sword will pierce her soul also.  What this means is that, because of Jesus, Mary can anticipate extreme agony and anguish.  It will be like a sword poking through her soul, piercing and causing deep pain.  When she sees what happens with her son and how he is treated, it will be emotionally trying.  This little baby is someday going to be rejected and despised by men and Mary, like any other mother in that situation, she is going to feel pain seeing her son treated that way.             

Loved ones, only a few recognized the earth-shattering significance of this little baby.  Through Simeon, God was speaking and revealing to Joseph and Mary (and us) that this baby would be a great source of joy for many, but also a source of consternation and frustration.  He was not to be just about peace.  This child had been prepared, appointed, and sent for God’s purposes.  Those purposes certainly involve peace with God for some, but there’s far more to be said.  We’ve seen that this morning.  We’ve heard again the call for us to be trusting in this Saviour, the one who was born for us.  Brothers and sisters, continue to heed that call and you’ll have joy in your hearts and peace with God not only today, but forever.  You will be among the many who rise because of him.  AMEN. 

Prayer:

Our faithful promise-keeping God,

Thank you for the great joy you brought to Simeon on that day some two thousand years ago.  Thank you for keeping your promises and bringing the Messiah into the world.  With Simeon, we’re glad that through him you’ve brought peace and pardon for believers.  We’re glad that in Christ, we have the consolation of reconciliation.  We are brought into fellowship with you.  For this, we praise your Name today.  We also recognize the antithesis bound up with our Saviour.  We pray that you would help us with your Holy Spirit so that through him, we rise.  We pray for strength to endure mockery, temptations, and whatever else unbelievers and hypocrites might throw at us.  Please make us strong in Christ through your Spirit and help us to stand. 

We pray that you would continue to bless our celebration today of the incarnation of your Son.  Give us a blessed time together as family and friends, together praising your Name.    

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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