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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Anticipation and Destiny
Text:Luke 2:21-35 (View)
Occasion:Advent
Topic:The Incarnation
 
Preached:11/29/2015
Added:2015-11-28
Updated:2015-11-28
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 

Pastor Ted Gray
11/29/2015 – a.m.
 
Anticipation and Destiny”
Luke 2:21-35
 
Christmas has always been marked by anticipation. I remember as a child anticipating what would be under the Christmas tree and what might be in those Christmas stockings. I remember anticipating the arrival of candy canes and the other sweet treats of Christmas, too.
 
As we enter into the advent season there are many people who look forward to Christmas with that same anticipation. For so many people the anticipation of Christmas Day revolves around gifts and food amid family and friends.
 
If that’s the only anticipation that you have – if Christmas is just a social holiday with gifts and food and drink and nothing more, then you are to be truly pitied. Our hearts should go out to the great number of people around us who anticipate Christmas only in a secular, social, or material way.
 
I trust that for most of us, the real anticipation of Christmas is similar to that anticipation which Simeon had. We read in verse 25 how he was righteous and devout, and had been waiting for the consolation of Israel. There were undoubtedly many others like Simeon who were waiting for the coming of the promised Messiah. After all, the promise that a Savior will come to save His people from their sins goes all the way back to the dawn of history. That promise is rooted in the words of Genesis 3:15 which describe how the serpent would strike the heel of the Messiah, but would himself be crushed by the Son of God. Each generation of people who were righteous and devout, even though they have always been a small remnant among the population of the world, nevertheless have looked eagerly to the birth of the Messiah.
 
The reason why Simeon, and all the other righteous and devout people of his era, anticipated the birth of Jesus so much is because they knew that Jesus Christ is the only source of salvation. In verse 30, Simeon says, “My eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people…”
 
Simeon understood that there is no other name under heaven by which anyone can be saved. Simeon understood that Jesus alone is the way the truth and the life.  Simeon certainly knew that all the efforts of self righteousness could not save him or anyone else. He certainly knew that God’s law reveals sin but does not bring justification.
 
He also knew that the promise of God being born in human flesh would become a reality. And verse 26 tells us that the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would see the Savior with his own eyes. Verse 27 tells how the Holy Spirit moved him to go to the Temple when Jesus was brought there to be presented to the Lord, as the Old Testament law required that children be presented.
 
Simeon, in verse 32, shows that he realized that Christ was the Savior not only of Israel, but of the entire Gentile world as well. That was a radical idea in the first century. All throughout the Old Testament God had revealed Himself to the Israelites. But Simeon predicted how Jesus would be a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to (His) people Israel.
 
References in the New Testament about Jesus dying for the sins of the whole world are not proof texts for Arminianism, but rather they are texts which show what Simeon was speaking about. They are references teaching that God graciously saves people from every nation and tribe – that is, from the Gentiles as well as the Jews. It is in that sense that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, for Jews and Gentiles alike.
 
The Falling and Rising of Many
 
It is understandable that Joseph and Mary marveled at the words of Simeon concerning Jesus. In verse 34 we read how Simeon blessed them and spoke to Mary about Jesus. Because Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, Joseph was his father in name only and so Simeon addressed Mary specifically and spoke about the appointment – the destiny – that Jesus Christ had in coming to this world.  
 
First, he described how Christ would cause the falling and rising of many. In verse 34 he said, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel” (34a). He was speaking about rising to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus or falling to judgment because of unbelief.
 
His statement is a statement that even as Christians we don’t consider enough in the Christmas season. We consider the salvation of many throughout the world. Many rise up in saving faith and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. We rejoice in that!  Almost all of our Christmas carols focus on the rising up in faith of believers to recognize, as Simeon did, that Jesus came to save His people from their sins. We recognize that He is indeed a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to (His) people Israel.
 
But Simeon recognized that not only would the birth of Jesus Christ cause many to rise up in saving faith, but that the life of Jesus Christ would also cause many to fall. He was a true prophet. We do not need to read very far in the New Testament Scriptures to find those who fall, many of them falling terribly and eternally, because they stumbled over Christ.
 
Consider Herod. When he realized that the wise men had returned by another way to their homes the Scripture tells us he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi (Matthew 2:16).
 
Or consider the teachers of the law, the Pharisees and Sadducees. They made their long lists of man-made rules. They justified themselves by their perceived obedience. Yet no one received harsher judgment from Jesus than the Pharisees and Sadducees who refused to believe in Him.
 
Or consider those who were just too busy with their own lives. The Innkeeper represents so many millions and millions of people who are so busy with their lives that they have no time for Jesus Christ.
 
Or consider those who followed Jesus just to see the miraculous signs He did and to have a free lunch. Here was someone who could feed great multitudes with just a few fish and a few loaves. He could even turn water into the best wine ever! Many followed Him because of those amazing signs and yet are among those who have fallen because they never believed upon Him with saving faith.
 
A Sign That Is Spoken Against
 
Not only does Jesus cause the falling and rising of humanity, but Simeon goes on in verse 34 to show that Jesus is a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.  Every time Christ is spoken against, it reveals the thoughts of human hearts.
 
How many people spoke against Jesus? We can include everyone on that list of those who fell because of Him. Herod spoke against Him, even though he did it deceitfully, saying that he  wanted to go and worship Him. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees and Sadducees certainly spoke against Him, and as they did they revealed the thoughts of their hearts.
 
The Innkeeper spoke against Jesus tacitly. He didn’t have to utter any words against Jesus; his actions showed that he opposed Jesus because he placed the operation of his business above the worship of the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
But this falling and rising of many, – this opposition against the Lord which reveals the thoughts of the heart –  continues decade by decade and century by century. That opposition continues right into the 21st century today. We see increasingly where the true meaning of Christmas is censored. The phrase, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” is a relatively recent phrase. Why? Because years ago it was understood by most people that Christmas was about the birth of Christ. But that true meaning of Christmas is being systematically removed.
 
Court orders have removed manger scenes from public places across our land. Where manger scenes are allowed, secular and even Satanist scenes, are allowed next to them, speaking – opposing – the reality of the birth of Jesus Christ.
 
And as we see the true meaning of Christmas systematically removed, we also see the truth of God’s word. We see the truth of Simeon’s prediction: The birth of Jesus is indeed a sign that will be spoken against so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
 
A Piercing Sword
 
A third prediction given by Simeon is there in the last part of verse 35 where he speaks about how a sword will pierce Mary’s soul.
 
Those of you who are mothers, has your soul been pierced when your child has been ridiculed, or mocked? How would you feel if you knew that your son was spit upon, blindfolded and then slapped repeatedly while those who hit him were saying, “If you are really the Christ tell us who hit you?”
 
Imagine how Mary’s heart was pierced as she stood with the other women and with the disciples there at the base of the cross on Mount Calvary. Imagine the emotion she felt, and the heaviness of her heart, as she saw Jesus being crucified.
 
Consider the finality of the words of Jesus as he spoke in Mary’s hearing to John, telling John to care for his mother. It appears that Joseph had died. Who would care for Mary? Her son, Jesus, was being crucified, – but even in the agony of that death He made provision for her.
 
Mary’s heart was pierced as with the sword, but what about the heart of our heavenly Father? As He looked down upon the crucifixion of His Son, how heavy was his heart? How hard was it for Him to turn away from His Son, forsaking the One whom He has loved eternally? He did so in order that His only begotten Son would bear our sins and take upon Himself the curse that we deserve on the cross of Calvary. There Jesus bore all the agony of hell on your behalf and mine, if we truly believe in Him. But how hard was it for the Father to watch from heaven?
 
The Birth of Jesus Divides Humanity
 
There is a lot of sorrow in the true story of Christmas. There is admittedly a joy that is so great that it is indescribable. But there is also a deep sorrow because the birth of Jesus Christ, when it is properly understood, forces us once again to see the reality of sin. The true biblical account of the birth of Jesus reveals to us that our sin is so great that it caused the eternal Son of God to leave the glory of heaven in order to suffer and die on the cross.
 
But when we come to grips with the realization of the depth of our sin we also find the true joy that Simeon and every other believer has known. Through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ salvation is secured for all who believe upon Him!
 
But because salvation is only for those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ we also see that the birth of Jesus Christ divides all humanity. All humanity is divided just as Simeon predicted. Either we are among those who rise up in saving faith to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, rejoicing that He is indeed our salvation. Or we are among the many who reject Him and bring condemnation on themselves because of their unbelief and refusal to accept the work of Jesus Christ for sinners.
 
There is no in between place. Jesus Christ causes the division of all humanity. We are either saved by grace through faith in Him. Or we are condemned because of our unbelief and rejection of His Word.
 
That is a truth, not only spoken by Simeon in verse 34, but a truth that we read throughout the pages of Holy Scripture. In 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 the apostle Paul writes about the ministry of God’s word and how it is received by people. He writes: For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life… He is spelling out the division between all humanity. Either the gospel is an aroma, a sweet savor of salvation. Or the message of the gospel is the stench that brings eternal death, – that is, eternal separation from the love of God in hell.
 
We read the same division of all humanity in 1 Peter 2:7-8: Now to you who believe, this stone (Christ) is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”
 
There again is that great division of all humanity. Some respond in faith to the account of Christmas with the reality of sin, but also the joy of salvation. They rejoice to hear that story again and again, finding each Christmas a deeper love for their Savior. They find, by God’s grace, that Christ is so very precious to them.
 
But others stumble over Christ, as though He were a stone in their pathway tripping them up. Peter goes on to say, They stumble because they disobey the message – which is also what they were destined for (1 Peter 2:8). But no one who stumbles can blame God, each one is accountable to the Lord for how they respond to Christ, either rising up in saving faith to Him, or falling in their rejection of Him.
 
* * *
 
Advent is a wonderful season. I remember as a child looking forward to what might be under the tree or in a Christmas stocking; I remember looking forward to the candy canes and other sweet treats. And there’s nothing wrong with those things, so long as those are not the only things that we look forward to. They become wrong when the secular, social, and material trappings of Christmas override the true meaning of the birth of Jesus.
 
In this Christmas season we are to reflect on the birth of Jesus. We are to remember the anticipation of those like Simeon who were righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel. We are to look with joy at the truth that Jesus came to save us from our sins, and then look beyond to see that He is coming again.
 
When He returns He will not be that little baby being presented in the Temple by Joseph and Mary. He will return as the King of kings and Lord of lords. In Revelation 19 John describes the glory and power, the majesty and might of Jesus Christ. He will return to judge the living and the dead, and at that time all humanity will be publicly separated, all humanity will be publicly and permanently divided. On that Great Day everyone will realize the truth of Simeon’s words that “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.”
 
On that day, will it be shown that you are among those who rose up with saving faith in the Lord Jesus? As we approach another Christmas season is He truly the One whom you anticipate? Do you anticipate not just the remembrance of His birth, but do you anticipate His return in glory? And are you ready for that day?
 
May you and I, by God’s grace, be like Simeon. Devout. Righteous. Looking forward – anticipating, the arrival of the Lord Jesus Christ –  not in humility to be born in a manger, but in exultation to usher in all eternity! Amen.
 

- bulletin outline -

 

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, His mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” – Luke 2:34-35
 
“Anticipation and Destiny”
Luke 2:21-35
 
I.  Simeon anticipated the birth of Jesus (25-26), knowing that Jesus Christ is the only source of salvation (30), a light for Gentiles and the glory of Israel (32)
 
 
 
 
 
II. Simeon also realized the destiny (appointment, ESV) of the Christ child would:
     1) Cause the falling and rising (judgment and salvation) of many (34b)
 
 
 
 
 
     2) Be a sign that is spoken against (34c), revealing hearts (35a)
 
 
 
 
 
     3) Be a sword in Mary’s soul (35b)
 
 
 
 
III. Application: The birth of Jesus Christ divides humanity, bringing salvation to those who believe in Him and condemnation to those who reject Him (34; 2 Corinthians 2:15-16; 1 Peter 2:6-8)
 
 
 
 
 
 
11/29/2015 – a.m.

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 11/2, Rev. Ted Gray

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