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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:Simeon receives the comfort of seeing the Lord's salvation
Text:Luke 2:30 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son
 
Preached:2010-12-26
Added:2011-12-22
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 108:1,2

Psalm 111:1,5

Hymn 18:1,2 (collection)

Psalm 42:5

Hymn 61:1,5,6

Read:  Luke 2:21-40.

Text:  Luke 2:30

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Babies are the focus of attention everywhere.  When a new mother pushes a pram containing her infant child through a shopping mall, strangers passing by will turn their heads to catch a glimpse of the precious little bundle.  Some will stop to cluck and coo, exclaiming over the baby’s cuteness and asking if it is a boy or a girl, and how old the baby is. 

Babies also receive a lot of attention when their parents bring them into to church to be baptized.  Family and friends come for the occasion, rejoicing to see the child receive the sign and seal of the covenant.  Along with the congregation, they come to offer their thanks to the Lord, to congratulate the parents and to smile at the beautiful baby.

And so when Mary and Joseph entered the Temple courts with Baby Jesus, we are not surprised to learn that people came to have a look, to exclaim over him and to congratulate the parents.

But when Simeon and Anna met Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus in the Temple, it was not quite like that.  First of all, the Bible makes it clear that this was not a “chance encounter” where Simeon and Anna just happened to be in the Temple in the same way as you might just happen to be in a shopping mall and see a newborn baby.  Luke 2:27 says that Simeon came into the temple “by the Spirit”.  And verse 38 specifically states that Anna entered the Temple “in that instant”.  This was clearly a divinely orchestrated event, a matter of deep significance. 

What we also notice about the time when Simeon and Anna rejoiced over seeing Baby Jesus is that the focus was not on Mary’s happiness (indeed, she’s told a sword will pierce through her soul), nor was the focus on the cuteness of the Baby that Simeon took up in his arms (there are no comments about His head circumference, nor of Jesus’ birth weight).  Rather, Simeon and Anna came over to Jesus, Joseph and Mary to talk about who Jesus really was, and why He was born.  And they came to praise God for the salvation which He had prepared.

When Simeon laid his eyes on Jesus, he did not see him as just another baby.  Rather, he looked upon Him believing that in his arms was the promised Messiah, the Son of God!  He knew that this was the One he had been waiting for.  He knew that this was the One through whom God would bring true peace and comfort.  He knew that with the birth of Jesus had come the fulfilment of God’s promise of salvation.  And so, in deep gratitude to the Lord, he blessed God and said,

“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word:  for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples.”

“My eyes have seen Your salvation.”  That is what Simeon saw when the Holy Spirit brought him to Jesus.  And that is what I wish to preach to you about this morning.

I preach to you the Good News of Luke 2 under the following theme,

Simeon receives the comfort of seeing the Lord’s salvation.

We will consider:

1.  Of what this salvation consists.

2.  For whom this salvation has come.


1. Of what this salvation consists.

When you read the Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus Christ, you get the impression that for most of the people of Israel, the birth of Jesus Christ passed by virtually unnoticed.  For those who were waiting for His birth, there were enough signs to make them aware of His coming:  first there was Zacharias who came out of the temple unable to speak a word, but who had obviously seen a vision of some sort.  Then there was the surprising news that his old wife Elizabeth was pregnant and later gave birth to a son whom she named John.  Then Zacharias began to talk again, praising God for raising up “a horn of salvation”.  Indeed these things were so surprising that people were talking about it throughout the hill country of Judea.  Then there was the matter of Mary, a godly young woman of Nazareth, being pregnant under surprising circumstances.  Then, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a group of shepherds had excitedly come into town talking about angels and a Saviour who had been born.  Now Jesus was in the temple and there were these two old people, Simeon and Anna, prophesying that He was the promised Redeemer.   And later, wise men from the East would come to Jerusalem speaking about a star, and asking where the King of the Jews was to be born.  There were certainly enough signs to make one wonder.  But for all that, most of the people of Israel did not notice that the promised Messiah had come. 

But why didn’t they see it?  When they received reports that the Lord had visited His people, that He had raised up a horn of salvation, that He had remembered His holy covenant, that a Saviour had been born in the city of David, who was Christ the Lord, why weren’t they excited?  Why didn’t they at least check to see if these things were so?  How could they be so blind to the greatest miracle ever?

That, of course, is a question not just for the people of Judea when Jesus was born; it is a question for today as well.  We live in a world that hungers for love, joy and peace.  We live in a society that longs for comfort for the broken hearted, freedom for the prisoners and festive praise instead of despair.  But when Christmas is celebrated, the manger lies empty and the Saviour is pushed to the side.  Two thousand years later we can still be so blind to the greatest miracle ever.

I think that we can find all sorts of reasons for this blindness, for this failure to see that in Jesus has come the salvation of the Lord.  But I suggest that an underlying reason for the people of Israel to fail to notice the birth of Christ was because they were not looking for Him!  They were looking for a Saviour, but not that kind of Saviour.  They were hoping for redemption, but not that kind of redemption.  They wanted restoration, but not the kind of restoration that would require a Baby to be born of a virgin from Nazareth.  Many of the Jews who were seeking a Messiah were searching for one who would come with power and the forces of a mighty army.  They were seeking a Messiah who would drive out the Roman oppressors and usher in a time of peace.  They were searching for a saviour whom they could rally behind, about whom they could shout “Hosanna!” and “Blessed is the King who comes in the Name of the Lord!”  They were looking for a Saviour who was a mighty warrior wielding a rod of iron.  But they were not looking for a Baby born to a virgin from Nazareth.  And they were not looking for salvation from their sin.

But not everyone in Israel was like that.  Anna, a prophetess and the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher, was an old woman who spent her days and nights  in prayer and fasting, virtually living in the Lord’s Temple.  She was waiting for the Messiah, the Christ.  And, it says in verse 38, there were also others who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.  And chief among those who were waiting for the Christ to come was a man named Simeon. 

It says in Luke 2:25 that what Simeon was waiting for exactly was “the Consolation of Israel.”  He was waiting for the One who would bring true comfort – the comfort that was promised in, for example, Isaiah 40 –

“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God.  Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned.”  (Isaiah 40:1,2a)

He was waiting for the time when the way of the LORD would be prepared, and when

“the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”  (Isaiah 40:5)

What Simeon was looking for therefore, was not the same as many others.  He was  not looking for a Saviour from the Romans necessarily, but for One who would redeem Israel from her sin.  And even more than that, he was looking for a Saviour not just for Jerusalem, but for the whole world.  And Simeon knew that this Saviour would be coming very soon.  For the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

And so Simeon waited.  As something like a representative of the remnant of  those Jews who looked in anticipation for a Messiah who would redeem His people from their sin, Simeon waited for the Lord’s salvation.  We get the impression that he was waiting for a long time, but his hope never wavered, his belief that the Saviour would come never died.

And then one morning, two ordinary looking people, carrying an ordinary baby, came into the Temple.  There was no fanfare, no cheering crowds.  And at this time the angels did not come down to sing “Glory to God” nor did a voice from heaven proclaim to all, “This is My beloved Son.”  For Jesus had not come into the Temple to be exalted.  He had come to be humbled, to demonstrate that He had been born under the law to redeem those under the law. 

He had already been circumcised.  That happened 8 days after his birth, at which time He received the name Jesus.  Now, 40 days after the birth, Mary and Joseph brought their baby to the temple.  They came to fulfil all the requirements of the law.  For Mary that meant a sacrifice.  Two birds were to be offered, one as a burnt offering and one for a sin offering.  In this way Mary was reminded that children are normally conceived and born in sin, and we can only receive salvation from that sin through the shedding of blood. 

Following this, Jesus was presented to the Lord. And because Jesus was Mary’s first born son, a redemption payment had to be made.  In Exodus 13, when the LORD delivered His people from bondage in Egypt, He declared that as a sign to Israel that He had redeemed them from Egypt, they were to offer Him the firstborn of both their animals and their children.  As a sign that God had redeemed His people from Egypt to be His own possession, a “redemption fee” of five shekels was to be given for every first born son.  And so this payment also was to be made on behalf of Jesus. 

But why did Jesus, the Consolation of Israel, the Lord’s Christ, the eternal Son of God, have to be circumcised?  Why did Mary, having given birth to One who knew no sin, need to sacrifice two birds (the sacrifice that could be afforded by the common people), why did Mary have to give these as a burnt offering and a sin offering?  Why did Jesus have to be presented to the Lord, and have the 5 shekel price of redemption paid on his behalf?  Why was this necessary for the One who knew no sin, but would bring salvation to God’s people?  And how could Simeon recognize that this Baby Jesus, born in submission to the law, was the Saviour that he had been waiting for?

It is because the Holy Spirit had made it clear to Simeon just what sort of a Redeemer he was to look for.  Since the Messiah had not come to save Israel from the tyranny of Rome but had instead come to save the world from the tyranny of sin, it was necessary that God’s Son would be like every other person in every respect (except for personal sin).  It was also necessary that Christ would be born in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3), and be born under the law , submitting to it, so that in Him the law might be fulfilled and we might be redeemed to receive the adoption as sons.  (Gal. 4:4,5)  Simeon was not seeking a Saviour who looked like a knight in shining armour, mounted on his stallion with an army host behind him.  Simeon was looking for a Saviour who would be the Suffering Servant, the One upon whom the sins of the world would be placed. And therefore when he saw Mary and Joseph with the little baby Jesus, and when the Holy Spirit told him that this was the One he was waiting for, He believed that this Child was the Messiah, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world.  In faith he took Jesus in his arms and gave praise to God, exclaiming,  “It is enough!  Now I am ready to leave this life in peace, for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples.”

Simeon recognized the Child Jesus to be the promised Messiah, the Saviour, because he understood what kind of a Saviour he was looking for.  To see the Lord’s salvation we first need to understand what this salvation consists of.  For if we do not, then we won’t see Jesus for Who He really is. 

This becomes clear later on in the gospel according to Luke.  When Jesus began His ministry, many people came to Him, hoping that He was the promised Messiah.  They were hoping that He would be the King that they were looking for, the Redeemer of Jerusalem.  They were hoping that He would bring them peace.  And they were most excited when in Luke 19, He sat down on a young donkey and entered Jerusalem.  They were so excited that they rejoiced and praised God for all the mighty works they had seen, saying:

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  (Luke 19:38)

But although the words they exclaimed were true, Jesus knew that the people did not understand what they were saying.  He knew that a few days later some of those same people would be crying out something else:  “Crucify Him!  Away with Him!”  And so, as He drew near to Jerusalem, our Lord wept and said,

“If you had known, even you, especially in this your day the things that make for your peace!  But now they are hidden from your eyes.”  (Luke 19:42)

The crowds did not understand what the salvation of the Lord consisted of.  They were seeking the wrong thing.  Thirty three years earlier, when Jesus entered Jerusalem for the first time, the prophetess Anna spoke about Jesus to all who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.  But now that redemption had come, the crowds were blinded to it.  And even those who followed Christ in the hope of redemption were disappointed.

After Jesus’ crucifixion and death, 2 men were walking from Jerusalem to the town of Emmaus.  They talked together about all that happened.  Then Jesus drew near and walked with them, asking why they were so sad.  And then they told Him about:

“Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him.”  (Luke 24:19,20)

And why did that make these two men so sad?  Listen to what they said in verse 21:

“But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.”

“We were hoping He was the Redeemer” they said, “But we are sad, because it looks as though we were mistaken.”  It was all too much to these followers of Jesus and they could not make sense of what had happened.  When Simeon saw Baby Jesus in the temple being placed under the law of God, he blessed God and said, “My eyes have seen Your salvation.”  But when this same Jesus fulfilled all righteousness by dying on the cross and being raised on the third day, these two men on the road to Emmaus were bewildered.

Now it was not unbelief on the part of these two men walking to Emmaus but a failure to comprehend the truth, and when Jesus opened the Scriptures to explain to them why it was necessary that He should die and rise again, they believed and they too rejoiced in the salvation Christ had come to bring.  But it does raise an important point:  If we are to see the salvation of the Lord in Jesus Christ, we must understand what this salvation is all about.

It happens that professing Christians, who attended church for many years, who joined every committee and contributed to every offering are faced with a sudden disaster in their lives and their faith comes crashing down.  Their conception of who God is and who Jesus is just does not match what they experienced.  They shake their heads in sadness and say, “No, there is no God.  There is no Saviour.  There is no salvation.”

But what was the problem?  Was the problem with God?  Was the problem with Jesus?  Was the problem with the salvation that Jesus had come to bring?

Or was the problem a failure to understand who Jesus really is, and what salvation in Him is all about?

If you watch some evangelists on TV, or if you buy certain “Christian” books, you will be introduced to a Saviour who is there to meet your every felt need.  You will be introduced to a Saviour who is going to make everything right in your life, here and now.  You will be introduced to a Saviour who is keen to bless you with health, with wealth, with prosperity.  You will be introduced to a Saviour who is like a knight in shining armour, mounted on a stallion with an army host behind Him, ready to immediately free you from every form of pain or suffering, eager to give you the mammon that this world is craving for.

But that is not the Jesus of the Bible, and that is not the salvation He holds out to you.  He did not come to give us what our sinful hearts desire; He came for our redemption, that we might be saved from sin, to be made into His people who may live in His presence forever.  We won’t see Jesus, we won’t see the salvation of the Lord if we are looking for the wrong comfort, for the wrong salvation.  But when we see Jesus as the One who had come to save us from our sin and to give us peace with God and the hope of everlasting life with Him, then we will find in Him all that is needed for our salvation.

2. For whom this salvation has come.

Simeon had been presumably waiting a long time for the consolation of Israel.  And when he finally held the child Jesus in his arms he blessed the Lord for allowing him to see the Lord’s salvation.  But then he had a message for Mary:

“Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which  will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

In the birth of Jesus Christ, Simeon rightly saw the Lord’s salvation.  A salvation not just for Israel but also for the Gentiles.  For He was to be the Saviour of the whole world.  But now Simeon adds something else:  the salvation that Christ had come to bring would not be for everyone.  His coming would not only bring peace, but also a sword.  Christ would come as a Rock to either be established upon or to stumble over.  Mary was told that not everyone would be pleased to see the Christ or to welcome Him as their saviour.  Many would find in Him all that was needed for their salvation, but by others He would be despised and rejected to the point that He would be nailed to a cross.

When we are confronted with the Christ, we can not stay neutral.  If we are truly humbled by our sin and earnestly seek the redemption that Christ had come to bring, then we will not be disappointed.  In Him we will find everything that is necessary for our salvation.

But those who do not look to Jesus to save them from their sin will find Him to be a stone to stumble against and a rock of offence.  That is the choice that Christ confronts us with:  Either we see in Jesus all that is necessary for our complete salvation, or we have no part in the salvation He had come to bring.  

And the tragedy is that there are still so many people today who are not even looking for “the consolation of Israel”, who do not even see the need to be saved from their sins.  In Romans 10:1 the apostle Paul wrote,

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.”

And that is a desire that all of us should have for those who do not confess their salvation to be in Christ alone.  A desire we should have not just for the Jew but also the Gentile.  Now is the time for us to proclaim – urgently – to the world that salvation is only to be found in Jesus Christ, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

The time will come when everyone will see Jesus for who He is.  The time will come when even those who rejected Him will be forced to bow the knee and confess that He is Lord.  But today the salvation that Christ has accomplished must be preached.  Today, Jesus Christ must be proclaimed to the world as the One whom God appointed to save us from our sin and to redeem a people for Himself.  He is the light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and we must proclaim that light earnestly to the whole world.

When Simeon saw Jesus and took him up in his arms, he knew and he believed that the Consolation of Israel, the Saviour of the world, had come.  He saw it with his eyes and he believed.  And he said, “It is enough.  My time of waiting is over.  I’m ready to die, to depart this life in peace.”

Today this same “Consolation of Israel”, Jesus Christ, is proclaimed to you.  Today we are once more called to see in Him the Lord’s Salvation.  The story of Jesus being presented in the Temple and of Simeon and Anna declaring that He is the Christ, the Son of God, is given to us so that we might be certain that it is true.  And when, through the eyes of faith, we see Jesus born, crucified, buried and raised for our salvation, then we too are ready to depart in peace.  Then we too will live in the joyful comfort that salvation has come.  For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.  He is the Saviour.  The Consolation of Israel, the Comforter.  He is Christ the Lord.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2010, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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