LUKE 2:22-40
GOD SPEAKS FOR US IN LOVE WITH A SIGN SPOKEN AGAINST!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets but now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son (Heb. 1:1-2). Dear hearers of the Word made flesh:


The temple was a busy place!  The events of our text would have occurred in the Women’s Court (note Mary and Anna). Gentiles were not allowed there. “No entry” laws were posted in three languages. Colonnaded walls surrounded this court and Levite choirs would sing from the steps of the gate leading from this court into the Priests Court and the Sanctuary. We are not told if the choir was singing. We are not told about the many others in this busy place!  In addition to traffic for sacrifices and temple duties consider how many mothers may have been present 40 days after the birth of their sons or 80 days after the birth of their daughters (Lev. 12) for the same reason Mary was here.


The rite of purification didn’t mean that anything in the act of childbirth was inherently sinful. It was, however, God’s revealed will in the Old Testament that a mother be declared ritually clean acknowledging full contact again with holy things. Mary came to do what the Torah commanded.

THE PURIFICATION OF MARY & THE PRESENTATION OF OUR LORD, 2-2-2014
LUKE 2:22-40
GOD SPEAKS FOR US IN LOVE WITH A SIGN SPOKEN AGAINST!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets but now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son (Heb. 1:1-2). Dear hearers of the Word made flesh:


The temple was a busy place!  The events of our text would have occurred in the Women’s Court (note Mary and Anna). Gentiles were not allowed there. “No entry” laws were posted in three languages. Colonnaded walls surrounded this court and Levite choirs would sing from the steps of the gate leading from this court into the Priests Court and the Sanctuary. We are not told if the choir was singing. We are not told about the many others in this busy place!  In addition to traffic for sacrifices and temple duties consider how many mothers may have been present 40 days after the birth of their sons or 80 days after the birth of their daughters (Lev. 12) for the same reason Mary was here.


The rite of purification didn’t mean that anything in the act of childbirth was inherently sinful. It was, however, God’s revealed will in the Old Testament that a mother be declared ritually clean acknowledging full contact again with holy things. Mary came to do what the Torah commanded.


Another requirement of the Torah was also at work as they entered the temple that day. Ever since the killing of Egypt’s firstborn in the Exodus while the houses marked with lamb’s blood were passed over - the firstborn sons of Israel were to be redeemed by sacrifice (Exodus 13:14-16). In obedience, Mary and Joseph came to the temple with Mary’s firstborn. Yet this male child needed no redemption. Amid the busyness of the temple – amongst all the people and activity – the Holy Spirit holds up two saints who see with faith what is really taking place.


By worldly standards these two weren’t leading productive or noteworthy lives. They were in the shadows, far away from the movers and the shakers and the power players of the day. Scripture describes these two as waiting and worshipping and hoping. Against all appearances aged Anna and ready-to-die Simeon are the ones who are full of life. Waiting in the shadows they are walking in the light - set free by God’s salvation in the flesh.


As a widow of that day, Anna did not have earthly options. Married once for seven years, she was a widow now for about 60 years. She would have known loneliness for decades. She had no better prospect in this world to hope for or wait on. By modern standards she was socially disadvantaged and imprisoned by her circumstances. Yet in the view of the Holy Spirit her life shines with divine light and purpose!


Of Simeon we know of only one hope. It wasn’t for a nest egg or length of days. By modern standards he would be viewed as somewhat imprisoned by his limited perspective. He had only the promise that He would see the Messiah (the Christ) before he died. Yet in the view of the Holy Spirit his life shines with divine light and purpose!  


The object of their attention is a flesh and blood baby brought to the temple for presentation. There was no halo identifying Him for all to see. There was no trumpet fanfare or official temple announcement. There was however Simeon – and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 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. 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, he took him up in his arms and 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
    that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
    a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

 

Simeon’s song recognizes the Lord in his temple!  Jesus is the New Temple – the new dwelling place of God – in the flesh!  Before the destruction of the first temple – God’s presence had departed and appeared in Babylon (Ezekiel 10 & 1). The rebuilt second temple lacked the glory of the first (Ezra 6:13-18; Haggai 2:1-9; Zechariah 8 & 9) but God promised one day to fill it with even greater glory. That promise comes to fulfillment here!  Lift up your head, O gates!  And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in!  Who is the King of glory?  Simeon holds Him in his arms!  Who is the King of glory?  The Lord himself comes to his temple (Malachi 3:1). The Lord of hosts – the Lord mighty in battle – he is the King of glory. As Simeon prays to the Lord about this child, he is praying to this child!  Simeon holds in his arms the fullness of the Godhead bodily!

 

And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 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 (and a sword will pierce through you own soul also), so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.


The first sign concerning Christ in Luke’s gospel was a babe – wrapped in swaddling clothes. The second sign is this one – a sign of opposition, this child spoken against - so that the thoughts of hearts are revealed. A sign conveys what God is doing and giving – but hides under what appears to be its opposite.  A sign must be disclosed by the Word of God. A sign of God reduces us to the point at which we are nothing but receivers. For Simeon – this child was set for his falling and rising. His eyes are opened to God’s salvation – cloaked in the 40 day old Jesus. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel. He comes to receive that consolation with no specifications about what the Messiah – should do –socially, politically, religiously or personally - no programs or agendas. Simeon comes fallen – not too high to receive the lowliness of this child to raise him – trusting the Spirit’s Word that He gives salvation and peace – even in death!


This child was also set for Mary’s falling and rising. She had to learn that she had a son, yet she did not have Him. He really had her. Sometimes when she made ordinary claims of motherhood – Jesus corrected her. To receive the sign of her Son meant Mary suffered loss – a piercing sword. She was pierced by His teaching that blood relationships give way to the new family of His Church (Luke 8:19-21). Luke deliberately connects Mary’s purification to Christ’s consecration for she was purified by her Son as are all the saints. As the thoughts of her heart were revealed she felt the sharp pain of His preaching and teaching as well as the pain of seeing Him crucified. Yet when a sword went through Mary she was raised up by the Messiah. After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension she was with the disciples in Jerusalem waiting in faith for the pouring out of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14) that He had promised.


Dear Christians – when God deals with us in Christ it is always a falling and rising – or it is a falling only (in judgment).  People are lost only by being too high to receive Jesus’ lowliness and the salvation He brings. When God deals with us in Jesus – the thoughts of our hearts are revealed!  What a lowly mess is there – the scheming and self-honoring and sluggishness – the judging and grudging and not budging – the worrying and whining and not waiting for the Lord – the lusting and longing and lack of joyful gratitude – the coveting and controlling and even cruel thoughts. Simeon’s thoughts were not perfect, but they were directed to the promise and the presence of the Messiah. He was directed by the Holy Spirit to Christ in the flesh - an infant boy - an unlikely sign.


Today Christ’s own words disclose the unlikely signs where He hides His salvation and peace. “Baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3) He sent His apostle Peter to preach. And so today little Jack Patrick Robert – sees God’s salvation and actually receives it. That gift comes with a battle as Jack’s parents will want him to learn by heart. What does such baptizing with water indicate?  It indicates that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned with all sins and evil lusts (one cannot fall farther than daily drowning oneself in repentance) and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise, who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever (one can’t be raised farther than that). The battle is on, but make no mistake, today Jack Patrick Robert is clothed in Christ (Gal 3:27) and he is ready to depart this life in peace.


So are you for God is faithful to His promises!  Everything required by the Torah of the Lord - Jesus has done!  You cannot fall beneath His reach!  You are not required to pull yourself up to a level high enough for God to deal with you!  Jesus comes down to you in the flesh – under all of your sin and wins victories not by exercising power but by His redeeming love. And coming up at that very hour she (Anna) began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. No sacrificial lambs are noted in the temple on the day Jesus was presented. That is because the real Lamb was there – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Do you really think that the list of sin that your thoughts reveal goes beyond Him?  Dear Christian – His love for you is stronger than death - strong and steadfast and Spirit given! 


This second sign points to the opposition He faced all the way to the cross – and the opposition to God’s grace throughout human history. The culmination of this second sign occurred just a thousand yards from this temple at a place called Golgotha. There Jesus’ body was lifted up not by the caring hands of Simeon but by the crucifying hands of Roman soldiers. Since the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil…Jesus finished the destruction of Satan’s accusing power in His Sacrificial death and rose again as the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1).


It is the risen Lord who commanded that you be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Act 2:38). You are baptized into His death (Romans 6) (falling with Him) and born again to a living hope through His resurrection (1 Peter 1) (raised with Him). Furthermore, Jesus’ own words disclose what is hidden in the sign of bread and wine – His holy body – His holy blood – for you – for your forgiveness, life and salvation. While you can never be sure of a dream or a feeling or someone saying “God spoke to me in a special way,” you can be absolutely sure that He speaks to you in His Son – the Word made flesh – and the signs to which He has connected His promise. The Holy Spirit will not lie to you. There is no halo here on the altar for all to see just like there was no halo over the child in the temple!  There is here the certain word of the Holy Spirit directing you to the presence and provision of the Messiah – to be received in faith!


Like Simeon and Anna you’re waiting too!  Your life is incomplete!  There is restlessness to your days that no earthly change or improvement will satisfy!   A college degree won’t do it!  More pay won’t do it!  Better health won’t complete it!  Furthermore as Jesus and the Holy Spirit reveal the thoughts of your heart you don’t like what you see. It causes you to fall – at least it should!  Love for God above all things – where is that thought at the top of each day and all through the days?  Love for your neighbor as for yourself – why does that thought flee away so quickly when someone disagrees with you?  Love for your enemies – isn’t that asking way too much?  How will you ever come out ahead if you don’t hammer them and get revenge?


Thank God for these two saints in the shadows – Simeon and Anna – just watching and praying and waiting for the Lord. Thank God for the firstborn Son of Mary presented that day in the temple. In Him, God now calls you the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven (Hebrew 12:23). That’s how far He raises those who know they are fallen. In Him God gathers the weary and heavy laden – those who despair of themselves and what this world can ultimately give – like you – and gives you rest.


Simeon’s beautiful words are also yours in Christ. You are “set free” to depart this life in peace. Therefore you are also free live today with joyful purpose. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a