AN EXPOSITION OF LUKE 2:22-24
22 And when the days of her purification according to the Law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;
23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.
24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
In the third American presidential debates of the election year 2004 both candidates were asked about the place of religion in their lives. President George Bush made it very plain that religion is important to him. “I pray” he said. “I pray a lot.” And then, guided by prayer, the president went on to say that his faith expressed itself in legislative policies such as encouraging churches and charitable organization to help people in their communities so that government does not have to be so heavily involved in people’s lives.
Faith is not something that is to be practiced in private. Faith is to be an integral part of daily life. It might sound politically correct to argue that government officials must not, and should not, legislate morality. Usually that argument is set forth when controversial issues are being discussed such as homosexuality and abortion. The truth of the matter is that western law is rooted in religion. In the Supreme Court, above the bench where the judges hand down their verdicts, there is a mural of Moses carrying the Ten Commandments. Though not allowed to be displayed on many pieces of federal property, the Ten Commandments are the cornerstone of society.
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shall not steal.
Thou shall not bear false witness.
Honor thy father and thy mother.
Thou shalt not covet.
These are some of the foundational principles that guide this nation. Faith cannot be divorced from daily living, nor should it be. For Mary and Joseph, faith moved them from the manger scene to the holy temple, where they went to fulfill the demand of the Mosaic Law for a sacrifice to be made for their baby.
Having rendered unto Caesar the things that were Caesars, they were now going to give to God the things that were His.
Many centuries before God had declared “Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord” (Luke 2:23).
An appropriate sacrifice was to be given. The poor could offer “A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons”. (Lev. 14:22) And that is what Mary and Joseph offered. Having made their way from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph were determined to keep the faith.
They would obey the law. They would go to the Temple and have Jesus circumcised, for Christ was born under the law. Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law 5 to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”
Later, as an adult, Jesus would be charged with breaking the Law, but that was a false accusation. Jesus never broke the Moral Law of God, and He always complied with civil, and ceremonial codices as well.
The principle is not to be over looked, that saving faith consistently produces a life of gospel obedience. Faith is not something to be put in a drawer, and brought out on the weekends, or special occasions. Faith is to guide our behavior, our speech, and our life. The gospel writer James says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:26)
While a person is saved by grace through faith alone, saving faith does not come to the heart alone, for good works always accompanies it.
The concern of many today centers on a conscious disconnect between the rhetoric of salvation, and the reality of daily life.
With so many professing believers, why is our Christian culture still saturated with the acceptance of homosexuality, the tolerance of abortion, personal involvement in local acts of gambling, the breakup of the home, and the lack of support of religious worship services?
If the truth were told, there is a need for more authentic Christianity, as individuals first examine themselves to see if they are in the sphere of faith, and then commit themselves afresh to practicing a vital religion. Mary and Joseph, making their way to Jerusalem when Jesus was only eight days old, testifies to a deep commitment to keeping the faith. No doubt Mary was still in pain from the ordeal of her labor in childbirth.
No doubt the young couple were weary from traveling from Nazareth, to Bethlehem, and then to Jerusalem. And on top of all of that, they did not have much money. Nevertheless, faith spurred them on to good works, and gospel obedience. Their faith sustained them in these difficult days.
Faith was the essence of their lives, not just an abstract addition. Oh that the Church today might have such vital faith in her members.
Where is the modern spiritual warrior that will cry out, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” (Judges 7:20). Where is the Joshua who will say, “But as for me and my house we will serve the Lord?” (Josh. 24:15). Where is the man of God who will cry out, “Give me this mountain” (Josh. 14:12). Where is the heart that is more concerned for gospel truth than the next fun program? Where is the family that wants to worship together? Where is the faith of a Mary, or a Joseph, that transforms the life and renders to God the things that are His?
25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
As Mary and Joseph were turning to leave the Temple area with the baby Jesus, an old man suddenly approached them. He was a devout man who knew the Scriptures, for he had been looking for The Consolation of Israel. The Consolation of Israel is one of many names the Scripture give to Christ. Isaiah said His name would be called, “Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). The Angel said His name would be called “Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Simeon called him, “The Consolation of Israel.”
What a lovely name that is, for it speaks of a particular ministry Christ would give to others. In the book of Acts there was a disciple named Joses, but his heart was so kind and his actions so gracious, his friends changed his name to Barnabas, which means, “Son of consolation” (Acts 4:36).
In the years to come, Jesus would be the greatest Son of Consolation. Jesus would give hope to the hopeless. He would restore sight to the blind. He would feed the hungry. But best of all, Christ would show the way of eternal salvation to men such as Simeon who were looking for The Consolation of Israel.
26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
Simeon was looking for the Messiah because he knew the promises of God. In particular, there was the prophetic promise given to Daniel, that within 490 years the Messiah would come.
The centuries passed. Many people longed to see the Messiah. To each generation God said no. But then came the generation in which Simeon lived. Like so many others, he had prayed and asked God to allow him to see the Savior, and this time the Father said, “I will let you live to see the Consolation of Israel. I will let you see My salvation.” Then the wonderful moment came.
27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
In the providence of God, while Mary and Joseph were in the temple, Simeon also entered into the temple. God the Holy Ghost was guiding him (Luke 2:27). It is possible to be guided by God the Holy Spirit, just as it is possible to be guided by a demonic spirit, or the spirit of the world, or by fleshly impulses. The life is most blessed, when, like Simeon, the Holy Spirit indwells the heart, instructs the mind, and guides behavior.
Simeon is not one of the better-known people in the Bible, but in the annals of heaven his name has the highest honor. On the day that Jesus was being circumcised, on the day that Mary and Joseph were honoring God with humble sacrifices, the Holy Spirit whispered to Simeon’s heart.
“Yes Lord? Speak, your servant is listening.”
“Simeon, I have promised you that you would not die before you have seen the Messiah.”
“Thank you Father. I have prayed that I would see the Christ.”
“Simeon, the child is here. He is in Jerusalem. Go to the Temple right now and you will find Him.”
The heart of Simeon must have leaped for joy at the news. Without a moment’s loss he arose, and with haste made his way to the temple. Simeon had been to the temple many times before, but now he went with a renewed purpose. He was going to see the Lord.
If that spirit of Simeon’s could be captured in the Church, it would revolutionize the way people come to worship. If the heart could only say, “I am going to see the Lord”, then it would not matter so much about proper fun programs. It would not matter so much about the attendance, or if the building is attractive or not. It would not matter if it is hot or cold. All that matters would be to see Christ. So Simeon went to church with a heart of faith. He entered into the porticoes where circumcisions were conducted. And then he saw Mary and Joseph. In the arms of Mary was the baby Jesus.
28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
Of all the people, with all the children Simeon, led by the Holy Spirit, saw the young couple. Carefully, Simeon went up to them.
“Excuse me”, said Simeon.
Mary and Joseph paused. They were surprised. Who was this stranger? What did he want?
“May I see your babe?”
Simeon asked with humble, but holy boldness. Mary and Joseph perceived this man was no one to fear, and so they smiled and handed the child to Simeon, who took baby Jesus in his arms, and blessed God, and said, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).
Time would confirm the prophetic blessing of Simeon to be accurate. Jesus would be the salvation of His people. He would go and prepare them a place in heaven. He would be a light to the Gentiles, as well as the Jews. And he would be a glory to all Israel, which spiritually speaking refers to any Jew, and any Gentile who professes faith in Christ as the Messiah.
33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. 34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
As Simeon was handing the babe Jesus back to Mary, the Holy Spirit suddenly gave him a word of prophecy.
“Mary,” said Simeon, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
The words of Simeon sounded ominous. Mary would never forget them. In the years to come, she would ponder them carefully. And when it was the time for Calvary, as Mary stood beneath the cross with Jesus nailed there, it is possible she remembered these words. The agony of watching Jesus die was like a sword piercing her own heart. What is to be made of the narrative of the dedication of Jesus? The following practical points can be observed.
First, a life lived in the will of God is the best life possible. It is not the easiest way to live, but it is the best of all ways to live. From time to time people ask me if the Christian religion is true. I believe it is, and if it is not, it is still the grandest of all ideas in the annuals of mortal man.
Second, gospel obedience is not easy, but duty demands it. Going to work day after day, year after year becomes tedious, but duty demands it. Cleaning the house, washing the dishes, sorting the laundry is boring, but duty demands it. Bathing and brushing of the teeth, and taking care of personal hygiene is challenging, but duty demands it. Being faithful to worship is not easy, but duty demands it.
Third, the reward of faith is to see the Lord. One reason why some people experiment with various forms of religion, or move from one doctrinal belief to another, is because they are seeking the Lord. If the Lord is not found by sight perhaps He can be found by emotion. I once read a church advertisement about a Reformed Charismatic church. The goal, no doubt, was to integrate the best of the Pentecostal world, with the best of the Reformed faith.
I do not fault that attempt. I just say again, God will reward His people. They will see Christ. There will be a meeting with the divine. “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13).
Fourth, there is a day of dedication. I believe parents should dedicate their children to the Lord as soon after birth as possible as the children of Israel did, and as Hannah did with Samuel. I believe Christian young people should dedicate themselves to Christian service, and life of holiness. I believe Christian adults should dedicate their bodies, heart, and soul to the will of God (Rom. 12:1-2).
Finally, there is a day of discovery. One special day Simeon found the Lord. May God grant grace to each of us to find the Lord. Amen.