Monday, January 27, 2014

And Simeon Blessed Them

Life of Christ 10

          According to Simeon (Luke 2.25-35) Jesus was salvation. We've seen this already in His name, specifically mandated by two different angelic messages. Now we see it clearly and emphatically again, when He is just six weeks old, pronounced by a saintly, Holy Spirit filled prophet of God. We must never lose sight of this. Being our redeemer is not all that Jesus is, but it is how we first come to know Him, and it is an aspect of His life that is both enormous and exceedingly precious to all of God's people.
          According to Simeon Jesus was prepared. Another very old man, John, would later say that Jesus was the Lamb (there it is again) slain before the world was ever created (Revelation 13.8). Every little detail of Jesus' life was planned and thought out ahead of time. Matthew reveals this so wonderfully in his gospel as he again and again points the Jew to the myriad of prophecies that Jesus' life fulfilled. Jesus Christ was not an accidental coincidence. His life and work was long prepared by His Heavenly Father.
          According to Simeon Jesus was specifically aimed at the Gentiles. When you learn to grasp an understanding of how deeply racist the Jews were in the time of Christ you begin to appreciate how amazing this aspect of Simeon's blessing is. Rabbinism was not monolithic, but in regards to its attitude toward the Gentiles it was. Even Hillel and Shammai, two great teachers and leaders of rival rabbinic  schools, agreed on eighteen specific decrees intended to separate the Jew from all contact with the unclean Gentiles. For instance, an orthodox Jew must take a bath on returning home from the public market in case his clothes had touched a Gentile in the crowd. To the Sadducees, these customs so bordered on the inane that 'soon they would think it necessary to wash the sun' because its rays shone as well upon the Gentiles.
          By Jesus’ time, the Jews had suffered grievously, in turn, under the hands of Babylon, Greece, Egypt, and Syria. Their current oppressor, Rome, was the mightiest empire the world had ever seen. This was especially galling for an ethnicity which claimed supremacy over every other people group in the world (Gentiles). Their concept of the Messiah included nothing of Him reaching out to offer the mercy and forgiveness of God to the Gentiles. They had in mind more of a calling down of fire and brimstone kind of thing, as the Gentiles finally and permanently accepted their place as inferiors in a world ruled by the Jews from Jerusalem.
          Yet, in spite of all this, we have a prophecy given by Simeon that Jesus' ministry would 'lighten the Gentiles' (Luke 2.32). I, for one, am deeply glad, for as an American of the Heinz 57 variety with an extra dash of Irish, it is a great blessing to me that I can come to Christ without having to jump through the hoops of orthodox Judaism. I cannot imagine how bleak the mathematical probability statistics would be that the largest religion in the world in our day would be one established by an assassinated Jewish carpenter that lived 2000 years ago. But it is. Simeon was right.
          Additionally, according to Simeon, Jesus was Israel's glory. No, they certainly do not glory in Him as yet, but only twenty centuries have passed. Before time stops Israel will come to the place of willingly accepting that her chief glory is to be found in her son, Jesus Christ. This speaks, of course, to the yet future Second Coming, the blessed hope of every true Christian, and the sure and certain wonderful end to which we are looking. If you think His first coming was amazing just wait until you see what He will do in the second.
          Simeon also said that Jesus would bring both destruction and rebuilding. He has done and will do that to Israel nationally. Her rejection of Jesus as the Christ, completed in Matthew 12 and rubber stamped at the Crucifixion, resulted in her complete and utter destruction at the hands of Rome between AD 70 and AD 130. For almost 2000 years she ceased to exist as a national entity as a result of that rejection. But just as her rejection of Christ destroyed her so her acceptance of Him as Messiah during the Tribulation period will restore her, and restore her to a greater fullness and glory than she has ever seen in her history.
          This is also true personally as well. Every person who comes to Christ for salvation must come humbly, with his concept of himself and his own goodness absolutely destroyed. That destruction of our sin nature continues until we finally rise again in moral perfection. 'This child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel' (Luke 2.34).
          Simeon also foretold that Jesus would be greatly criticized, 'a sign which shall be spoken against.' No one person in human history has been more mocked, derided, scorned, abhorred, defied, despised, disdained, hated, rejected, repudiated, ridiculed, shunned, spurned, and taunted. Again, this is something that the prevailing wisdom of the day regarding the Messiah would never have dreamed up, yet it was completely accurate.
          Further, Simeon told Mary, not unkindly I think, that this baby boy would bring her great pain. Over the next thirty years she would watch her son live a perfect life. She would watch Him help so many, many people. She would also have to watch Him gradually become universally scorned by the powers that be. She would experience and hear of constant attempts on His life. Finally, she would stand in heartbroken horror, and watch Him die the vicious death of a hoodlum, nailed to a tree (John 19.25). Mary gets a great deal of justified commendation, but she paid a terrible price.
          Lastly, Simeon presciently stated that our reaction to Jesus Christ reveals our hearts. As you read this blog I obviously have no idea of your name, your age, your educational level, your bank account totals, your hobbies, or your dog's name, but I can tell you exactly who you are – because who you are is completely revealed by what you think of Jesus Christ. Do you reject Him? You are a proud sinner, secure in a conceited sense of your own invulnerability, destined for a fall from which you cannot recover. Do you accept Him? You are a humble sinner, contrite and heartbroken over that sin, one who has cast himself for his only hope on the mercy of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
          You aren't what your business cards says you are. You aren't what your friends think you are. You aren't what your neighbors are afraid you are. You aren't what your mirror tells you that you are. You aren't what your bank account says. You aren't your praise me wall. You aren't a sum of your past disasters. You aren't a collection of multitudes. You aren't an ethnicity. You aren't a gender. You aren't an age. You aren't a jock or a nerd or a pretty boy or a stoner. You are your reaction to the claims of Jesus Christ.

If you would like to listen to the audio sermon that accompanies this blog post you may find it here on our church website. Press 'launch media player' and choose We Preach Christ 4, 'And Simeon Blessed Them.'

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