Pastor Edward Brouwer 12-31-2017 “Looking for Jesus” (our apologies for the break in sound toward the end, power outage)
Three years ago Glenda and I and our daughter Rachel had the privilege of visiting the Holy Land. One of the important historical sites in Jerusalem, which is a must see for visitors is the Temple Mount. For Jews, Christians and Muslims this site is revered as holy. I remember going through security, which was very tight—tourists had to be modestly dressed. You had a sense of awe as you walked onto the site. The beautiful golden dome of the Dome of the Rock was built in the 7th Century and is reported to be cover the top of Mount Moriah, where Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac. Where David encountered the Angel of the Lord and subsequently built an altar, after he bought the threshing floor from Araunah the Jebusite—and famously said to Araunah (when he offered the spot to king David for free): “I will not offer to the Lord that which cost me nothing”. And where later Solomon built a magnificent Temple, and after the Babylonian destruction of the city and temple, the Exiles returned and rebuilt it. After which yet again King Herod, beginning in 19BC transformed the entire complex into what it was during Christ’s lifetime. Why were we up on the temple mount? What were we looking for? So many stories of the faith had taken place on this very spot. Like so many others we were retracing the steps of men and women of faith in the past in the hopes of having a spiritual experience. Imagining what it must have been like when Abraham, Isaac, David, Solomon, Paul, Jesus and the disciples walked on that very place. Somewhere nearby on this Temple Court 2000 years ago an old man took the baby Jesus in his arms and pronounced a blessing and prophetic word about the Messiah. Today we look at his Song of Praise Nunc Dimittis from the Latin “Now May Thy Servant Depart”.
Read Luke 2:22-38
What is Luke doing in these first chapters of his gospel? Luke has put together events and stories from eyewitness accounts that he began gathering when he travelled with Paul during his missionary journeys in the late 40 and 50’s AD. Luke travels to Jerusalem for the council in 49 and some surmise that he did a lot of his information gathering at that time. So much of the information here in this story would have come from Mary herself (in her 70’s) even as Luke writes “and Mary treasured up all these things in her heart and pondered them in her heart”. But don’t miss the point Luke is making! Jesus is the long promised Messiah, the Lord God himself, Immanuel, God with us, God coming to rescue His people. And not just Israel but the gentiles too! We see that with Simeon’s words. But let’s examine those words in a moment. First who is Simeon?
Simeon is an old man, devout and righteous. The Holy Spirit is with him and he has been waiting for the “consolation of Israel” the ”coming of Messianic comfort” (the Greek word here is Parakelsis—Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Paraklete). Simeon is standing in a long tradition of Prophets and he has the Holy Spirit with him. At some point, it has been revealed to him, perhaps in a dream or vision or simply spiritual knowledge that he would not die before seeing the Lord’s Christ—the Messiah.
I wonder how many times Simeon came to the temple mount in full anticipation of seeing the messiah that day? On this particular day the Lord brought everything together. Put yourself in his shoes for a moment. The crowds are bustling on the Temple Court and then he sees this young couple and their baby. What are they doing there anyway? Mary and Joseph have made the trip from Bethlehem and are arriving on the 40th day after Jesus’ birth to fulfill the Law. What Law? The Law of purification. That every male firstborn child belongs to the Lord in a special way. A replacement offering is made, a spotless lamb is required according to Leviticus 12. But if the couple is poor then 2 turtledoves will suffice. The priest takes the first dove, wrings its neck and pours out the blood on the altar—a life for a life—pointing toward the sacrifice of a spotless lamb that takes away the sin of the world. The second dove is offered as a thank offering—a whole burnt offering—of thanksgiving for the safe delivery of the child and the mother (for childbirth was truly perilous for the mother and often a child would not survive). And the Spirit speaks in Simeon’s heart: that’s the one! He goes over to them and takes the baby in his arms. What does he say?
“Now let your servant depart in peace because you have fulfilled your promise”. Imagine this tender moment. Like a father holding his child for the first time—in awe and wonder. But so MUCH more because Simeon believes in his heart, by the Spirit’s revelation, that this is the Messiah.
He says: This child means salvation for everyone! A light of revelation to the gentiles and the glory of your people Israel.
Don’t miss that this prophet is telling everyone: This baby will grow up and reveal God to all people. When Simeon looked into the face of Jesus He was seeing the exact likeness of God in the flesh. As Paul could write to the Corinthians in 2 Cor. 4:6 “God who said ‘Light shall shine out of darkness’ has shown in our hearts, to give light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus”.
Simeon goes on now, addressing Mary: this child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, a sign that is opposed, so the thoughts from many hearts will be revealed. Make no mistake about what this means: Jesus Christ will say “I am the Way the Truth and the Life: no one comes to the Father but by me”. And many would be offered or laugh! As Paul would say of so many “this claim to be God in the flesh will be a stumbling block to the Jews and Folly to the Gentiles”. In terms of true life, the life that Jesus promises to give all who believe in Him, Jesus is the name upon which people will rise or fall. Everything is riding on what we believe about Jesus. For there is no other name under heaven by which we shall be saved (Acts 4:12)
Simeon went to the Temple Mount for encounter with Jesus. Have you had an encounter with Jesus? Or are you still looking? Jesus invites you not just to an initial encounter but a daily encounter. Are you longing for more of Jesus? Jesus invites you. What Temple Mount are you waiting at for the answers to your life? The World tells us to look in the mirror. You want answers? Look within it says! But it’s a lie. Because we will never be able to fix our own problems. We are in a fix and we can’t fix it! The gospel tells us we need a Savior. And the gospel shows us Jesus, who comes to us and redeems us. Now we are his.
As you look in the mirror peering into ‘18 may I challenge you?
Rest—rest in Jesus that He is your hope and salvation. That He has already won your victory by redeeming you.
Rejoice—in the new life you have, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Get your heart up in Jesus. Ask Him to fill your heart with his Spirit each day—Jesus said: “you have not because you ask not!“ Ask Jesus to lavish the fruit of His Spirit upon you. Love and Joy are the start of that fruitful spirit life.
Recount—just like Simeon, speak with boldness and conviction to everyone who will listen, your spouse if married, your children, your parents, friends and colleagues that Jesus is for you the Lord.