May the Holy Spirit be with us today, so that we hear with our ears, believe with our hearts, and have ever increasing confidence in Jesus, our great God and Savior. Amen.
Remember who you are. Did you parents ever tell you that? Mine did. I remember my Dad telling me that before I left the house with friends on a Friday night. Remember who you are. That was his way of saying, “Don’t do what you know is wrong, even if your friends are doing it. You’re a follower of Christ, act like it.”
Our Bible reading for today takes us back one more step. It says, Christian, don’t just remember who YOU are, remember who JESUS is.
Luke 2:21-40 (NIV)
21On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.
22When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord” ), 24and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
25Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
33The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
39When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.
First let’s talk a little about what Mary and Joseph were doing here at the Temple.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, they waited for eight days. On the eighth day the baby was named “Jesus” in connection with His circumcision. That was the custom of the Jews. You named the baby on the eighth day when you circumcised him (See also Luke 1:59 for the account of John the baptizer being named on his circumcision day).
After that, Mary and Joseph stayed in Bethlehem. God’s worship law stated that a mother was ceremonially unclean for forty days after her son had been born. Only after that time could she go to the Temple and offer certain sacrifices of cleansing which would enable her to join in the Temple worship once more.
When Mary and Joseph had waited the allotted time, they traveled the five miles from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, to the Temple, for Mary’s cleansing.
They also went to present Jesus to the LORD. Ever since God had rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, He said that every firstborn in Israel was His. Both human and animal. The first born animals were sacrificed at the Temple, or sometimes they were purchased with a lamb. If you had a horse or something you wanted that was a first born, you could give a lamb in its place.
Human first-borns were never sacrificed, but had to be presented to the LORD at the Temple. They were thus dedicated to Him for the course of their lives.
As followers of Jehovah, Mary and Joseph wanted to do all that God’s worship law said to do concerning their newborn Child. So, off to the Temple they went.
Things had cooled down a little bit for Joseph and Mary in that month after Jesus’ birth. There were no more angels visiting Joseph in his dreams. No more angels appearing to Mary. No more armies of angels bringing in the local herdsmen to visit. There was rest for Mary and healing. And for Joseph, there was probably looking for work in the little town of Bethlehem. He had to feed his family after all, and they weren’t exactly independently wealthy.
So, things had slowed down a bit, and the miracles had stopped altogether. But that was about to change. Mary and Joseph were about to be reminded again who this Baby was.
We might think, They didn’t really need to be reminded who Jesus was. How could they forget? And for that matter, we don’t really need to be reminded who Jesus is. How could we forget?
Well, we do forget. We forget who Jesus is when we doubt something he’s said. If we look at one of Jesus’ teachings in the Bible and think, “Well that’s old fashioned, I don’t need to listen to that”. Then we’re forgetting that Jesus is the Son of God. He has perfect wisdom and unlimited resources to draw from.
We forget who Jesus is when we doubt His ability to make things turn out right. When we insisted that everything hangs on what we do or don’t do, and refuse to give our worries over to God in prayer. Then we are forgetting who Jesus is.
Most frightening of all, we forget who Jesus is when we doubt God’s forgiveness, as if something we have done could be too sinful for Christ’s sacrifice to cover.
Our sinfulness clouds our mind, and the Devil tempts us to forget who Jesus is. But God has given us the antidote to a failing memory. The Bible. When our faith is weak, we need to simply return HERE to see Jesus in action. To listen to His ideas expressed in His own words. To remember who He is.
When Mary and Joseph went to present Baby Jesus at the Temple, they were reminded who this Child is by a miracle. A man named Simeon approached them in the Temple. The Holy Spirit had told this man that he would not die before he saw the Savior with his own eyes. And on that day, that same Holy Spirit had moved Simeon to come to the Temple. When he saw Baby Jesus, the Spirit made it clear that this was the Child. This was the Messiah.
Simeon’s words of praise amazed Mary and Joseph. And then Anna approached also. This 84 year old woman praised God for their Child as well.
Does it sound strange that Mary and Joseph should be surprised by any of this after all they had experienced to this date? Don’t be surprised. We are just like them. We’re used to operating in the natural world. We do not understand or accept the supernatural easily. In fact, without the Holy Spirit, we can’t understand the supernatural at all.
Simeon understood that this Child was supernatural. That this Child was the Christ, because the Holy Spirit revealed that truth to him. And that wasn’t all that the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon.
Sometimes the people around Jesus seem really thick headed. The disciples seem to forget the miracles of Jesus almost immediately. They fear for their lives and wonder where their next meal is going to come from even after seeing Jesus walk on water, still the storm and feed the 5,000. They are terrified to see Jesus crucified even though He told them exactly how He was going to die on a number of occasions.
But Simeon and Anna don’t seem thick at all do they? Not only do they praise the Baby Jesus, they identify the right reason why He should be praised.
Verse 25 says that Simeon was “waiting for the consolation of Israel”. He was waiting for the Savior from sin that God promised to send. The Christ. And when He finally sees and holds this child, he says,
“…My eyes have seen your salvation,” (Luke 2:30 NIV).
And when Anna goes to spread the word, the Bible says she told…
“…all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).
Consolation. Salvation. Redemption. In other words: comfort, defense, buying sinners back.
This is what Simeon and Anna are excited about, this Baby is their Savior from sin. He is here to comfort everyone who sees the hopelessness of their own sinful condition. He is here to defend the followers of God from the Devil. He is here to buy back all who are in slavery to sin.
Jesus would do all these things on the Cross of Calvary when He suffered hell in our place. Simeon and Anna probably didn’t understand that much detail concerning His work of salvation, but they understood this was all about forgiveness. This was about being restored to God.
In fact, Simeon says that now he’s ready to die. Now that he’s seen the Savior just like God promised he would, now he’s good to go. But it sounds like even more than that, it sounds like he wants to die. He’s excited at the idea of leaving this world with the Christ Child’s face still fresh on his mind.
This is the state of mind we want to cultivate. Such a clear and simple trust in Christ that we can say, “I’m good to go, Lord. You just say the word. I’ll stay here as long as you’ve got work for me to do, but I’m ready to step out of here any time you want.”
That’s how Paul felt. Turn to Philippians 1, verse 21. There Paul says…
“21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.
27Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel 28without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God” (Philippians 1:21-28)
Paul trusted that God would take care of His friends if he was gone. Paul believed that being with Jesus would be far better than any joy this side of heaven. And when Paul had Jesus so fresh in His mind, he was more than ready to leave this world – just like Simeon.
Their confidence, both Paul’s and Simeon’s, sprung from their remembering who Jesus is.
At the beginning of our mediation today, I mentioned my Dad telling me “remember who you are”. I said that was his way of saying, “You’re a follower of Christ, act like it.” Christians, the only way to remember who we are, is to remember who Jesus is.
He’s the sinless Son of God, who gave His life for us. His life isn’t merely a perfect pattern for us to imitate, His life is the perfect righteousness that swallows up our sin forever.
Remember who He is. Son of God. Savior. Then you’ll remember who you are. One of the people He saved.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.