Vol. 10 — No. 2 January 12, 1969
And Joseph and his mother marveled at those things which were spoken of him. 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; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
In Christ Jesus, THE CHILD presented unto the Lord in the temple, Fellow Redeemed:
“And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger.” Luke 2:16.Those familiar words tell us what the shepherds saw when they arrived in Bethlehem—a babe lying in a manger. But as they gazed, they realized that they were looking upon more than an ordinary newborn infant, for what other child’s birth had ever been announced in such a glorious fashion by messengers from heaven?
On the eighth day the Child was circumcised and formally received His name. This rite had been performed in Jewish homes for centuries. The Child JESUS was one of many, yet one by himself.
On the fortieth day He was taken to the temple, where His mother performed her purification rites and where He was presented unto the Lord. It was then that Simeon took the Baby Jesus from the arms of His mother and spoke most amazing words, calling this Baby “the salvation of the Lord,” “a Light to lighten the Gentiles,” and “the Glory of His people Israel.” What potential Simeon saw in that little Child! Our text begins immediately after the first prophetic utterance of Simeon. It records the surprise and amazement of Joseph and Mary over the words spoken by Simeon concerning the Baby Jesus. Then Simeon spoke on, and then St. Luke tells us about aged Anna and finally he makes a simple statement about the development of the Child. What impression does one get from this sacred account? He can express it in this way:
Simeon had something more to say—something extremely important. He attracted the attention of Joseph and Mary with a “Behold,” and then continued, “this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel.” Those words were at once ominous and hopeful. What they meant soon became apparent when the wise men came searching for the newborn King of the Jews. The whole city should have shouted for joy. Instead all the people were troubled. Some thirty years later their being troubled was converted into shrieks of “Away with Him, Crucify Him.” Many fell in unbelief before Him. Then came Pentecost, and many learned to rise in faith, acclaiming Him as Lord and Savior. So it has been ever since: the multitudes fall in unbelief before Him, the few rise on wings of faith to eternal heights. No one can remain neutral when confronted by Christ. All either fall in unbelief or rise in faith! What are you experiencing? A falling or a rising?
The words of Simeon present another profile of the Child—
The Child would become “a sign which shall be spoken against.” In our adult Sunday School class we have been studying the harmony of the Gospels. We have found that as Jesus began to proclaim the Kingdom of God and as He gradually assumed stances that were contrary to the false religious stance of the religious establishment of His day, the opposition developed. He was finally branded as one who was permanently possessed of Beelzebub himself. All His mighty words and signs were explained away by saying that He was under the direct influence of Satan. That opposition developed and grew in intensity until it could be satisfied by nothing less than murder.
So it has continued to this day. The books that have been written against the Christchild would fill libraries. In our modern day we are witnessing this that the Very Christian churches, who bear His name, are making Him a Sign spoken against. When church leaders and the laity deny the virgin birth of the Child, repudiate His divinity, reject His Word as the inerrant Word of God, substitute their own moral efforts for the salvation He came into this world to prepare and give to man—then church people are fulfilling the ancient prophecy of Simeon and making Him a Sign spoken against. May the Lord preserve us from becoming partakers of their evil deeds!
The words of Simeon present yet another profile of that Child—
“Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also.” These words were spoken to Mary. They found their fulfillment when Mary stood beneath the cross and watched as her Son poured out His life’s blood. If you pause for a moment to think about the persecution that Christ and His Word and His congregation of believers has experienced down through the ages, you can begin to feel the thrust of that sword. When believers are ridiculed for confessing the Word of the Lord, Jesus is ridiculed. When men of the world and of the church mutilate the Word of the Lord, Christ is crucified anew. What pain this causes true believers! It is as though they had been thrust through with a sword.
When these things happen, as they continually do, then this Child becomes—
“Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” The thoughts in the heart of Judas were revealed that night when he betrayed his Lord and Master. The next afternoon the thoughts of Nicodemus, who had been so afraid of confessing Jesus for almost three years, were also revealed. So it is! When the Child Jesus confronts you with any specific word of His book, the Bible, that will reveal your obedience or disobedience, your faith or unbelief, your love or hate, your desire to be master of the Lord or your willingness to become His humble slave. We have in this congregation witnessed the revealing of the thoughts of many hearts-some turning away from the Lord because His words were found to be a “hard saying” and others coming from afar because they were drawn by those same words of the Lord. He can deceive men, but sooner or later the Lord will reveal the thoughts of everyone’s hearts.
Simeon was finished with his speaking. Then there came an aged widow, possibly one hundred and five years old. Luke tells us that aged, God-fearing Anna “coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord,” and in so doing she revealed another profile of the Child—
Anna joined the shepherds in giving thanks for the gift of salvation that she knew was being sent from heaven to earth in the Christchild. She became one of many who throughout the ages have been moved by that Child to give thanks unto the Lord.
A person who has stuffed himself with rich foods to such an extent that he is uncomfortable will find it hard to be thankful for the food that makes him so uncomfortable. But a hungry person, an undernourished person, a person on the point of starvation cannot but be thankful for nourishing food. The rich, the people who have everything and who are satiated with the possession of things, can only be bored with getting yet something more. But the poor, who lack the necessities of life, will be ever so thankful for shelter from the cold, clothing to cover their nakedness, food to fill their stomachs. So it is also in spiritual things. Those who imagine themselves to be rich spiritually He sends empty away. They feel no need for the salvation the Lord has brought. The spiritually satiated turn away from the Lord, for they have their fill. But the poor in spirit and those that hunger and thirst after righteousness—they find what they need and want in Christ. And having found that, they are moved to respond with thanksgiving. One leper returned to thank the Lord, for He found in addition to healing for his miserable body a healing from the wounds that his sin had inflicted upon his soul. Christmas is for sinners. Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners. God grant that you and I are sinners who have found righteousness and forgiveness in Him. If we are among such, we shall find it so natural to join Anna and Simeon and the shepherds in praising and thanking God, for that Child is the One who moves to thanksgiving.
Such thanksgiving also takes the form of testifying. Anna gave thanks, but she also “spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” Here we have the profile of that Child as—
Do you find it difficult to tell someone about what you received for Christmas? If you were disappointed, you might experience some difficulty. But if you got what you wanted and really like, you probably just hope someone will ask you, so that you get a chance to tell them all about it.
Do you experience difficulty in talking to Your children, your relatives or friends, your neighbors or strangers about the Lord Jesus? Maybe He doesn’t mean enough to you. If you have found Him to be the pearl without price, the Solution to your problem of sin, a spiritual gyroscope to keep you on an even keel in your life, re-assurance stronger than any fear, hope when the going get rough, life when life is ebbing away, then you should experience no difficulty in talking about Him to others. A good salesman is convinced that his product is the best. A good witness for Christ is convinced that He, and only He, is the Light of the world, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Yet another profile is brought to view by the words of St. Luke, “And when they had performed all things according to the law.” We see Him as—
This may not mean as much to you as it should, but it will when you consider that you and I are obligated to fulfill the Law of God. If we cannot and do not, we are accursed by that same Law. The fact of the matter is that we cannot and do not keep God’s Law. That means that we are accursed. The only escape that we have is to plead another’s fulfillment of the Law. That “Other One” is Jesus Christ. When He was circumcised, He was put under the Law. He was obligated and He obligated Himself to fulfill its every demand. That He did—not for Himself, for He was without sin, but for us, for we are sinners in need of righteousness. By faith His righteousness is accounted to us and becomes our righteousness. And so it is that, unrighteous though we are, yet we can stand before our God and survive His judicial inspection, for we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
Yet a final profile is brought to our attention by the closing remark of Luke, “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.” These words present unto us—
God became Flesh, God and man in one person-these truths baffle the mind and understanding of man. The infant Jesus went through all stages as a human child, while being and remaining true God. We can’t explain this. He can’t comprehend it. He can only stand back in holy awe and reverence. This is our Savior, Christ the Lord. Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.