Luke2v25to32: SIMEON AND THE CHILD JESUS

(A) Introduction. (Read the passage.)

It is possible to identify 5 themes in this passage: Simeon's possession, proclamation, preparation, passing and prophecy. I will deal with the first four in this exposition and leave Simeon's prophecy to next time.

(B) Simeon's possession. Simeon took him in his arms and praised God. v28.

(1) Simeon took the babe. He held Jesus in his arms. The old man would not have been able to take a royal baby, nobleman's baby or even a very rich man's baby for himself but he was able to take this baby.

This charming scene in the Temple highlights the availability of Jesus. He can be appropriated by any sinner in need of salvation. We do not need any qualifications, we do not need to satisfy any special conditions or have an exalted status to embrace Jesus. He is accessible to every sinner in want of a saviour. Paul's words to Timothy are of immense comfort to me: This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. 1Tim1v15.

(2) Simeon didn't hesitate. He was not content with admiring the babe from afar or caressing the little cheek of the lovely boy. Simeon did not question his fitness to hold Jesus. He did not hold back for fear of handling the baby awkwardly. No, the old man put out his arms and took Mary's treasurer for himself.

So many who attend church today hesitate to take Jesus for themselves. They do admire Jesus from afar, remaining on the periphery of the church and falling short of making a full commitment to him. If pushed to provide an explanation the sort of responses I would expect are: I am not worthy enough to belong to Jesus; I could never keep up a life of devotion and service; I am too old to change now; I just don't want to get too involved. I was visiting my brother last week in Hastings and while I was there he and his wife entertained some folk who attended his church in Clapham many years ago. It became clear that when the couple left the fellowship at Clapham they stopped attending church. The husband and wife were backsliders. The husband let slip what was probably the explanation for his defection from the Faith. He told Paul, my brother, "I found myself getting too involved." The man was frightened off by the responsibilities he was expected to assume.

(3) Simeon was given the babe. He was old and probably had not held a baby for a long time but nevertheless Mary entrusted her 40-day-old son to the trembling, frail arms of the aged saint.

God entrusts both his son and his son's work to many apparently ill equipped to do it - uneducated, untalented, inarticulate, clumsy, awkward Christians. Paul knew this. He wrote to the Corinthians: But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 1Cor1v27. See exposition on 1Cor1v26to31.

Jesus sums up his policy in those heartening words in Matthew's gospel: "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering flax he will not snuff out." Mt12v20. See exposition on the 'Bruised Reed'.

(4) Simeon retained possession of the babe. I have not been given a baby to hold lately. When I was I had eventually to give it back. Sometimes that was something of a relief - if it had been dribbling over my shirt or worse, vomiting into my lap. In a physical sense Simeon had to give the child Jesus back to his mother but at a deeper level he retained possession. He took Jesus to his heart. This is something we can all do. In the words of the carol:

            What can I give Him,
            Poor as I am?
            If I were a shepherd,
            I would bring a lamb;
            If I were a wise man,
            I would do my part;
            Yet what I can I give Him -
            Give my heart.

(C) Simeon's proclamation. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. v30, 31 and 32.

Simeon proclaimed Jesus as:

(1) The Saviour of the World.

(a) Jesus is the Saviour of the World because he came to deal with a universal condition: man's sin, man's estrangement from God and his miserable destiny. However different men and women might be they share these three things in common.

(b) Jesus' remedy for sin is universally available. There is no such universal remedy for any thing else. In the news recently there was an item about health care in the U.S.A. - the richest country in the world. In spite of the great wealth of the U.S.A. about 40 million have no health insurance and cannot be guaranteed to receive the treatment they need. Particular mention was made of a poor young man who needed to have a tooth extracted. The tooth was not removed because he could not pay and the infection spread - killing him. Even in Great Britain there are certain drugs and treatments that are unavailable unless you meet the cost. Only last week it was reported that an elderly lady spent her life savings of 8000 on a drug needed to treat a degenerative eye disease.

Jesus remedy for sin is freely available to all. John wrote in his gospel: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Jn3v16.

(2) The light to lighten the Gentiles.

Jesus brought the Gentiles out of darkness into his most glorious light.

Many years ago now I was on a camping holiday with two friends in Austria. My two friends wanted to join up with a house party of Christians who were staying in a nearby hotel. I think they wanted to fraternise with young ladies. This did not appeal to me greatly. I was keen to do some mountain walking. So my friends dropped me off at a convenient spot and I began my climb out of the valley into the hills. It was a lovely day! All I had with me was a map and a bag of apricots! That day turned into a series of disasters. I had greatly overestimated my ability as a map-reader and mountaineer! Late in the evening I trudged along a road in total darkness not knowing quite where I was or where the hotel I had agreed to meet up with my friends was. I stumbled along, totally disorientated, faint with hunger and fatigue, occasionally blinded by the headlights of approaching cars. Eventually, more by luck than judgment, I came to a roadside hotel that I thought might be the one accommodating the house party. I knocked on the door and waited. It was the one! I was brought into a room full of light. I shall never forget the contrast. There everyone was - sitting in the glow of many lamps - finishing their evening meal. What a contrast to my lonely, exhausted struggle along that dark and dangerous road. I came into the light of fellowship. I was safe and secure - welcome and accepted by happy smiling faces.

Jesus came to bring men and women, lost on the dark path of sin, into the light of loving fellowship with himself and his church.

(3) The glory of your people Israel.

There are a few great men who are the glory of their people. This can be said of Nelson Mandela such was his success in bringing reconciliation in South Africa and such is his charm, strength of character, grace, modesty and magnanimity. South Africans can rejoice in both his achievement and his character. It is significant that the two are inseperable.

Mohammed Ali was the glory of the black people of the U.S.A.. They could glory in his achievement of being a remarkable, undisputed, heavyweight boxing champion of the world. What a superb athlete he was - supple, quick, strong and graceful. But Ali was more than this. He was articulate, funny, a man of principle and courageous in adversity. Above all else he had dignity.

The Lord Jesus Christ is immeasurably great in his achievement. He is a world champion. John writes: But if anyone does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence - Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1Jn2v2. There is only one Saviour from sin who can champion our cause before the Father in heaven and that is Jesus. Jesus is also glorious in his character. John wrote in his gospel: We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. Jn1v14.

My neighbour, Mrs Griffiths, gloried in her grandson. One day she knocked on my door and said, "John, my grandson has just been given a place at Oxford - I've just got to tell someone about it." She was so proud of him. Are we so proud of Jesus? The Jews should have been proud of him - he was their glory - but they rejected Jesus. Are we proud of all Jesus has done for us, is doing for us and will yet do for us? Can we us the words of my neighbour, "I've just got to tell someone about it."?

(D) Simeon's preparation.

Simeon's sweet and blessed morning of joy in the presence of his Saviour did not come out of the blue. He was, over the course of many years, prepared for it. Luke records: Now 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. v25.

Simeon's great blessing and joyful experience was the culmination of:

    (a) A righteous life. He had lived right towards his fellow men. He was therefore honest, faithful, compassionate, generous and hard working.

    (b) A devout life. Simeon devoted himself to God in prayer, meditation, study of the Scriptures, worship and obedience. He sang the psalms of David from his heart. I can imagine him singing:

    Show me your ways, O Lord,
    teach me your paths;
    guide me in your truth and
    teach me,
    for you are God my Saviour,
    and my hope is in you all
    day long.
    Remember, O Lord, your great
    mercy and love,
    for they are from of old.
    Remember not the sins of my
    youth
    and my rebellious ways;
    according to your love
    remember me,
    for you are good, O LORD.
    Ps25v4to7.

    (c) A life spent waiting for the consolation of Israel. Four hundred years had passed since God last spoke to his people through a prophet. They had been difficult years - years of conquest, occupation and oppression. There must have been many times when the Israelites found themselves repeating the words of Jeremiah: "Is there no balm in Gilead." Jeremiah8v21and22. Simeon looked forward with eager anticipation to Israel's consolation - the promised Messiah - who would put all things right.

    (d) A life enhanced and sustained by God's Spirit. The Holy Spirit takes those qualities in us with which he is in sympathy and magnifies them. Simeon's warmth, integrity and piety were given an added lustre by God's Spirit.

Great and joyful occasions do not occur often in our lives and usually they have to be earned.

On Feb 23rd in the year 1807 the slave trade was finally abolished in Great Britain. In the House of Common's debate one speaker after another paid tribute to William Wilberforce - to 'his indefatigable zeal, and his impressive eloquence', to the hero 'whose name will descend to the latest posterity, with never-fading honour'. To quote from Stephen Tompkin's biography: It was all far, far too much for a man of Wilberforce's sensibilities, who since the age of thirty had been opposed in parliament as a misguided do-gooder and derided as a treacherous fanatic .... . As MP's rose to their feet, applauding and filling the chamber with their cheers - a display unprecedented in living memory - he sat there in a daze, tears streaming down his cheeks. Wilberforce's devotion and faithfulness to the cause had earned him his brief season of joy.

I have mentioned before in my expositions the uplifting farewell service to mark the retirement of my brother Paul and his wife, Ruth, from 32 years in the ministry at Courland Grove in Clapham. The people of my brother's former church expressed their love for him and his wife in the warmest possible fashion. It was a time of rejoicing in God for his goodness. This lovely occasion did not come out of the blue! It was the culmination of many years of devoted service.

It is possible reader that you have not received all you deserve. Your service may have gone unnoticed and disregarded. But, if you have been Christ's good and faithful servant your reward is sure and certain. You and everyone else who labours for the Master will receive it at Christ's return.

          When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
          And take me home - what joy shall fill my heart!
          Then shall I bow in humble adoration
          And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

(E) Simeon's passing. "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace."

The word translated, 'dismiss', has several meanings in the Greek:

    (a) To release a prisoner - a reminder that the Christian in death is released from his old body.

    (b) To untie a ship and set sail - a picture of the Christian leaving the old country for a better land.

    (c) To take down a tent. There is no need for a tent in the hereafter if God has a room for us in his house.

    (d) To unyoke a beast of burden - a lovely confirmation that at death the believer enters into his rest.

Simeon was ready to die because:

    (a) His work was done.

    (b) He had a Saviour. His Saviour had come. Have you a Saviour?

          I have a Saviour, He's pleading in Glory
          A dear loving Saviour, though earth friends be few
          And now he is watching in tenderness o'er me;
          And oh, that my Saviour were your Saviour to.

    (c) He had a father to go to - one into whose hand he was happy to commend his spirit. Jesus, after he had finished his work on the cross, said, "Father into your hands I commit my spirit." Lk23v46. When we complete our service for Jesus we will be able, with confidence, to entrust our spirits to God's safe keeping until the resurrection to eternal life.

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