Click HERE for an audio Podcast of this message.
I invite you to open your Bibles or Service Folders to our Gospel lesson for today, the account of Simeon meeting Jesus in the temple courts.
Your Christmas gifts often reveal your heart. If you open a gift and it’s just what you wanted, you get a big smile on your face. You say things like, “I love it!” and “Thank you!” Your face, your excited voice, your words all reveal what’s in your heart. You love the gift.
If you open a gift and you have no clue what it is or why someone would give it to you, there’s a different reaction. You might try to pretend that you like the gift, but it’s probably pretty obvious that you aren’t excited about it or in love with it. The expression on your face, the lack of excitement in your voice, reveal what’s in your heart.
When Simeon met Jesus in the temple, his reaction to God’s gift revealed his heart, and he also predicted that God’s gift of Jesus would reveal what was really in the hearts of many others.
Simeon grew up hearing God’s wonderful promises of a coming Messiah. The Holy Spirit had worked faith in his heart through these promises. He believed them and kept searching the Scriptures and watching for signs of the Messiah’s coming. In his prayers he must have asked the Lord if he might be allowed to live long enough to see the fulfillment of God’s promise and get to meet the Messiah in person. We don’t know how many times Simeon might have prayed such a prayer, or when in his life God gave him this answer, but Luke tells us that it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. We don’t know if the Spirit revealed this to him through a vision, or a dream, or a voice he could hear, but he did it in some way that was clear to Simeon. God had made him a wonderful promise and Simeon was waiting in faith for the fulfillment of that promise.
I don’t know about you, but if I were Simeon and God gave me this promise, I would probably picture something like what Nicodemus experienced. I would picture sitting down with the greatest Rabbi of all time and being able to ask him all kinds of questions. But that’s not what God had in mind for the fulfillment of his promise to Simeon.
When Mary and Joseph came to the temple to take care of the required sacrifices for the redemption of a first born and for her purification after child birth- so about 40 days after Jesus’ birth, moved by the Spirit Simeon went into the temple courts and saw the Messiah.
It sounds so simple in Luke’s summary, but it wasn’t. Imagine trying to find someone you know in a crowded mall on Black Friday. The temple courts were filled with people coming to worship and offer sacrifices. Simeon had never met Mary and Joseph. There were likely lots of other parents with infants lining up to make an offering of redemption. If they had planned to meet it would have been difficult for them to find each other. But the Spirit led Simeon to Mary and Joseph and enabled him to recognize that this little child who couldn’t even talk or walk was the promised Messiah, his savior.
God’s gift of the Savior, and the fulfillment of his promise that he would see the Messiah, revealed what was in Simeon’s heart. Like opening the perfect gift on Christmas, Simeon’s heart was filled with joy and thanks to God. It maybe wasn’t what Simeon had expected when God said that he would see the Messiah, but he trusted that this little baby was that promised Messiah. That in itself revealed a wonderful faith, for how often don’t we miss or reject God’s answers to our prayers because God didn’t answer in the way we wanted or imagined he would! Taking the baby Jesus in his arms and trusting that this helpless child he was holding was his Lord and Savior reveals a heart of faith.
Simeon’s words also reveal that his heart was filled with the promises of God, the Scriptures. They reveal that he not only knew the promises of God, but he understood what they meant. This child, the promised Messiah, had come to bring salvation. He had come to save people from their sins. And, it was God’s will that this salvation be for all people, for Jews and Gentiles alike. Considering what many, even some of Jesus disciples at times, thought about what the Messiah would do and for whom he would come, these words reveal a heart of faith focused on the Scriptures, not on opinion. What an example for us today! We hear all kinds of opinions about what Jesus would say or do if he were here today. Don’t be swayed by them. Like Simeon, stay focused on what Scripture says and what Jesus has said.
As you might guess, having a stranger walk up to you and state things about your child that you only knew because of what the angel had told you, was amazing, mind boggling. Mary and Joseph must have understood that this was not a coincidental meeting. They understood that God had to be behind this “chance” meeting in the temple courts. What an amazing God we have that he not only rules the courses of the sun, moon and stars, and distant planets, but he is active in the individual lives of those the world might consider insignificant, an old man like Simeon and a young mother and a lowly carpenter from Nazareth. Trust that the God of the universe is not too busy with the stars and the planets to be concerned about you and to be active in your life.
Not only did Simeon receive the gift of seeing, holding and believing that the baby Jesus was the Messiah his Savior, he also received the gift of prophecy. The joy and excitement of the moment changed to ominous foreboding in regard to the future. Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “listen carefully, this child is appointed for the falling and rising of many in Israel and for a sign that is spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
The gift of Jesus reveals hearts. It revealed a heart of faith in Simeon, Mary and Joseph. But it would also reveal the unbelief of many, some in surprising places. His claim to be the Messiah, the Son of God, the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah, would get him dragged out of the Synagogue in Nazareth. The righteous Pharisees grumbled against him because they thought he spent too much time with the tax collectors and sinners. He would be condemned by those who claimed to know the Scriptures and were supposed to be the Spiritual Shepherds of the people. Their words and actions regarding Jesus revealed their hypocrisy and unbelief. Jesus says that the words he spoke will be the basis of judgment on the last day. Did you believe his claim to be the Son of God, your savior from sin, or not?
Still today the gift of Jesus reveals the hearts of many. They don’t want Christmas to be about his birth. They want to rid society of any thought that they need someone to save them. They are offended that a candy cane might depict his name and remind us that though our sins are like scarlet they will be as white as snow when we are cleansed by Jesus’ blood shed for us on the cross, the sword Simeon said would pierce Mary’s soul – seeing her innocent son executed. Their comments about Jesus and Christianity, their denial of the Virgin Birth and anything miraculous, reveal a heart devoid of faith, or any true knowledge or understanding of the Scriptures. Simeon’s prophecy about the gift of Jesus causing the thoughts of many hearts to be revealed was fulfilled in his day and continues to be fulfilled today.
The gift of Jesus reveals your heart too. Sometimes it reveals a heart that has weak faith when you treat him like that strange gift that you didn’t ask for and don’t think you need, instead of just the perfect gift that fills you with joy and thankfulness. But, by God’s grace, as you hear the words of Simeon and remember what the gift of Jesus is all about; when you are reminded that he came for your salvation, that by being born of the virgin Mary he was who he needed to be to save you and all people from their sins, like Simeon, you are led to rejoice and give thanks. Having been assured that Jesus is the Messiah who has paid for your weak faith, for you lack of excitement and thankfulness, for your failure to make God’s word and preparation for Jesus’ coming your priority, you too are moved to give praise and thanks to God that he has enabled you to see your savior before you die. Because of what God has done for us in Jesus we say with Simeon, as we leave the Lord’s table, and as we end each day, Lord, you now dismiss your servant in peace, according to your word, because my eyes have seen your salvation.
As it did with Simeon, and as it still does today, the gift of Jesus reveals hearts. May it always reveal that your heart is filled with faith and the promises of God so that you give him praise and thanks, and are always ready to depart this life in peace.