Joseph and Mary are starting out their lives as parents by being obedient to all the Jewish requirements. Eight days after his birth, their son is circumcised and named Jesus, the name given by the angel Gabriel.
Leviticus 12 required that the mother go through a purification rite, requiring two offerings – A lamb and either a pigeon or a turtledove. In hardship cases where the couple could not afford a lamb, then two birds were acceptable. Apparently, Joseph and Mary could not afford a lamb.
According to Numbers 18:15-17 the firstborn humans were supposed to be redeemed from God for five shekels of silver. The firstborn cow, sheep and goats (considered holy) were not to be redeemed but sacrificed. The firstborn of unclean animals, as well as humans, were to be redeemed. It is interesting that Luke does not mention the redemption of Jesus. Perhaps there is a message here that Jesus was not an ordinary human and that he was the lamb of God who would be sacrificed for the sins of humanity.
There was a man named Simeon, who was righteous and devout and advanced in age. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he saw the Messiah. Guided by the Holy Spirit, Simeon entered the temple as Joseph and Mary brought Jesus there. Simeon took the infant Jesus in his arms and praised God with a song.
Simeon had been hoping that the Messiah would appear during his lifetime. Even though Simeon would not be able to see the works of the Messiah, he was more than content to now go to his death. The Messiah was the hope for God’s rule to be established. Not only was this going to be glorious for Israel, but God was also going to reveal the Messiah to the rest of the world so that they too could see God’s salvation.
It is interesting that v. 33 tells us that the parents were amazed at what was being said about Jesus. They surely would have already concluded that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, so they wouldn’t be amazed by that. Were they amazed that Jesus was going to be the salvation, not only for Israel, but also for the Gentiles? This may have been the case, since Gabriel, in his announcement to Mary had said, “He will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Although the fact that the salvation of the whole world would include Gentiles was hinted at in the Old Testament, the focus of the Jews was understandably focused on the salvation of Israel.
Simeon then blessed them and then told Mary that her child is going to be the cause of the falling and the rising of people. Coming in to contact with the Messiah is going to force a choice to either accept Jesus as Lord and Savior or not, and this will either result in a falling or a rising of each person.
Once, after explaining to someone how one can gain salvation, the person thanked me for explaining what the Bible teaches, but he wished that I had not done so. He explained that he now understood that he had a decision to make but was not ready to make that decision. I had to remind him that in this case, not making a decision meant that he was making a decision. If he was not accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, it was no different than rejecting Jesus.
This made me stop and think about if I had done the right thing for this person. Should I have tried to figure out if the person was ready to make a decision before delving into the gospel? Was I blowing the chance for this person to be saved by choosing the wrong time to present the gospel? But the Holy Spirit quickly reminded me that my job was to present the gospel when the opportunity presents itself and trust the Holy Spirit for the rest. We want to be guided by the Holy Spirit as to the timing and what words to use, but the rest is up to God. As Jesus explained the parable of the sower, it is our job to sow the seeds and it is God that does the rest. We may be saddened by the results, or be joyful by the results, but the results are up to God.
Simeon rejoiced that he had seen the Messiah – the savior of the Jews as well as the Gentiles. Even though he would die before the Messiah begins His salvation work, Simeon rejoiced. We did not get to see the birth and works of the Messiah, but through the Bible, we are told. Not only about His birth and life and death and resurrection, but how He brought salvation to the world. Not only that, He has chosen us to carry on telling the world about Him. And in this, we should also rejoice.
Christmas is only a week away. As we gather with family and friends, and as the Holy Spirit gives us encounters with strangers, let us be filled with joy in the Lord, and let that joy lead us to declaring that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
(The above is a summary of the message shared by Shun Takano during our Sunday worship on December 18, 2022.)