Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Jesus 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
February 2, 2020
1 Samuel 1:21-28, Hebrews 2:14-18, Luke 2:22-40

 

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We live in a society where we want to deny death.  Every night on the news it seems the anchorperson will tell you about another threat to your health and how you can avoid it.  We truly want to believe that if we just do the right things and eat and drink the right stuff and exercise the right way that we will live forever.  Avoiding sickness and staying in shape certainly is a good thing, but death is still coming.

There is a company called Cryonics that plays on folks’ desire to never die.  For $30,000 they will, at the time of your death, preserve your body through freezing and keep it at -320 degrees Fahrenheit until medical science improves and there is no more death.

Death is an ever present companion in our life and we are reminded of this as we hear news about accidents, terrorism, war, old diseases, and new viruses. It can make you not want to get out of bed.  In order to get through the day we each have to deny that death is always lurking, always waiting, ever patient, and one day he will come for each of us.

I think that is why the news last Sunday of Kobe Bryant’s death was so hard to deal with.  A man in the prime of his life along with his daughter and seven others are all suddenly gone.  This man had it all; fame, money, fitness, family and yet in an instant it is all over; he is dead.  This is unnerving.  Commentators encouraged people to hug their loves ones because we don’t know when tragedy might strike.

In our Gospel reading today we meet a man who is, essentially, waiting to die. Simeon has been told by the Holy Spirit that he will not die until he sees the Lord’s Christ.  Simeon has been promised that he will see the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one of God, and Simeon has been waiting.

I wonder what kind of Christ Simeon is expecting.  Maybe an angelic figure of some kind?  A king?  A warrior? A priest?  What does the Lord’s Christ look like?  The Spirit brings Simeon to the temple one day. Unbeknownst to Simeon it is 40 days after Jesus was born in Bethlehem six miles south.  Forty days after Christmas.  Mary and Joseph are at the temple that day for two purposes, Mary is there to be purified and declared ceremonially clean 40 days after giving birth to a male child.  She is to bring a lamb for an offering, or if she could not afford a lamb, two turtledoves or two pigeons.  Mary and Joseph, we learn, are humble folks and can only afford the two birds.

They are also at the temple for the redemption of their firstborn son.  This is to remember that before the Exodus, God killed the first born of the Egyptians but saved the first born of the Israelites, so each first born of the Israelites is consecrated to the Lord and redeemed.  Mary and Joseph are coming to the temple to fulfill the law of God.  Simeon is coming to the temple in obedience to the Spirit.

At the temple that day, Simeon takes the baby Jesus into his arms.  He has now seen the Lord’s Christ.  He is holding the Lord’s Christ in his arms.  Simeon, Mary and Joseph are in the temple, but Jesus is the new temple of God. When Jesus later is cleansing the temple He tells the Jews, John 2:19 (ESV) 19 … “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”[1]  He is referring to His own body.  When He is crucified for the sin of the world the curtain in the temple is torn in two.

30 years before this we find Simeon at that temple holding Jesus, the new temple, in his arms and saying, “Luke 2:29 (ESV) 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word;[2]  Simeon can now die in peace; God’s promise has been fulfilled.  Luke 2:30-31 (ESV) 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,[3]  Simeon can die in peace because that is what the Holy Spirit promised and Simeon can die in peace because Jesus has come to be His redeemer.  This baby in Simeon’s arms is Luke 2:32 (ESV) 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”[4]  Simeon is holding in his hands the redeemer of not only the Jews, but the redeemer of all people, and it brings Him great joy.

The savior of the world has come and Simeon has seen Him and can now die in peace.  And this peace between Simeon and God brings a deep and abiding joy despite the burdens of life.  The theme for Lutheran Schools this year is Joyfully Lutheran.  St. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV) 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.[5]

Rejoice always.  We talked about this at Grandparents’ Day chapel on Friday.  What did Paul have to rejoice over?  He has been stoned, he has been beaten, he suffers from an unknown “thorn in the flesh”, he has been imprisoned and eventually he will be shipwrecked and taken to prison in Rome to be executed.  And he says, “Rejoice always.”  Why?  This man is suffering many various troubles. What does he have to rejoice over?

Paul can rejoice about the same thing that Simeon is rejoicing over. Paul has seen the Lord Jesus. Paul can die in peace because he knows the truth of Jesus.  Paul knows Jesus’ promise of redemption from his sins.  Paul knows that, in Christ, he has eternal life.  So, despite his current circumstances, he can rejoice always.

You are a baptized child of God.  You know the truth of God’s promise to wash away your sin and make you holy and pure.  You know Jesus and all He has done for you.  You know how Jesus took the guilt of your sin and paid the price for you on the cross. You know how He rose from the dead to conquer death.  And He gives this all to you.  In Christ, despite whatever is going on in your life, you can rejoice always.  You have eternal life in Christ.  Death will not hold you forever.  You will rise from the dead.

            Paul can rejoice about the same thing that Simeon is rejoicing over. Paul has seen the Lord Jesus. Paul can die in peace because he knows the truth of Jesus.  Paul knows Jesus’ promise of redemption from his sins.  Paul knows that, in Christ, he has eternal life.  So, despite his current circumstances, he can rejoice always.

And like Simeon you get to hold the Lord’s Christ.  As you come to the Lord’s altar I will place the Body in Christ in your hand.  You will partake of the Body and Blood of Jesus.  What great joy to receive the Lord’s forgiveness; to know that in Him you have forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  And so you can sing with Simeon, “Lord, now you let your servant go in peace, your word has been fulfilled, my own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people.  A light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.”

Knowing you have Christ you can rejoice always despite your circumstance.  Knowing you have eternal life in Christ you do not need to deny death or fear death.  Psalm 23:4 (ESV) 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.[6]

Death is still the enemy and a consequence for sin in the world.  We never seek death but we know it is coming and we can face it without fear.   Like Simeon, knowing Jesus, you can live in joy and die in peace.  Amen.

 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[6]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

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