Archives For Definitions

One of my commitments is to read and study the biblical and theological truths associated with the celebrations of the Christian year. Having just celebrated and worshiped as we focused on the arrival of Jesus Christ, the birth of the God-man, the incarnation, I read a few excellent books about this wonderful truth. One of them, as I noted, was Tim Keller’s, Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ.

I share a couple of pertinent and challenging quotes.

The God of Christmas

In an interview about this book, Keller was asked the following question: “Neither the god of moralism nor the god of relativism would have bothered with Christmas, you observe. Why not?” He replied,

Moralism is essentially the idea that you can save yourself through your good works. And this makes Christmas unnecessary. Why would God need to become human in order to live and die in our place if we can fulfill the requirements of righteousness ourselves? Relativism is essentially the idea that no one is really “lost,” that everyone should live by their own lights and determine right and wrong for themselves. The “all-accepting god of love” many modern people believe in would never have bothered with the incarnation. Such a god would have found it completely unnecessary.

Neither moralism nor relativism are the answer, and both leave us completely helpless and hopeless.

Keller addresses this further in the book. If “God who was only holy,” he would not have done anything for us and expected us to do it ourselves. We would have died in our sins, and justly so. If he was a “deity that was an “all-accepting God of love,” he would not have had to do anything either, since he would have simply overlooked sin. God, the God of the Scriptures, the one and only true God, is both “infinitely holy” and “infinitely loving,” so he did for us what we could not do, sending his Son to address our sin and to secure our salvation. Keller writes (46-47),

The claim that Jesus is God also gives us the greatest possible hope. This means that our world is not all there is, that there is life and love after death, and that evil and suffering will one day end. And it means not just hope for the world, despite all its unending problems, but hope for you and me, despite all our ending failings. A God who was only holy would not have come down to us in Jesus Christ. He would have simply demanded that we pull ourselves together, that we be moral and holy enough to merit a relationship with him. A deity that was an ‘all‐accepting God of love’ would not have needed to come to Earth either. This God of the modern imagination would have just overlooked sin and evil and embraced us. Neither the God of moralism nor the God of relativism would have bothered with Christmas. The biblical God, however, is infinitely holy, so our sin could not be shrugged off. It had to be dealt with. He is also infinitely loving. He knows we could never climb up to him, so he has come down to us. God had to come himself and do what we couldn’t do. He doesn’t send someone; he doesn’t send a committee report or a preacher to tell you how to save yourself. He comes to fetch us. Christmas means, then, that for you and me there is all the hope in the world.

The Doctrine of the Incarnation

Often we get caught up in the sentimentalism of Christmas. We like the feelings, emotions and memories it elicits and creates. We do not want to be weighed down with the doctrine or dogma of Christmas. For those who conclude feelings are more important than beliefs, experience trumps truth, Jesus unites and doctrine divides, that doctrine just does not matter, they often do not realize all of those statements reveal a great deal about a person’s beliefs, their doctrine. For most of them, it is doctrine without substance. More specifically, it is a doctrine of salvation by works. In contrast, Christmas is about the doctrine of salvation by grace. According to Keller (131),

When you say, ‘Doctrine doesn’t matter; what matters is that you live a good life,’ that is a doctrine. It is called the doctrine of salvation by your works rather than by grace. It assumes that you are not so bad that you need a Savior, that you are not so weak that you can’t pull yourself together and live as you should. You are actually espousing a whole set of doctrines about the nature of God, humanity, and sin. And the message of Christmas is that they are all wrong.

We give thanks to the God of Christmas for the God-man sent at Christmas! We are also thankful that the doctrine of salvation by grace, the message of Christmas, has been experienced, which is reflected in worship and a life lived joyfully hoping and trusting in God.

As the calendar turned this year, I was reminded of President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. By signing this Proclamation, the legal status of more than three-million slaves in the Confederate states in the south (those states which seceded from the American states during the Civil War, from 1861-1865), changed from slave to free. In conjunction with this historic signing, churches in the north held candlelight vigils honoring and commemorating this event.

Four brief matters to note.

First, a Presidential proclamation, an executive order, was issued to overturn an evil against human beings. As Christians, we recognize governments are put into place by God and are “God’s servant for your good,” that is the good of all, not a few. We are thankful when human laws reflect key truths about human dignity and worth revealed in God’s law.

Second, even though a law was signed stating these slaves were free, the immediate effect of this law did not result in the freedom for all these slaves. We also know that even if a law is in effect, as important as that is, it does not mean a person will be looked at or treated equally, as a fellow image-bearer of God. History is replete with examples of this, which continues to this day.

Third, the churches in the north set aside time, both purposefully and intentionally, to thank the Lord for the passing of this law, for they believed this human Presidential proclamation upheld God’s law about the worth and dignity, the equality of all, that all humanity is created in the imago Dei, and this ought to be upheld and celebrated. It is also true that churches ought to engage in vigils of sorrow and grief and repentance when God’s laws and commands are not reflected in human laws, and when the imago Dei is undermined or not acknowledged in the life of the other.

Fourth, and to move into the present day, the last couple of years have reflected increased racial tensions, indicating the issue is not ultimately the law. Rather, the problem is with the human heart. In a posture of prayer, trusting in the kind providence of God, may this be the year that the church of Jesus Christ reflects the reality of the new heavens and new earth in the realm of race relations, and may we in the EFCA, by his grace and for his glory, humbly and courageously, dependently on God and interdependently on one another, lead the way in our orthodoxy and our orthopraxy, in our belief and our behavior, in our teaching and our living.

The Incarnation

Greg Strand – December 30, 2016 2 Comments

At this time of year, we celebrate the incarnation: “the act whereby the eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, without ceasing  to be what he is, God the Son, took into union with himself what he before that act did not possess, a human nature, ‘and so [He] was and continues to be God and man in two distinct natures and one person, forever.’”

Many of have been taught about the incarnation through reading the historical accounts in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. And there are other biblical texts that also address the incarnation, e.g.. John 1:1, 14; Romans 1:3; 8:3; Galatians 4:4; 1 John 4:2 , along with some early Christological hymns such as Philippians 2:6-11; Colossians 1:15-20; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 3:18-22; and Hebrews 1:2b-4. Added to this are the recollections of the Christmas story being reenacted as part of the annual church children’s Christmas program. And added to this are the hymns and choruses associated with the truths we celebrate at Christmas, including the heart of Christmas: the incarnation.

I remember well when many of these teachings of the person and work of Christ crystallized for me in the fall of my first semester at TEDS. One of my first courses was God, Man and Christ. It was an incredible learning and worshipful experience. We would begin each class with singing and prayer, and then the professor would begin the lecture. It wedded together theology and doxology, biblical truth and worship.

At the conclusion of the semester, my wife and I traveled home to visit family for the Christmas holidays. It was a lengthy trip, so we listened to Christmas music. As I was driving, Charles Wesley’s classic Hark the Herald Angels Sing came on the radio. Having learned this song as a child, I sang along. Now on the other side of this course at TEDS, I sang with a new, different and deeper meaning. In verse 1, the expression “God and sinners reconciled”  had new significance. When we got to verse 2 and I sang the phrase “veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity” I was overcome with the importance and reality of the incarnation and I wept.

Since that course, and many others, and since that experience, and many others, I have been drawn to know God in all his fullness. Although I confess sometimes it can be knowing for the sake of knowledge, in my more sanctified moments it is theological knowledge for the sake of knowing God for the purpose of the worship of God.

Any understanding of the incarnation begins with the text of Scripture, as noted above. Then those texts must be understood within the canon of the Scriptures, so that there is an engagement with the theology of the texts of Scripture, a theological theology, which begins in God and ends with God. Furthermore, we consider how the church has understood these issues and articulated them throughout the history of the church.

This methodological format has been followed in the recent book written by Steve Wellum, God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ. In light of the remembrance of Christ’s incarnation, which we remember and celebrate at Christmas, Steve highlighted 10 Things You Should Know about the Incarnation. He has focused on texts of Scripture summarized in the theological summaries. I include only the summary statements, so I encourage you to read the whole essay as an aid to the worship of God in all his fullness, particularly as we focus on the incarnation.

  1. The person or active subject of the incarnation is the eternal Son.
  2. As the eternal Son, the second person of the triune Godhead, he is the full image and expression of the Father and is thus fully God.
  3. As God the Son, he has always existed in an eternally-ordered relation to the Father and Spirit, which now is gloriously displayed in the incarnation.
  4. The incarnation is an act of addition, not subtraction.
  5. The human nature assumed by the divine Son is fully human and completely sinless.
  6. The virgin conception was the glorious means by which the incarnation took place.
  7. From conception, the Son limited his divine life in such a way that he did not override the limitations of his human nature.
  8. But the Son was not limited to his human nature alone since he continued to act in and through his divine nature.
  9. By taking on our human nature, the Son became the first man of the new creation, our great mediator and new covenant head.
  10. God the Son incarnate is utterly unique and alone Lord and Savior.

Steve will be joining us for our EFCA Theology Conference. He is one of a line-up of excellent speakers we have to address key biblical, theological, historical and pastoral issues related to the Reformation, as we celebrate the 500th anniversary Luther’s posting of his 95 theses, along with its legacy in in the EFCA.

You can register here. Plan to join us!

Contrasts of Christmas

Greg Strand – December 24, 2016 Leave a comment

When we ponder the incarnation we are confronted with numerous contrasts. These contrasts get to the heart of the miraculous work of God. In many ways, Paul’s brief “but God” (Eph. 2:4) summarizes these twin contrastive truths, which help us to understand the gravity and glory of the incarnation.

As you read these statements, please pause to read, ponder and pray through the Scripture texts. Use these texts of Scripture summarized in the theological summaries as an aid to worship of God in all his fullness, who is the one who, in the fullness of time, “sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5).

Jesus experienced a human birth (Lk. 2:11), that through him we might have heavenly birth (Jn. 1:12).

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12

Jesus’ resting place was a lowly manger in a stable (Lk. 2:7), so that we might have heavenly mansions (Jn. 14:2-3). 

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7

“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” John 14:2-3

Jesus became a member of the human family (Matt. 2:11), so that we might become members of the family of God (Gal. 3:26). 

“And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11

“for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” Galatians 3:26

Jesus was made (made himself) subject to others, i.e., he obeyed them (Lk. 2:51), so that we, through the power of the Holy Spirit, might be made free (Gal. 5:1).

“And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.” Luke 2:51

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

Jesus’ glory was concealed (Phil. 2:6-7; cf. Jn. 17:1-5), so that we might receive glory (1 Pet. 5:4).

“who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:6-7

“And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” 1 Peter 5:4

Jesus became poor (Matt. 8:20), so we might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9).

“And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’” Matthew 8:20

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9

 Jesus’ birth was welcomed and celebrated by the lowly and despised shepherds (Lk. 2:8-9), while our new birth is welcomed and celebrated by angels (Lk. 15:10).

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.” Luke 2:8-9

“Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10

Herod sought to destroy Jesus through death (Matt. 2:13), but Jesus destroyed Satan and death through his death (Heb. 2:14-15).

“Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’” Matthew 2:13

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” Hebrews 2:14-15

These eight contrastive truths are thoughts from Donald Grey Barnhouse, who served as a faithful minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ for many years at Tenth Presbyterian Church (1927-1960). James Montgomery Boice, who also served at Tenth Presbyterian Church (1968-2000), summarizes these great contrasts in the following way (The Christ of Christmas [Minneapolis: Grason, 1983], 59):

When we put these texts together we see a great pattern. We see that Jesus endured a human birth to give us a new spiritual birth. He occupied a stable that we might occupy a mansion. He had an earthly mother so that we might have a heavenly Father. He became subject that we might be free. He left his glory to give us glory. He was poor that we might become rich. He was welcomed by shepherds at his birth whereas we at our birth are welcomed by angels. He was hunted by Herod that we might be delivered from the grasp of Satan. That is the great paradox of the Christmas story. It is that which makes it irresistibly attractive. It is the reversal of roles at God’s cost for our benefit.

O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord!

Eight days after Jesus was born, he was circumcised (2:21), according to the law (Gen. 17:11-12), and given the name Jesus (2:21), just as the angel Gabriel had said (1:31). Jesus was circumcised to identify with Israel; He was/is our representative, and is the one who is preeminently a son, the chosen One (Lk. 9:35). [Jesus undergoes baptism for the same reason].

Joseph and Mary were pious, law-abiding Jews (2:22-24, 39). After the time of Mary’s purification (40 days after birth, Lev. 12:2-4, 6), they traveled from Bethlehem to the temple in Jerusalem to present their firstborn, Jesus, to the Lord (2:22; cf. Ex. 13:2; Num. 18:15-16) and His service (I Sam. 1-2), and to offer a sacrifice in accordance with the Law of the Lord (2:24; cf. Lev. 12:8). The Law stated that one was to offer a lamb as a burnt offering and a turtledove as a sin offering. If one was poor and could not afford a lamb, then either two turtledoves or two pigeons would be sacrificed. Joseph and Mary’s offering was that of the poor which identified with those Christ came to save (1:52; 4:18-19; 6:20).

The Historical Context

The focus of this fourth and final song is Simeon, a righteous and devout man, who was waiting for the consolation of Israel. When he saw the baby Jesus, his wait was over. He took him in his arms and praised God. Simeon’s praise and prophecy are known as Nunc Dimittis.

In obedience to the law, Joseph and Mary had their baby boy circumcised on the eighth day, and named him Jesus. They do what all Jewish parents would have done who had given birth to a Jewish son. In the Old Testament, the law stated tan any son of Abraham should be circumcised on the eighth day (Gen. 17:11-12; Lk. 1:59). In the baby’s circumcision he was identifying with his people as their representative leader or as a representative human. But the main emphasis of this text of Scripture is on the naming of this baby boy – Jesus – not his circumcision. The name means save or salvation, which aligns closely with how he was referred to in 2:11: “Savior, Christ the Lord.” Jesus is his name, Christ is his title, and Savior is his purpose.

After the prescribed time of purification, according to the law, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Jerusalem to present their firstborn to the Lord and to dedicate him to the Lord’s service (Lk. 2:22-23). The law stated that the mother of a male child was unclean for 7 days and then had to be confined for 33 days before traveling to the temple to offer a sacrifice. The presentation of the firstborn to the Lord (Ex. 13:2, 12, 15) and the dedication of the firstborn to the Lord’s service (1 Sam. 1-2) were both commanded in Scripture.

The sacrifice they offered for their purification was that of the poor. One of the birds was for the burnt offering and the other for the sin offering (2:24). In Leviticus 12:2-4, 6 a lamb and turtle dove are to be offered unless you cannot afford it. Then it was to be either two turtle doves or two pigeons. There offerings emphasizes different aspects in the process of communion with God. The sin offering emphasizes punishment or retribution for sin borne by the animal instead of the worshiper. The burnt offering emphasizes complete, whole consecration to God, which includes utter destruction of sin and uncleanness – the animal sacrifice is completely consumed. Even here we look forward to Christ as the final offering to which all the animal sacrifices find their fulfillment. As Mary and Joseph make the offering of the poor, they identify with those their son, Jesus, came to save (1:52; 4:18-19; 6:20).

While Joseph and Mary were in the temple with Jesus, they were met by an old man named Simeon who said great things about Jesus (2:25-35). We will say more about Simeon below, as we focus on his “song.” There was also an old prophetess named Anna who continually worshiped in the temple. She too gave thanks to God for Jesus and tied Jesus in with the redemption of Jerusalem (2:36-38). Anna was married but lost her husband at a young age and never remarried. She was a pious woman. Although she did not live on the temple grounds, there would have been a place for her to stay, and she was there daily, fasting and praying. We are told that she worshipped night and day. Anna’s activity pictures a person whose life is totally focused, consumed on serving God (as the burnt offering, totally consecrated, consumed).

Anna, too, encountered Jesus while in the temple. She gave thanks to God for this child-Redeemer, and also spoke to the crowd about Israel’s redemption through this child – he would redeem those enslaved to sin (2:38). The focus is on the Redeemer and the new age ushered in with his birth. Anna reveals that before the Messiah came, one could be decent and live a good life. But it is an unfulfilled life, which reflects a life absent true, real, lasting and abiding life. That is why John’s words are so apt: “He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 Jn. 4:9).

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the law, they returned home to Nazareth (2:39).

The infancy events began in the temple with Zechariah (1:5ff) and ended in the temple with Jesus (2:41-51). After all the events of Jesus birth, “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (2:19). After an early fulfillment of Simeon’s prophecy regarding the blessing and pain brought about in Jesus, while he tarried in the temple that caused his parents concern when they could not find him, Mary “his mother treasured up all these things in her heart” (2:51). Jesus’ public life begins in the temple and it ends by him replacing the temple or becoming the true ultimate temple that the earthly temple foreshadowed. Humankind, both male (Simeon) and female (Anna), praise God for Jesus.

A Word About Simeon

Simeon was in Jerusalem waiting for God’s appointed consolation (2:25). Israel’s consolation referred to the hope of deliverance for the people. In the Old Testament various agents brought God’s consolation, but a primary agent who was anticipated was the Servant of God. This desire for consolation or deliverance characterizes the believer or God-fearer in Luke (6:23-24; 17:22-37; 21:25-36).

He was clearly a Spirit-filled and Spirit-led man. What was revealed about Simeon was his spiritual condition, not his vocation or his age. He is righteous and devout, an exemplary saint. The text states “the Holy Spirit was upon him” (2:25). Verses 25-27 reveal his character is a result of the Holy Spirit, his life was guided by the Holy Spirit. He had received a special work of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ (2:26). He was anxiously waiting. Simeon received a promise that God would not let him die without seeing the Messiah, the Lord’s Christ. The Lord’s Christ, the Messiah in verse 26 is linked with the consolation of Israel in verse 25. It was for this that he waited. But he trusted that God’s word was sure and it would be fulfilled so he did not wait hopelessly. Rather he waited hopefully.

Moved by the Holy Spirit, he went into the temple courts and there he met face to face Jesus, the consolation of Israel (2:27). Once again we see Simeon being guided and led by the Holy Spirit. By the Holy Spirit’s prompting, Simeon went to the temple and while there his wait was terminated as he met Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus. Can you imagine his elation and excitement – his wait was now over, but more importantly God’s promise, which always comes true, had been fulfilled.

Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God (2:28). I can imagine that Simeon was overcome with gratitude to the point of tears. As he grabbed the baby Jesus, we can see tears streaming down his face, his knees growing weak, almost to the point of needing to sit down. The praise then completes the excitement, the joy he feels over the fulfillment of God’s promise. This leads him to sing a song of praise to God for the fulfillment of the prophecy, and also to utter a prophecy about the future ministry of Jesus.

The Theological and Doxological Response

Now that he had seen Him, his life could end in peace (2:29), because he had seen the Lord’s salvation (2:30), which is to be for all people (2:31). Simeon also prophesied that Jesus would cause the rising and falling of man in Israel and Mary’s soul would be pierced (2:33-35). In the midst of this worship Simeon “sings,” the fourth and final songs Luke records of the infancy narratives.

The song emphasizes that Jesus’ birth is the fulfillment of God’s promises to redeem his people, and through the song he utters a prophecy of the future ministry of Jesus.

God is praised for the fulfillment of his promise (2:29-32). God is addressed as the sovereign Lord who is faithful to his promises (2:29). God is the Lord, Master over everything. He determines the beginning and the end. What he has ordained will occur. What he has spoken, will come to pass. Here Simeon praises the sovereign Lord who was – and remains – faithful to his promises, and in his kind mercy he allowed Simeon to live to see and experience the consolation of Israel, in the Lord’s Christ, Jesus.

Simeon, God’s servant, can now depart in peace (2:29). In the Greek text, “Now” stands at the beginning of this sentence and is there for emphasis. In the coming of Jesus, “now is the time – the time of the consolation of Israel. (It brings to mind Paul’s urgent and timely exhortation, where the same word is used: “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2, emphasis mine).) Simeon is God’s servant. He refers to himself as “your servant,” much like Mary referred to herself (1:38), and is a fitting contrast to the description of God as the sovereign one. Simeon is like the watcher who can now leave his assigned post because the anticipated event has come. Now the watcher is ready to die and he can depart in peace because he has seen and held the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6; Jn. 16:33), sent from the God of Peace (Phil. 4:9; Rom. 16:20) and experienced the peace of God (Phil. 4:7) because he was at peace with God (Rom. 5:1).

The reason Simeon can now depart is because he has seen the Lord’s salvation, a light, prepared in the sight of all people: revelation to the Gentiles and glory to Israel (2:30-32). In the coming of Jesus, salvation come. This is why it was essential for Simeon to experience it. Then and only then can he depart, not under a burden, but in peace. Although Simeon was a righteous and devout man, he was not prepared to depart in peace until he met Christ. Only then he was ready. This salvation was not outside of history, given to a few special people. It was done within of history in the sight of all people. God intends to extend to all the salvation that comes in Jesus. The light is Jesus himself and he comes to shine in the darkness (1:79). The effect of this light will be revelation will to the Gentiles – the Word, and glory to Israel, the Shekinah glory. God is acting for his people. This explains how he will be the consolation or deliverer.

Jesus’ future ministry is described (2:34-35): “And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.’”

Jesus’ ministry will cause pain for his mother, Mary. The reference is to the pain that Jesus’ ministry causes Mary, as Jesus creates his own family of disciples and his own priorities, and his suffering because of it. This is seen early in Jesus’ ministry. After a trip to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the Passover, they returned home, and assumed the boy Jesus was with them. After traveling a day, they realized he was not with them. They returned to Jerusalem looking for him, and continued to search for him three days before they found him – in the temple. Upon being questioned by Mary, he replied, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house” (2:49). Although this was reflective of Simeon’s prophecy, his parents did not understand what he meant by this (2:50).

Jesus will cause the rising and falling of many people. Please will either be drawn to Jesus or stumble over him. Those who reject him are headed for a fall, while those who receive him in faith are headed for a rising, a blessing. The sign will be that of resistance, contention and rejection of Jesus and his ministry. Simeon addresses how people will respond to Jesus. He will be resisted and rejected. For those who resist, Jesus will not be a hope of promise fulfilled, but a figure who is to be opposed. Although Jesus is God’s hope, not all will respond positively to him. The reality of this experience will “pierce through your own “[Mary’s] soul.”

The purpose of Jesus’ ministry will reveal where hearts really are before God. Jesus will expose those who do not believe. How humans respond to God’s promise is made evident by how they respond to Jesus, as that will reveal their thoughts (cf. Heb. 4:12). And that response results in eternal spiritual death or eternal blessedness with the Lord.

Mary pondered and treasured all of these truths in her heart. Simeon states that “thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” in responses to Jesus. With this in mind, ponder these questions, treasure these truths in your hearts, and worship him.

  1. How did Joseph and Mary respond to the Law?
  2. What kind of a man was Simeon? How is he described?
  3. Why does Simeon praise God? What is the significance of what Simeon says about the Lord’s Christ?
  4. What kind of a woman was Anna? How is she described? What does she say about Jesus?
  5. If you were to die today, could you sing with Simeon, “now dismiss your servant in peace?” Have you encountered the Prince of Peace, so you can experience the peace of God, the One who brings salvation?

May God’s favor be upon you and may you receive His peace during this Christmas season!