Almighty and ever-living God, we humbly pray that, as your only Son was presented this day in the temple in our human nature and flesh, so may we be presented to you with pure and clean hearts by the same your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Presentation of the Word of God
Lessons From The Lectionary:
The O.T. Lesson: Malachi 3:1-5
The Psalm: 48:1-7
For the Epistle: Galatians 4: 1-7
Gospel: Luke 2:22-40
When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” 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. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. 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.”
The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
The Thoughts Of Many Hearts Will Be Revealed
The Lord Jesus Christ is the searcher of human hearts; either by the truth spoken about him, or by his Spirit testing the content of the individual conscience concerning the deep-seated attitude towards him. Every person ever to have lived will rise or fall depending upon their estimation of Jesus - receptive or rejective. Messiah is the arbiter of our destiny according to the disposition of our heart towards him. He knows the tendency of our essential inner being. He probes to the inmost core and center of our secret self. Nothing can be concealed from his scrutiny. To him all hearts are open and from him nothing is hidden. Every secret impulse, all the emerging desires of our nature, are as plainly visible to him as objects revealed in the brightest light of the noonday sun.
This Lucan passage introduces us to the mystery of salvation (something we could never discover for ourselves, or ever be discerned by the keenest of human minds). We are now in the zone of the secret and sovereign activity of the Holy Spirit and his saving work of moving the soul toward God (drawing) and illuminating (teaching) his redemptive purpose [John 6:43-45]. It is the heart of man that is poignantly at the center of the historical presentation of Joseph and Mary’s son at the temple, and the dealing of the Spirit of God with the human heart.
The sensitive account of Jesus being taken to the temple is an example of the obedient piety of his young parents. “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord.” With understanding and willingness Mary and Joseph wanted their infant son to be set apart for the service of the Lord. We cannot ever imagine that their vow of consecration was ever an empty formality, as it may have for some others. Their desire was compatible with the command of the Lord. They knew his birth was unique and they wanted God’s way for him. Humbly they devoutly offered the sacrifice of Israel’s poor, “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” It was a modest offering from two hugely grateful hearts. As members of the remnant folk of Judea, Jesus’ parents would raise him in a sincere knowledge of the Lord, for he had a divine assignment that was not yet fully known by them. The child was a donation from God and dedicated to him.
A divinely arranged encounter between a senior member of the remnant [not necessarily aged] and Joseph and Mary occurred as they were making their way through the precincts of the temple. The Holy Spirit was on the move guiding the direction and hearts of three chosen persons toward a crucial meeting of enormous importance. The Lord had by his Spirit summoned the righteous and devout believer of the Messianic Promise, and [most likely] elderly saint called Simeon, to the temple to witness the advent of the One expected to come as the consolation of Israel, the embodiment of divine salvation.
Simeon had been granted the privilege of welcoming the Lord’s Christ about whom he had a greater understanding than the husband and wife standing before him. His salutation was affectionate and succinctly explanatory. In the acknowledgment of the Lord’s sovereignty he hailed the long-awaited Savior who would bring the knowledge of saving grace to the Gentile world and bring the vindication of Israel’s election and joy as God’s chosen people through whom God signalled and wrought the incarnation. That is a glorious role. In due time Israel will witness the glory of the God-Man who dwelt among the Jewish people in great humility.
Simeon’s glad pronouncement amazed the infant Redeemer’s parents and in the solemnity of the moment the patient believer of the ancient gospel confers a gracious blessing upon them. But his farewell words contain a somber prediction concerning the holy Babe. “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against …”
Jesus will arouse malicious and fierce opposition from cruel and wicked enemies. He will be falsely accused and slandered and hated by those who refuse to believe him. For those who come to trust him he will prepare their hearts to shun human pride and bring them to a humble state of mind. He will scatter those “who are proud in their inmost thoughts . . . but has lifted up the humble” (ch 1, Mary’s Song). “the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” Approval or disapproval of the Lord Jesus is the dividing line between the saved and the lost. The Lord will read each heart justly and accurately.
“And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” The denunciation and death of the Lord Jesus, The Son of God, would sorely wound the heart of Mary. Her soul would be penetrated by the sharpest pang of agony and sorrow. We, too, marvel at what Simeon knew.