Sermons‎ > ‎

    Being godly people

    "25Now 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 on him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. 27Moved 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, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel." 33The child's father and mother marvelled at what was said about him. 34Then 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, 35so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." (Luke 2:25-35)

    The Bible text today calls our attention to an episode of the Gospels in which we see Jesus' parents, after 40 days from the birth of their child, going to the Temple with Him. Why did they do so? Because they were godly parents, a man and a woman faithful and obedient to God. They wanted to express their gratitude to God for the gift they had received. In fact, “Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring are reward from him“ (Psalm 127:3).

    They expressed their gratitude by obeying the requirements of God's law recorded in the Bible for their time, namely bringing to the temple an offering. As faithful members of God's people, they knew the Bible, they trusted it as His Word and diligently obeyed it. How can we express today our gratitude to God for His generosity towards us? Our faithful obedience to God's law, recorded in the Bible, is the best expression of our gratitude to Him.

    We must be grateful to God not only for His daily providential care and for our families, but especially for having given us the Saviour Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Of this special status, Jesus' parents were particularly aware of even before His birth. In fact their son's unique destiny had been made know to them. To Joseph it was so revealed: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)

    As every other faithful couple did with their children, by bringing their child to the temple since His early age, they solemnly dedicated their son to God's service. But His consecration to God had a special meaning, as Jesus was destined in his life to accomplish a great mission. The life's purposes of a man or of a woman may be considered more or less important, but each human life has a purpose and it must be found in God.

    Joseph and Mary, as every other parent, had their own aspirations for their children, but as godly people, they were ready to allow not their own, but God's will to be accomplished in them. Mary, in particular, knew that the destiny of her son Jesus would be painful to her. The prophecy, in fact, said: “And a sword will pierce your own soul too" but she submitted herself to it, believing that God's plans, although often painful, are always the best.

    In our Bible text today we have another example of what it means to be godly people, that is, people deeply concerned with God and the beliefs and practice of religion, which is our duty as God's creatures. Our text tells us about a Simeon, a man who was “righteous and devout”. But it tells us more about him.

    Simeon “was waiting for the consolation of Israel”, that is, he eagerly waited for the appearance in the world of the Messiah, the Saviour, which the prophets had announced as imminent in that generation. The Messiah, the Saviour of the world, for us has already come in the person of Jesus Christ. We must not wait for another one, but we must be eager to see the full benefits of His coming to be revealed and accomplished in us. The benefits of Christ's Person and work, in fact, must be appropriated by each of us, must become our own, must become part of our own personal experience. This is why we should do as Simeon did: eagerly and earnestly praying that God may “reveal” Jesus to us, may apply to us personally the benefits of the Gospel.

    Simeon, furthermore, was an elderly man. He was not, so to say, ready to die before having had the personal experience of meeting the Saviour of the world. In his case: “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Messiah”. He knew that he could die in peace only after having met the Saviour. His prayer was answered, as this prayer is always gladly answered by God every time a man or a woman calls upon the name of the

    Lord in order to be saved from his or her sins. What a joy, for Simeon, being there in the temple exactly at the time Joseph and Mary brought in the baby Jesus. We can imagine him lifting his head from prayer and meeting with his eyes the approaching couple which had the little Jesus with them.. He was sure now that his prayer had been answered. He saw that boy, asked his parents to be allowed to hold him in his arms and: “...praised God, saying: "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” This could be an illustration for us for the act of receiving Jesus in our lives as God offers Him as our own personal Saviour and Lord.

    At the end of our story we find the same Simeon who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, becomes the mouthpiece himself of God, as he pronounces a prophecy concerning Jesus: "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." (34,35)

    It is with gratitude that we welcome Jesus as the one who saves us from our sins and reconciles us with God. In this world, nevertheless, there is everything but eagerness in the majority of people to accept Jesus as Saviour and Lord. To our astonishment, what we often find in people's views of Jesus is often complete indifference or eventually outright hostility and hatred: it the opposition of the world towards His claims and work. It must come as no surprise that Simeon's prophecy tells us about Jesus as, more often than not, someone who will be spoken against and contradicted.

    How is it possible? Because Jesus is “a light for revelation”. The Gospel is a light that exposes sin and its negative consequences and calls people to repentance. Most of the people, nevertheless, want to live their own way and love what God calls sin. They have no intention to abandon this way of life and delude themselves into thinking that sin will h ave "no consequences". Just because someone does not believe in God, does not mean objectively that God does not exist in relationship to them - as many would like to think.

    But like it or not, everybody will appear in front of God's tribunal to give an account of their lives. Their sins will be exposed and they will face their ultimate consequences. The world refuses to believe this and speaks against it. In this way the Pharisees thought to get rid of Jesus by killing Him. They did not and do not want to hear the Gospel and reject those who bring this message and live it.

    The message of the Gospel, nevertheless, is true and cannot be silenced . In the end, it prevails. Just as Jesus rose from the death, the truth of God's word will be vindicated. Jesus' enemies will fall, people who repent and believe in Him will be raised for His grace.

    In His love and compassion, God is calling us today to be like Jesus' parents and like Simeon, godly people who welcome the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ with trust and obedience.

    Paolo E. Castellina, 02/02/10






    Comments