Christmas 2014 – Songs in the Night
3. The Cradle and the Cross: Simeon's Song
Luke 2: 25 - 35
Are we any more prepared for the coming of Christ than they were in Bethlehem? It seems that most people weren’t prepared for his coming. Herod certainly wasn’t, nor were the scribes. The rich and powerful of Bethlehem don’t seem to have paid any attention to the young couple from Nazareth. The rulers of the world never knew he was born. Many never knew he lived or died. By the world, his birth was only a slight blip on the radar of history, a peasant child born to peasant parents. In Rome they paid no attention; in Athens and Alexandria no one took note.
“How silently, How silently, the wondrous gift is given.” “He was in the world, and although the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1: 10 - 11) The very people who should have been happiest to see him, instead paid no attention at all.
While it is true that the nation as a whole was not ready for his birth, there were some who were - the Magi came all the way from Persia to greet the infant King. They represent a great number of Gentiles who were ready to receive the Lord Jesus with joy and reverence. But even with Israel, there were those who believed the time was drawing near for God to at last keep his promises and send Messiah to the earth. Through prayer, they hoped to be ready when Messiah at last came on the scene.
Simeon is one man who had been waiting for years to see the Messiah, and when he meets the baby Jesus, he knows his long wait is finally over. Luke 2: 21 - 24
Clearly shows that Jesus was born into a god-fearing, law-abiding home. Our Lord was not born into an upper-class home or a comfortable middle-class home. He was born into a loving, godly home that would at best be considered lower middle-class. Jesus knew poverty and hardship from the very beginning.
40 days have passed since the birth of Jesus. Here come Mary and Joseph into the Temple precincts, ready to “redeem” their firstborn son. There was nothing outwardly to distinguish them, no marks or signs that indicated they were anything other than another poor young couple coming with their newborn son. At this point Simeon enters the story. We assume he was a priest, we also assume he was an old man. He appears on the stage of history in the drama surrounding the birth of Christ. After his part is over, he fades from the scene, never to be heard from again.
Here come Mary and Joseph, and here comes Simeon. He has never seen them before, they have never seen him before. But an encounter is about to take place - v. 25, 26. The Holy Spirit had told him, “You will not die before you see the Messiah.”
“Is This The One?”
Early every morning Simeon goes to the Temple, watching and waiting for the Messiah to come. How would he know him? What should he look for? Did he know to look for a baby? Was he looking for a teenager or a strong young man? Each time a young couple came in with a baby, he whispered, “Is that the one?” If he saw a fine looking teenager, he would say, “Is that the one, Lord, or is it someone else?” Each day he watched, and looked, and questioned. Each day the answer came back, time and again, “No, that’s not the one. Keep looking. Keep watching. Keep waiting.”
Here comes Mary holding the baby in her arms with Joseph by her side. Jesus is only 40 days old. He is a poor carpenter from Nazareth, she is a peasant girl - they are obviously from the country - don’t have much money. If you were people-watching, you wouldn’t give them a second glance. When Simeon sees them, he asks his question for the 10,000th time, “Is this the one?” And the Holy Spirit says, “Yes.”
“This Is The One!”
Suddenly Simeon’s heart leaps within him. The long days of waiting are finally over. The Lord’s Christ is before him. Here is the One for whom the nation has been waiting. He walks over, introduces himself, “Do you mind if I hold your child?” As Mary gives the infant Jesus to Simeon, the thought hits him, “I am holding the salvation of the world in my arms.” At that point Simeon breaks out into a song of praise, a song that is so beautiful that it has come down through the centuries to us as the final and climactic song of Christmas. The song is called the Nunc Dimittis, the first 2 words of the Latin translation of Simeon’s words.
v. 29 – 32 - Simeon’s first thought is that he is now ready to die. He won’t live to see the Lord grow up. He won’t witness any of the great miracles. Simeon will be long gone when Jesus stands before Pilate. The crucifixion is hidden to him, as is the resurrection. But it doesn’t matter that he won’t see the end because Simeon has seen the beginning, and that is enough.
What Child Is This?
Simeon’s song tells us 3 important things about who Jesus is -
1. He is the Glory of Israel v. 32
In this baby, Simeon sees the fulfillment of all the hopes and dreams of the Jewish people across the centuries. For generations the promises were repeated—from father to son, from mother to daughter, from family to family and Jewish children were taught to pray for the Messiah’s appearance.
“Why Does Messiah Delay His Coming?”
By the time you get to the 1st century, you have all these centuries of expectation built up. Some Jews thought the Messiah would be a great political leader who would overthrow Rome and restore Israel to its rightful place in the world. Others thought the Messiah would be God himself. Still others expected a 2nd Moses or Elijah. So you had a lot of confusion mixed with a general sense of expectation.
Now after all these years, all God’s promises are coming true. “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”
2. He is the Saviour of the World
“A light of revelation for the Gentiles.” Simeon explicitly says that this baby will not only be the glory of his own people Israel. He will also be the light of revelation for the Gentiles. He’s not just for Israel. He didn’t come just for their benefit. He came to shine a light of the revelation of God into every nation, every tribe, every kindred and every tongue. The Jews couldn’t say, “He belongs to us and you can’t have him.” Nor could they say, “You have to become a Jew to enjoy Messiah’s benefits.” No! Doubtless that’s what some Jews expected. But Simeon’s words explode that forever.
He’s the Saviour of the whole world. Rich and poor, young and old, black and white, Jew and Gentile. That means there is hope for you at Christmastime. If you are lonely this year, Simeon meant to include you. If your family has rejected you, Simeon meant to include you. If you feel forgotten, depressed, discouraged, and down on your luck, be of good cheer, Christmas is for you! Whatever sins are holding you back this year, Christmas means that you can be forgiven, because Jesus came for you.
In all of this, Simeon is telling us something crucial. By sending his Son to the earth, he is not only fulfilling his promises to the nation. He is also bringing to the world a Saviour for all people everywhere.
3. He is the Divider of the Human Race v. 33 - 35
What a thing to say about a tiny baby. “Mary, I know you are happy now, but you will weep later. Today your heart is filled with joy. Later it will be filled with sorrow. Rejoice and enjoy this time because dark days are coming.” Isn’t it true that if you are a parent, the worst thing that can happen to you is to see your children suffer? Most of us will do anything to spare our children needless pain. We’ll gladly suffer ourselves if it will make the way easier for our children. That’s what it means to be a Mom or a Dad. You take the pain yourself so your children won’t have to.
Born To Die
Simeon is saying, “Mary, they are going to touch this child, and you won’t be able to do anything about it. They are going to hate him, they are going to lie about him, they’ll spread rumors about you and Joseph, they will smear his name with malicious lies. You will have to stand by helplessly and watch it happen.”
Down the road it all came true. In the end hatred took full control and they arrested Jesus and put him on trial as a blasphemer. They beat him within an inch of his life, leaving his skin in tattered ribbons. After the trial, he was condemned to die. In the end, Mary stood by the cross and watched her son die an agonizing, brutal, bloody, inhuman death. Amid the stench and gore of crucifixion, Mary stood by her son, unable to staunch the flow of blood, unable to wipe his brow, unable to hold his hand.
It all happened exactly as Simeon had predicted. When Mary watched her son die, a sword pierced her soul. Above the cradle stands the cross. This little baby was born to die.
Because of Jesus, the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. With Jesus there is no neutrality. No one can ever come face to face with Jesus Christ and remain the same. Every time you see Jesus, you will either be drawn closer to him or you will move farther away. That’s what Simeon means when he says that Jesus will cause the rising of many and the falling of many. You either go higher spiritually when you meet Jesus or you turn around and go the other way. It’s either up or down, heaven or hell.
How can that be? People rise or fall according to their personal response to Jesus. In this world there are only two classes of people: Those who believe in Jesus Christ and those who don’t. And there is no middle ground. There is no fence to sit upon.
At Christmastime you only have two options regarding Jesus Christ. Either you join Herod in trying to kill him or you join the Wise Men in bowing down and worshiping him. And there is nothing in between! Remember, if you are indifferent, you’ve really joined the side that wants to kill him.
What Is Jesus To You?
What is Jesus to you? Not who is he, but what is he to you? Is he life or is he death to you this morning? That’s what Simeon is saying. This little baby who is the glory of Israel, who is the light of the world, is also the great divider of the human race. You’re either on one side or on the other regarding Jesus. No one stays forever in the middle.
The way you respond to Jesus reveals what is in your heart - tells us who you are and what you are. The way you respond to Jesus tells us where you are going and how you are going to get there. Jesus, the great divider of mankind!
Was it not our Lord himself who said, “I came not to bring peace but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) Simeon saw it from the very beginning.
First there was Herod and the Wise Men. One tried to kill him and the others worshiped him. Then later there was Peter who repented and Judas who committed suicide. Then there was Pilate who tried to wash his hands and the centurion who said, “Surely this was the Son of God.” Then there was one thief who blasphemed and another who believed. From the beginning of his life to the very end, Jesus divided the human race.
When Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms, he said, “Lord, I’m ready to go home now. I can die in peace.” But no one is ready to die until they have seen Jesus Christ with the eyes of faith. You’re not ready to die until you have seen him and known him and trusted him as your Saviour.
If you come to the end, and you’ve never seen Jesus, you’ve basically wasted your years upon this earth. He is the great divider of mankind. Everyone who hears these words is on one side or the other.
The Only Thing That Matters Is Jesus