Adoring and Appreciating Christ
By Joseph Ametepe
We Proclaim Jesus.
During the Great Depression that hit the United States in the 1930s, a family in the Midwest struggled to put food on their table. They had no money for luxuries. One day posters all over town announced that a circus was coming. Admission would be one dollar. A boy in the family wanted to see the show, but his father told him that he would have to earn the money on his own. You see, the youngster had never seen a circus before, so he worked feverishly and was able to buy a ticket. On the day the circus arrived, he went to see the performers and the animal parade through town. As he watched, a clown came dancing over to him, and the boy put his ticket in the clown's hand. Then he stood on the curb and cheered as the rest of the parade moved by. The youngster rushed home to tell his parents what he had seen and how exciting the circus was. His father listened, then took his son in his arms and said, "Son, you didn't see the circus. All you saw was the parade." That story is a parable of Christmas. Many people get excited about the festivities but miss the main event. ~Daily Bread, December 3, 1994.
The purpose of this Christmas article is to teach that the key to not missing the main event of Christmas, that is, adoring and appreciating Christ Himself, is to be under the control and direction of the Holy Spirit. Nowhere is this teaching vividly and visually portrayed to us than in Luke's account of the events of the First Christmas. In Luke 2:25-32, the Bible presents to us a fresh and timeless lesson: a person who is under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit will never miss the main event of Christmas, and for that matter, the main event in life, that is, knowing Jesus Christ, loving and living all out for Him. Luke 2:25-32 can be described as a passage of revelation and reverence. It is a passage of revelation for two simple and specific reasons. First, it's because it clearly presents to us the revelatory work of the Holy Spirit in Simeon's life. Second, it's because it convincingly promises God's revelation to believing Gentiles as well. In fact, this passage contains the two most important words of divine revelation, namely chrematizo and apokalypsis. I will explain them later. It is also a passage of reverence because it concisely pictures the reverence believers must show to the Person of God. I tell you friends, genuine, sincere reverence was at the heart of Simeon's walk and relationship with the true and living God of the universe. He was not caught up in mere religious rules, rituals, regulations and restless activities of men. When Simeon's eyes were directed to the Christ-Child, he reverently took Him into his arms and blessed God. Finally, it is a passage of reverence because, it concretely points us to the three distinct Persons of the Godhead. God the Spirit is mentioned three times (vv. 25-27). God the Son is also mentioned variously as "the Lord's Christ" (v. 26), "the child Jesus" (v. 27), and "Your salvation" (v. 30). God the Father is also referred to three times as "Lord" twice (vv. 26, 29), and once as "God" (v. 28). In other words, this passage is one of the Trinitarian passages of Scripture that must be approached with holy reverence, healthy respect, and high regard for the one God in Three Persons.
In this article, we will first discuss the Bible's teaching about the reputation of Simeon before God and men in verse 25. Second, we will look at the revelation of the Holy Spirit to Simeon in verse 26. Third, we will examine the response of Simeon to the revelation of the Holy Spirit in verses 27-28. Fourth, we will turn our attention to Simeon's request for release in verse 29. Fifth and finally, we will consider Simeon's reason for release in verses 30-32. If you are ready, let's begin now to take a fresh look at the blessed Christmas Story which presents to us a man who did not miss the main event of Christmas at the First Christmas. This man was in the thick of things at the First Christmas.
I. Reputation of Simeon (Luke 2:25)
I tell you friends, Simeon's reputation before God and men is enviable to say the least. Simeon, who is mentioned nowhere else in Scripture, except in our passage of study and the following three verses, is introduced to us. The Bible's introduction of Simeon to us is brief but brilliant. This is vividly captured in Luke 2:25
"And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him" Luke 2:25 (NASB).
In Luke 2:25-38, Doctor Luke, the inspired writer of the Gospel of Luke, presents two godly figures, namely Simeon and Anna, who under divine inspiration, testify to the significance of the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. In doing so, Luke assures us of the credentials of Jesus as Messiah, taking great care to show that each witness is an authentic representative of Judaism. The first of these witness is "Simeon"-a name which means "He hears" or "Hearing." It would interest you to know that the name "Simeon" is borne by only four men in the entire Bible. In chronological order: first, is the second son of Jacob and Leah (Gen. 29:33). Second is an ancestor of Joseph in the line of David, listed in the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Luke 3:30. Third is Simeon, a righteous and devout Jew in Jerusalem (Luke 2:25-35). Fourth, one of the Christian prophets and teachers at the church in Antioch of Syria, also called Niger, (Acts 13:1) that is, black like me. It can't get any better than that. Anyway, apart from this story in Luke, nothing else is known historically concerning the Simeon we are now being introduced to. Even though, we know nothing else of Simeon apart from what is written of him here, yet the little that is written of him here contains tons of spiritual lessons and applications that cannot be exhausted in a single sermon..
Now would you please notice that the Bible's introduction of Simeon actually begins in a dramatic manner. But you ask: How so? Well, I'm glad you've asked. Please notice verse 25 begins with the expression: "And behold.""Kai idou." The Greek word translated "behold" (idou), sometimes serves to enliven a narrative by arousing the attention of hearers and readers. It is used to introduce something new which calls for special attention in the situation. In other words, it is an attention-getting word. It is also used to introduce something quite extraordinary. It is used as well, to emphasize the importance of something. So by using "behold" (which is not translated in the NIV), the Bible is arousing our attention as it seeks to emphasize the drama and importance of the story about to be told.
After telling us about his current address, that is, Jerusalem and his name, the Holy Spirit proceeds with the sense of urgency to disclose to us three significant truths about Simeon's reputation before God and men, namely Simeon's godly character, his constant expectation, and that he was a man under the control of the Holy Spirit.
Now, first of all, what do we learn about Simeon's character? Would you please notice that Dr. Luke neither associates Simeon with a leading sect or party nor calls him a priest. In fact, Luke doesn't even tell us his father's name or the tribe Simeon comes from as he did in his description of Anna (Luke 2:36). The important thing the Holy Spirit lays on Luke's heart to communicate to us is that Simeon is "righteous and devout." What a blessed a character description of Simeon. When was the last time you heard someone being described in such terms? Today, what we hear, even in Christian circles is: "He is a cool guy. She is a nice person." Please understand that I'm not against coolness and niceness and you rock, all that stuff. But my question is: Where are the righteous and devout today? Have they gone out of existence? Have they vanished from our planet? Why are we not hearing about them. Simeon may be a simple man. But please make no mistake about this. His reputation before God and men was stellar. Your character and my character, matters to God. Let me ask you today, if God were to write a story about your life, what would He say about your character? Would it be something you would be proud of? Or would it be something you would be ashamed of?
The first character quality revealed to us about Simeon is that he was righteous. Actually, this is the second time Luke describes a biblical figure as being righteous in character. In Luke 1:6, he speaks of Zacharias and Elizabeth, a husband and wife, as being "both righteous in the sight of God." What a lovely way to describe a godly couple! Now the question is: What does it mean to be righteous and devout? Let's first look at what it means to be "righteous" (dikaios). The New Testament makes it clear that a righteous person is one justified by faith and showing forth his faith by his works. In other words, a person is just or righteous with the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ alone (Philippians 3:9), and brings forth the fruits of righteousness (Philippians 1:1; Hebrews 11:4). So the righteous are the people who are savingly related to God and who as the result of this relationship walk with God. They are those who have conditioned their lives by the standard which is not theirs, but God's. That is very important. But you ask: why is it important? Here is why! You see, often times, nonbelievers call others "righteous" or "just" as they compare them with their own standards such as social virtues. For them, it has more a social than a divine reference. Their comparison is based on their own standards, not on God's standards. My friend, when Luke describes Simeon as "righteous," he is not basing it on puny little man's standards, but on God's standards-that is, a person is "righteous" with the righteousness which is of God by faith in Jesus Christ, and who shows forth the fruits of righteousness-not merely by talking the talk, but walking the walk. This was true in Simeon's life. As such, the Holy Spirit did not hesitate to describe him as "righteous."
Simeon is not only "righteous" but "devout" in his character. The Greek word translated "devout" (eulabes) is a compound word made up of "eu"-meaning "well," or "carefully" and "elabo" second aorist of "lambano" meaning "to take." To be "devout" therefore means "one who takes anything carefully which is held out to him. It also refers to "one who is cautious, circumspect, careful in the worship of God and in his duties toward God." It also speaks of being reverent or God-fearing. The one interesting thing I discovered inn my preparation for this message is that only Simeon is described as "righteous and devout" in the New Testament. How special is that! You see, Simeon based his life on God's standards. Simeon related to God by faith. Simeon walked with God by trusting Him and taking Him at His word. Simeon careful in his worship of God. Simeon was prudent in his duties toward God. Simeon was a God-fearing man. In short, Simeon was righteous and reverent. No wonder Simeon did not miss the main event at the First Christmas, that is, adoring and appreciating the Person of Christ Himself. What about you? Is your life consistently based on God's standards? Are careful in your worship of Jesus?
The second truth we learn about Simeon's stellar reputation is that he was a man of constant expectation. The Bible itself tells us that Simeon was looking for, waiting for, expecting, or anticipating (prosdechomai) the realization of "consolation of Israel." Now the question is: What exactly is "the consolation of Israel?" Well, it is the hope that God would come and rescue and comfort His people. It is the comfort the Messiah would bring to His people at His coming. "It refers to the time when, according to Isaiah 40:1-2, God would end Israel's time of alienation and suffering through the advent of the Messiah. Or simply put, it is looking forward to the Messianic age in its spiritual aspect." ~Adapted from the Expositors' Bible Commentary.
Now, here is an important lesson I don't want you to miss. Whatever Simeon's age, it is believed he is an old man now. Yet, Simeon had never lost hope that he would see the Messiah. Simeon had a steadfast, sure ,and secure hope in his God. Simeon expressed unwavering confident expectation of seeing the Lord's Christ. You see, Simeon never let the circumstances of his life-that is, living in a city and a country ruled by Rome, with Roman Gestapos everywhere-weaken his trust in seeing the long-awaited Messiah. In other words, Simeon had a resolute, a resilient, an unwavering and unbending faith in the purposes of God for His people. I greatly admire Simeon, despite living under Roman occupation, his hope never faded in waiting for the comfort god would bring to Israel at the coming of the Messiah. I wonder today, if the same thing could be said of us here? Do you display confident expectation in God's purposes for your life and for your local church? Or do you let the circumstances in your life discourage or demoralize you from expressing steadfast hope in God's plans for your life and for your local church?
Bible Commentator William Barclay shares helpful insight on some of the Jewish who were waiting expectantly for the consolation of Israel. He writes:
"There were some few people who were known as the Quiet in the Land. They had no dreams of violence and of power or of armies with banners; they believed in a life of constant prayer and quiet watchfulness until God should come. All their lives they waited quietly for and patiently upon God. Simeon was like that, in prayer, in worship, in humble and faithful expectation he was waiting for the day when God would comfort His people."
We live in an instant age, Instant coffee! Instead popcorn! Instant internet! Delays can be hard to deal with in our "I want-it-now" culture. It's hard, if not impossible to wait patiently for God's time-table. Simeon patiently waited for God's time-table for revealing the Messiah. He didn't let anything distract him from constantly looking for the consolation of Israel. And we shouldn't. We should wait instead of running ahead of God.
The third truth made known to us about the Simeon's distinguished reputation is that, he was a man under the control of the Holy Spirit. Notice what the Bible says at the end of verse 25. "And the Holy Spirit was upon him." This simply means that Simeon's life was under the control of the Holy Spirit. Oh how we like and love to be in control! I tell you friends, the Holy Spirit cannot be upon you if He is not in control. In fact, the Holy Spirit has nothing to do with those who are control freaks. Please listen, if your life is all about controlling your circumstances, situations, and even people, the Holy Spirit will not be free to do what God wants Him to do in your life. But that was not the case in Simeon's life. He gave up the control of his life to the Holy Spirit. May I humbly and honestly say to us, until we totally give up the control of our lives to the Holy Spirit, we will simply be mediocre Christians-which Satan will like us to be-because we will not pose any threat to his kingdom.
It is appropriate at this juncture to note that the Spirit who Himself is the One who consoles and comforts and encourages (parakletos) was upon one who waited for the consolation (paraklesis) of Israel. Please remember that Simeon lived over thirty years before Pentecost. So we know that the Holy Spirit was upon him not in the way common to all genuine born-again believers after Pentecost. But please make no mistake about this! By saying "the Holy Spirit was upon him," the Bible is indicating the powerful anointing and manifest presence of the Holy Spirit at work in Simeon's life. May I say to us today! The church today, made up of believers, born-again Christians, bought with the precious blood of Jesus brought into a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ, and therefore belong to Jesus Christ-desperately need the powerful anointing and manifest presence and power of the person of the Holy Spirit at work in us. Please understand that I am not talking about the so-called manifestations of the Holy Spirit such as barking loudly like dogs, rolling on the ground, and experiencing so called holy laughter. But I am talking about true manifestation of the Holy Spirit's presence and power as we see in Simeon's life-control and directing him, disclosing the secrets of God to him which he could never have known by relying on his own intellect, directing him to be at the right place at the right time, enabling him to revere and bless God in such a way that it brought a big smile to God's face. How can we experience such manifestation in the church today? First, let us resolve today, not to rely on our feeble human power to live the Christian or do the work of Christ. Second, let us renounce today our dependence on our failing human strength to carry out God's supernatural work. Third, let us reject Satan's lies that we can accomplish a lot for God, by trusting in our frail self. Fourth, rather, let us seek God's help to remove anything and everything that will hinder the powerful anointing and manifest presence and power of the Person of the Holy Spirit in our individual lives and collectively as a local church under the Lordship and Headship of Jesus Christ, who is Himself the Church's one foundation. Fifth and finally, let us, like Simeon, relinquish our control to the Holy Spirit, to do God-sized works in and through us for the glory and praise of His great name! Yes, His great name alone!
If you not a believer in Jesus Christ, may I humbly and honestly say to you, you are, in the Bible's words, a stranger to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12). All your hoping in life will amount to nothing of eternal value. Why? It's because it is not based on God's promise as was the case in Simeon's life. In fact, you are missing the main event, not only during this Christmas season, but also for the rest of your life. But all that can change for you today. How? Simply turn from your sins to Jesus today! Tell Jesus today that you a sinner having no hope and without God in this world. Take Jesus at His word today that He died on the cross to pay your sin debt in full, that He was buried, and that He rose again, in order to bring you into a right standing with the holy, righteous, and loving God. And thank Jesus today for loving you so much to give His life for you!
Now the Bible brings us to an important ministry of the Holy Spirit, for which every believer should grateful. It carefully directs our attention to the revelation of the Holy Spirit to Simeon.
II. Revelation of the Holy Spirit to Simeon (Luke 2:26)
The Spirit's revelatory work in Simeon's life is vividly captured in Luke 2:26.
"And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ" Luke 2:26 (NASB).
The same Spirit who was upon Simeon had revealed to Him that the Messiah, that is, the Lord's Christ, would come before Simeon died. Simeon was given a special insight by the Holy Spirit so that he would recognize the Christ of God. What a privilege to have the Holy Spirit tell you the secrets of the Almighty God. I'm sure Simeon regularly spent time with God in worship, prayer, and praise of God. Perhaps, he was on his knees praying and praising God when the Holy Spirit showed up and told him: "Simeon, you are going to see the Messiah with your own eyes before you depart this world." In other words, God had supernaturally and specifically promised Simeon through the Holy Spirit that his life would not end before he had seen God's own Anointed One. In the baby Jesus, Simeon would recognize that Anointed One and would be glad and grateful.
I tell you friends, "the secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him" (Psalm 25:14). In Amos 3:7, we read: "Surely the Lord GOD does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets." Although Simeon is not known as a prophet, yet the Holy Spirit chose to reveal the future God had planned for his life. Won't you want to know what God plans to do in and through your life before it's all over? Simeon was among the few who enjoyed that privilege. Bible Commentator William MacDonald writes:
"There is a mysterious communication of divine knowledge to those who walk in quiet fellowship with God."-MacDonald, The Believer's Commentary, p. 1375.
The word translated "had been revealed" comes from the Greek verb "chrematizo." It is used of God imparting a revelation or injunction or warning. It also means "direct," "give divine directions or information," instruct," "disclose," "communicate," or "to be directed." It speaks of something that is revealed or prophesied, or things revealed by divine oracle. But you ask: Why are you spending so much time to draw out the meaning of this verb? Please listen carefully! It's because it is one of the greatest privileges or blessings for the believer in Jesus to have the Holy Spirit tell him things he would never have known by relying on his human intellect, wisdom, or understanding. The Holy Spirit who is all-wise, all-knowing, and has infinite understanding of spiritual reality, chooses to reveal the thoughts of God, to whomever He pleases. Simeon is one of those believers who have experienced this special blessing. But my question is: Is the Spirit's work of revealing the thoughts of God or giving divine directions limited to Simeon? It's not limited to Simeon. It's available to all true believers in Jesus Christ. But the question is: Are you as a believer in Jesus Christ experiencing this blessing in your walk with God? Have you at any time in your life, had the Holy Spirit give you His divine directions concerning a person or a situation in your life? If you have never experienced the special blessing of receiving divine directions in your life, please let the Holy Spirit examine and search your heart to see if there is any hindrance in you.
Bible Commentator, Preacher, Pastor, and Author John MacArthur shares his insight on this verse. He writes
"It is significant that with Messianic expectation running so high (cf. 3:15), and with many Old Testament prophecies that spoke of His coming, still only a handful of people realized the significance of Christ's birth. Most them, including Simeon, received some angelic message or other special revelation to make the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies clear." ~John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 1575.
Having concisely described Simeon's reputation before God and men, and having carefully directed our attention to the revelation of the Holy Spirit to Simeon, the Bible now brings us to the important point of Simeon's response to the revelation of the Spirit.
III. Response of Simeon to the Revelation of the Holy Spirit (Luke 2:27-28)
This is clearly and concisely shown in verses 27-28.
"And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said," Luke 2:27-28 (NASB).
I tell you friends, God's revelation to man always demands a response from man. Folks, you are going to see for yourselves a man who knows how to respond to the Spirit to be at the right place at the right time with the right heart for God to do something special in his life. Please notice the Bible says of Simeon: "And he came in the Spirit." What does that mean? Well, here it what it means. You don't have to be a rocket scientist before understanding what the Bible is teaching here. The expression, "he came in the Spirit," simply means that Simeon was under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit who was upon him. The Holy Spirit is identified as the One who guided Simeon to the temple. In other words, Simeon was in tune and in step with the Spirit. The Spirit said to Simeon, "Today, I want you to walk in step with to the temple area. Are you ready to go with Me?" Simeon responded, "Yes, I am ready to go with You." And off he went. Together they came to the temple area or the temple complex, not the temple sanctuary, on the very day Jesus' parents were presenting Him to God. Notice Mary and Joseph are referred to as "the parents of the child Jesus." Later, in verse thirty three, they were referred to as "the child's father and mother." But you say: I have a problem with that? Well, this is not a problem at all. Jesus would have been considered Joseph's own son. Moreover, the Bible not only refers to Jesus as the Son of God (Matt. 4:3), the Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32), the son of David (Matthew 1:1), the son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1), the Son of Man (Matthew 9:6), but also as the son of Mary and the son of Joseph (Luke 3:23; cf. Luke 2:48; John 1:45).
The important point I don't want you to miss here is the providential timing or what we also call a "divine appointment." The Bible is teaching here that the Holy Spirit brings Simeon to the temple courts just as Jesus' parents also arrived. In other words, because Simeon responded the Spirit's guidance in his life, he was ready for the family's arrival to the temple complex. Talk about being at the right place at the right time for the right reason with a right heart! We see it here in Simeon's life. I wonder if that is the case with you today? Are you here for the right reason with a right heart? If so, I believe you at the right place at the right time for God to do something special in your life.
Now, I want you to remember that the temple area was always busy. It was the religious hub of Israel. So many people came to the temple area that day. But they missed the main event of that day. Oh yes, they followed the rituals, rules, and regulations of men. But they missed the most important event, not only of the First Christmas, but also of human history. What about you today? Are you among the many, the multitudes, the masses who are caught up in religious rituals, rules, regulations and restless activities of men, but are missing the main event of having a personal relationship with the loving God, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone? Some of you have gone to chapel services many times, to church meetings, camps, and conferences, but you are still missing the main event of having a personal relationship with Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
What about you the believer in Jesus Christ? Are you consumed with your problems? No job? No home? No health insurance? No car? No cash? No credit? No family? No friends? Perhaps the problem that is consuming your heart and mind day and night is:-feeling rejected, forgotten, forsaken, feeling that God has disappointed you or let you down, or fear of the future, failure to overcome your struggles with alcohol, drugs, pornography. You want to be free, but whenever you take one step forward into freedom, sadly you find yourself taking seven steps backwards into your old self-destructive ways! Are these problems consuming your life that you are missing the main event of spending time with Jesus each day, sitting at the feet of Jesus daily to teach and train you in His ways, savoring the presence of Jesus day by day, seeking Jesus every day of your life? Are you caught up with so many activities that you don't have time to be with Jesus privately? May I say to you, as a believer in Jesus, you have no excuse for missing the main event in life? Why? You have the same Holy Spirit in you who was upon Simeon. My friend, you can find freedom and fulfillment in life by responding to the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. A man, with whom I shared the gospel for over a year, was hooked on marijuana (pot) and alcohol for many years. But recently, when he finally responded to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in his life and believed in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, he was totally freed from marijuana and alcohol abuse. He told me recently, "I no longer have any desire for pot and the bottle." You see, God took the craving and desire from him. He literally freed him. The Bible says, "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36). Jesus brought freedom to this man. Freedom from sin. Freedom from pot and the bottle. What Jesus did for this man, He is more than willing to do for you. But the question is: Will you respond to the Holy Spirit's work in your life?
Often times, during the Christmas season, we hear people talk about being in the Christmas spirit. How many of you here are in the Christmas spirit? Please listen carefully now! Being in the Christmas spirit is not just about singing Christmas carols, decorating Christmas trees, baking Christmas cookies, putting up Christmas lights, having Christmas parties. By the way, do you realize that none of those things happened at the First Christmas? To be in the Christmas spirit is to recognize the Spirit's voice in the midst of all others. To be in Christmas spirit is to be alert and attentive to the Holy Spirit's promptings and eager to obey Him. This was exactly what Simeon did. He recognized the Spirit's voice. He readily responded to the Holy Spirit.
Believer in Jesus Christ, let me ask you! Are you really in the Christmas spirit today? My friend, let me tell you what will happen in your life, if you are truly in the Christmas spirit! You will be responding to the Spirit's work of cleansing your heart! Correcting you whenever you miss the mark! Counseling you in the ways of God! Convicting you of your sins so as to confess them to God and be restored into fellowship with Him! Changing you from the inside out! Consecrating you for the purposes of God! Comforting you in your hard times-You will never be without His comfort! Challenging you to commit every area of your life to Him, even your future! And above all, conforming you into Christlikeness, not just during the Christmas season, but all year long! Because the presence and power of the Person of the Holy Spirit, who Himself is the true, eternal Spirit of Christmas-remain with us all year long! But the question is: Will you choose today to say like Simeon: "Holy Spirit, I am ready to respond to your work in my life." If you are true, genuine born-again believer in Jesus Christ, and sincerely desire this; then say with me: "Holy Spirit, I am ready to respond to Your work in my life from this day onward!"
If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, if you have never put your trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, may I humbly and honestly say to you, you can never truly be in the Christmas spirit. Oh yes, you can eat all the Christmas cookies and candies, and enjoy seeing all the Christmas lights around town. But you will be empty on the inside. Why? It's because the only way for you to truly experience and enjoy the Christmas spirit is to be born again by the Spirit of God. The Lord Jesus said to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Again, Jesus solemnly declared to him: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot see into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). Come to Jesus today! He is waiting with arms of love. Confess to Jesus today that you are a wretched and wayward sinner in desperate need of His salvation. Call on Jesus with childlike faith and say to Him:
"Dear Jesus, I come to you just as I am-a sinner! I believe you came on the First Christmas, but You died on the cross to save me. I believe You were buried. But You rose again on the third day! Thank You that You love me so much to save me from my sins-past, present, and future. Fill me today with the Holy Spirit so that I too can respond to the work of the Holy Spirit in my life all year long, not just during Christmas! Amen!"
Actually, in the first two chapters of Luke, the Bible clearly shows that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christmas. It is striking that the Holy Spirit is mentioned seven times in the lives of the biblical characters involved in the Christmas story. His work is cited in the lives of the unborn John the Baptist (1:15), Mary (1:35), Elizabeth (1:41), Zacharias (1:67), and Simeon (2:25, 26, 27). In these stories, there is no mention of people feeling strangely moved or busily engaged with festivities of Christmas such as putting up Christmas lights, baking Christmas cookies, decorating Christmas trees, etc. Instead, the Holy is identified as the One who guided Simeon, filled the unborn John the Baptist, Zacharias, and Elizabeth, and created the Baby in Mary's womb. Do we, like them recognize the Spirit's voice in the midst of all others? Are we alert to His promptings and eager to obey Him?
In a reverent and refreshing, tender and touching scene, Luke again shows the presence of Jesus, now cuddled in the arms of the godly old man Simeon as occasion of blessing. That is why the Bible says, "then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said," (Luke 2:28). I imagine there were other parents who had brought their first-born son to be consecrated to the Lord. So how did Simeon know for sure the child he took into his arms was different from all others in the temple that day? Simeon was supernaturally instructed that the Child he took into his arms was none other but the promised Messiah. As Simeon reverently and tenderly took, received, welcomed (dechomai) the Baby Jesus into his arms, the Holy Spirit gave him a special assurance that he was indeed looking into the very face of the Messiah! What a glorious moment it was for Simeon! Having taken the Messiah into his arms, having seen with his own eyes the Christ-Child, the Bible tells us, Simeon "blessed God." The Greek verb translated "blessed" is "eulogeo." Our English word eulogy comes from this Greek verb. It means "speak well of," "praise," "extol," "give thanks and praise"- with God or Christ being the object. However, when God or Christ is the subject, "eulogeo" means "bestow a blessing, or benefit," "act graciously toward someone." In Luke 2:28, God is the object of "eulogeo." So, the Bible is telling us that Simeon is speaking well of God. Simeon is extolling God. Simeon is overflowing with praise to the Lord his God. I wonder how often you speak well of God? How often do you extol Him? How often do you give Him genuine praise?
In verse 34, we are told Simeon "blessed Mary and Joseph." In that verse, "bless" (eulogeo) means call down God's gracious power upon someone. Instead of blessing God we often blame Him. Instead of extolling God, we often explain away why we can't. Instead of giving God thanks and praise, we often grumble against Him. Instead of calling down God's gracious power on our fellow believers as Simeon did, we often criticize and cut them down. what an example Simeon is to us! He was a man who chose the way of blessing God and calling down God's gracious power upon others!
Simeon's blessing of God, led to a song, which is often called the "Nunc Dimittis," from the first two words of the Latin Translation. The Latin title "Nunc Dimittis" means "Now Dismiss." Simeon's psalm is the fourth of five psalms of praise Luke included in his birth narrative. Mary's song-the Magnificat (1:46-55), Zacharias song (1:68-79), the angel's song (2:14), Simeon's first song (2:29-32), and Simeon's second song (2:34-35), are the five psalms Luke included in his birth narrative. Now the question is: What is Simeon's song or psalm all about? The answer to that question brings us to the fourth major point of our Christmas story. The first part of Simeon's song focuses on his request for release.
IV. Request for Release (Luke 2:29)
Simeon's request reads:
"Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word." Luke 2:29 (NASB).
Literally, this verse reads: "Now You release the slave of You, Master, according to the word of You in peace." Please notice that Simeon's first song begins with the Greek word "nun" translated "now." What is the significance of that word at the beginning of Simeon's psalm? Well, it is stressing the fact that the Messiah has indeed come. In fact, Simeon's "Nunc Dimittis" is indeed a touching expression of his extraordinary faith in the Person of the Lord God. How do we know that? Notice Simeon requests: "Now You release Your slave." You see, Simeon's confidence in knowing God's will for his life is incredible. Simeon didn't pray: "Release Your servant, Lord." Rather, he stated it as a matter of fact. He declared it to God. "Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant." Apostle John displayed a similar confidence. Instead of praying for grace, mercy, and peace to be with the chosen lady and her children, John in great confidence in God assures the chosen lady and her children that "Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father, and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love" (2 John 1:3). As a believer in Jesus Christ, do you have such confidence in knowing God's will for your life? Do you express such extraordinary faith in God? If not, why not? Is God, the living God, not dependable? Yes, indeed! Is God, the only true God of the universe, not reliable? Yes, indeed! Is God, the Almighty God, not trustworthy? Yes, indeed! Simeon knew how trustworthy, reliable and dependable his God was. As such, he approached God, expressing unwavering trust in Him in his request for release. Guess what! It is now your turn and my turn to approach God with unwavering and unshakable faith in Him.
The Greek word translated "release" (apolyo), also means "set free," "send away," "dismiss," or "discharge." It is actually a euphemism for "let die," or "allow to die." You see, Simeon was prepared to die according to the God had spoken to him. Simeon could now die in peace because God had fulfilled His promise to him. Remember, the Holy Spirit specifically and supernaturally revealed to him that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ (Luke 2:26). Now that moment had come in the temple courts. Simeon had seen for himself the Lord's Christ. He had laid his eyes on the Messiah. He was among the first to bear witness to Jesus as the Messiah. In other words, God's work in Simeon's life is about to be completed.
Now, I would like you to notice an important contrast presented in Simeon's request for release. The contrast is seen in the title Simeon used in addressing God in his request for release and the way Simeon referred to himself. In the NASB, the contrast is presented as "Lord" versus "bond-servant." While in the NIV, the contrast is between "Sovereign Lord," and "servant." In the literal rending, it is between, "Master" (despota) and "slave" (doulos). The title "despota" comes from "despotes," from which we get our English word "despot." Despot often has a negative connotation in our English language. But here in Luke 2:29, it used with a positive connotation of God, meaning Lord, Master, Owner of a vessel. Also the Greek word translated variously as "slave," "bond-servant," "servant," (doulos), speaks of one who is in permanent relation of servitude to another, his will altogether consumed in the will of the other. So what is the point of the contrast? Simply this! God's bond-servant Simeon, whose will is altogether consumed in His master's will, is saying that he is now ready for his Master's final order-that is, to depart in death. Believer in Jesus Christ, is your will altogether consumed in your master's will? Are you ready and willing to obey your Master's orders? If so, you join the ranks of men like Simeon.
So far in this special Christmas story, the Bible sets forth Simeon's reputation before God and men in verse 25. Not only that, the Bible concisely tells us of the revelation of the Holy Spirit to Simeon in verse 26. As God's revelation to man always demands a response from man, the Bible spends time in this Christmas story, vividly and visually describing Simeon's response to the revelation of the Holy Spirit to us in verses 27-29. Simeon's request for release is brought to our attention. Now the Bible proceeds to state in clear terms Simeon's reason for release. This forms the second part of Simeon's "Nunc Dimittis."
V. Reason for Release (Luke 2:30-32)
Simeon knew how to reason with God in a reverent way. Notice how he readily and reverently states his reason for release:
"For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel" Luke 2:30-31 (NASB).
Verse 30 begins with a causal conjunction "hoti,"- which can be translated as "because," "for," or "since." The use of "hoti" indicates that Simeon begins to state his reason for release. His eyes have seen God's salvation. When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple to be consecrated to God, they met an old man by the name of Simeon who told them what their child would become. What would their child become? Well, Simeon not only bore witness that the child Jesus was the Lord's Christ (v. 26), but also God's salvation. Jesus is the One who would save His people from their sins. Actually, His name "Jesus" means "Yahweh saves," or the "Lord saves." In other words, to see Jesus is to see salvation embodied in Him. Jesus is the One who gives to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins (Luke 1:77). Jesus is the One who said to Zaccheus: "Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:9-10). Jesus is the One in whom salvation is found. For the Bible boldly declares: "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Simeon says to the Lord: "Lord, my reason for departing in peace is that my eyes have seen Your salvation. I have seen Your salvation in the Person of this Baby, the Promised Redeemer and Messiah, as You have promised me. You ordained Him and Him alone, to provide salvation to all classes of people.
Commenting on the above verses, the late Dr. J. Vernon McGee writes:
"God had promised Simeon that he would see the salvation of God. What did he see? He saw a little Baby. Salvation is a Person, and not something you do. Salvation is a Person, and that Person is the Lord Jesus Christ. You either have Him, or you don't have Him. You either trust Him, or you don't trust Him. Do you have Him today?" -McGee, Thru the Bible, Vol. IV, p. 254.
After making it clear that salvation is a Person, that is, the Lord Jesus Christ, in elaborating on his reason for release, Simeon speaks of God's preparation of His salvation. That is why verse thirty one specifically says: "which You have prepared for all peoples." The Greek word translated "prepared" comes from "etoimazo." It also means "put or keep in readiness, make ready." It is used here of God as the One who prepares with person or thing as object. I tell you friends, God is in the preparation business. The most important preparation He had made for you and me is toward our salvation. Oh how we should overflow with gratitude to Him! Oh how our hearts should well up with His praises!
Please notice that Simeon was given insight to know that the salvation he had seen in the Person of the Christ-Child, prepared by God Himself, is for all peoples. The expression "all peoples," literally "all the peoples" is clearly defined in verse thirty-two. There the Bible says, "a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel." As a Gentile himself, Luke was careful to emphasize the truth that salvation was offered for the Gentiles as well as for Jews. The expression "all peoples," refers to all nations, tongues, and tribes (cf. Rev. 7:9)-both Israel and the Gentiles. Here, the Bible is making the case for the universal application of the gospel. It is for all people. The same light that brings revelation to Gentiles like me, also brings glory to Israel, God's chosen people.
The Life Application Bible sheds light on the attitude of the Jewish people about the salvation of the Gentiles: It states:
"The Jews were well acquainted with the Old Testament prophecies that spoke of the Messiah's blessing to their nation. They did not always give equal attention to the prophecies stating that he would bring salvation to the entire world, not just the Jews (see, for example Isaiah 49:6). Many thought that Christ had come to save only his own people. Luke made sure his Greek audience understood that Christ had come to save all who believe Gentiles as well as Jews.- Life application Bible, p. 1666.
The late Dr. McGee also shares his warm and witty insights on this important verse.
"This is a remarkable statement coming from a man who was limited to a particular area geographically. Yet he saw One who was to be the Savior of the world. This is to me one of the amazing things about the Word of God, especially the New Testament. Although given to a certain people, it is certainly directed to the world. No other religion pointed that way. You will notice that the religions of the world are generally localized for a peculiar people, generally a race or nation. But Christianity has been from the outset for all people everywhere."-McGee, Thru the Bible, Vol. IV, p. 254.
What a story! What a song it contains! It reminds me of the chorus: "This is my story! This is my song1 Praising my Savior all the day long!" Simeon had a story. He also had a song! His story shows us that he was a man of godly character. A man of constant expectation. A man who lived his life under the control of the Holy Spirit. A man who experienced the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. As such, he did not miss the main event at the First Christmas. Simeon's song sheds light on a man whose will was altogether consumed in his Master's will! What about you, believer in Jesus Christ? What is your story? Does your story reveal a person of godly character? Does it demonstrate that you are a man or woman of constant expectation for the fulfillment of God's purposes for your life? Does it show you as one whose life is being lived under the control, guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit? If so, you will not miss the main event in life.
If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, be reminded that Christmas is the story of God's gift of salvation in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He came to provide salvation for you and me. How can you receive His gift of salvation? It is as simple as ABC. Acknowledge to Jesus today that you are a sinner before a holy, righteous and loving God. Believe today that Jesus came to earth to die for you on the cross and that He paid for your sin debt in full-a payment you could never make even if you lived a thousand lifetimes. Call upon Jesus today to save you by saying with childlike faith:
"Jesus, I know that I am sinner. I realize that there is nothing I can do to save myself from my sins. I believe that You, the Son of God, who came to earth died for my sins on the cross; and that You were buried. But You rose again on the third day. I understand that You did all these because You truly love with Your unconditional love. I receive You today into my heart as my Savior and Lord. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and help me to love and live for You from this day onward! Thank You Jesus for saving me!"
"Blessed be the God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people" (Luke 1:68). Amen!