The salvation of the Lord is a person, Jesus the Christ Child, prophesied at birth to be the holy child of destiny—God’s appointed sign who would someday reveal the hearts of many who would fall and rise because of him. Your thoughts about Jesus reveal whether you are headed for a spiritual rise or fall. (Theme of Luke 2:21-35)
Some people have a favorite Bible verse. One that is particularly meaningful, that in some sense describes what they are about, what they want to be like, or what their future holds. I remember when it occurred to me that my firstborn son Roman might have a ready-made life verse built into his name and birthday. Since he was born on September 17, I looked up Romans 9:17 and read: “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Wow, what a destiny! But then I noticed God was speaking to Pharaoh, about hardening his heart and the plague of death on all the firstborn sons in Egypt. Now I knew in theory it’s never a good idea to use the Bible this way, and that experience just confirmed it. Jesus’ parents didn’t have to search for some random verse that vaguely fit their child. Every Scripture clearly points to or subtly hints at him. There was no shortage of miraculous and prophetic words spoken about him when he was a baby. Jesus has been at the center of controversy ever since.
Why is a little baby born 2000 years ago so controversial? Why do people still divide over his identity and significance?
I. A Wonderful Child
A. Jesus is the redeemed Redeemer (vv. 21-24)
Jesus’ family offers the less expense offering of turtledoves and pigeons because they were too poor to afford the lamb which was the normal sacrifice prescribed for the firstborn male offering. But even though they did not bring a lamb, don’t miss the hint that they brought the Lamb of God! The offering is a redemption of the firstborn son required of all firstborn sons of Israel (Ex 13:1-13; Num 18:15-16). This offering is (1) a dedication to the Lord of each firstborn Jewish son in remembrance and thanksgiving of being delivered from Egypt’s plague of death on all firstborn male children (Ex 12:29-30), and (2) a redemption or ransom payment of five silver shekels for the firstborn son in lieu of the Lord taking instead the whole tribe of Levi into his service (Num 8:14-19). Even Pharaoh and the story of the Exodus hints at Jesus. Thus Jesus began his life as the Redeemer who fulfilled the Law’s redemption requirements for his people (Gal 4:4-5). Wonderful!
B. Jesus is God’s salvation for all peoples (vv. 25-32)
Picture the scene as the old prophet Simeon meets baby Jesus, singing and praying to God. Simeon’s song is a worship hymn, a salvation hymn, a joyful resignation hymn, and a missionary hymn. He blesses God for what the Christ child means to him personally, and what Jesus means to the nations of the world. God’s salvation, Jesus Christ, has been prepared in the presence of all peoples (Jews and Gentiles, thus totally inclusive). The whole world would see Jesus as their salvation. Not every single person, but every people group would have believers who worship Jesus as their salvation (Ps 98). God had prepared beforehand that this would be so.
The Gentiles were not expecting the consolation of Israel, nor salvation to come to them. Their darkness was deep, therefore the light brought spiritual sight to them. Thus Jesus was a “revelation”, salvation revealed to them (Isa 42:6-7). As for Israel, Jesus brought them glory since they already possessed God’s revelation. Israel is the people through whom the Savior was born, thus he is Israel’s glory. Jesus is truly light, revelation, and glory—the Savior of the world—and Simeon could see all this in a tiny baby (Isa 60:1-3). Wonderful!
Contentment comes from seeing Jesus, the Lord’s Christ, who is our salvation. Try to remember a Christmas present that brought you lasting contentment. There is no such gift. Whether you wanted an Oscar Meyer Weenie Whistle, a G.I. Joe Cobra Hiss Tank, or like Ralphie, in the movie A Christmas Story, an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle, or whatever was on your childhood wish list, it didn’t bring real contentment—even though you were sure you could die and go to heaven if you got it. Any other person, place, experience, or thing from which you seek contentment will rob you of it. Only Christ’s salvation can satisfy. Christ is the only gift after which those who receive him say they can now die and go to heaven. Simeon knew this (Lk 2:29-30). Joseph and Mary marveled at these truths. Do you?
II. A Wonderful Sign
A. Jesus is destined to cause you to rise or fall (vv. 33-34a)
Jesus was appointed by God to be the great divider exactly according to God’s foreordained plan for history. It is Jesus’ destiny to be the cause of the fall and rising of many in Israel (Dan 2:34, 45; Jn 1:11-13). “Fall” refers to the judgment of the proud and arrogant, even the rulers of this world (Lk 1:50-53). They will fall from their heights to the depths because of Jesus (Isa 8:13-15; 1 Pet 2:6-8). “Rising” refers to the humble and meek being saved by Jesus (Lk 4:18-19). They will rise from the depths of woe to the heights of salvation because of Jesus (Lk 13:28-29). Jesus is a sign (a revelation of divine truth that points to God) that is opposed. This means from now on there will be resistance to the divine truth about Jesus. Neutrality regarding Jesus is forever impossible (Mt 12:30). The rest of the gospel story records this hostility toward Jesus, the “sign of opposition” (Jn 8:31-59). They slandered his miraculous birth (Jn 8:41). They attributed the power of his miracles to Satan (Mt 12:22-24). They questioned his character (Jn 9:16, 24). They mocked his death (Mt 27:39-44). They lied about his resurrection (Mt 27:62-66). And they denied his second coming (2 Pet 3:1-4). Today many still oppose him in these same ways.
B. Jesus will pierce and reveal your heart (vv. 34b-35)
What would this opposition to Jesus reveal? What would be the purpose of such opposition and falling, or support and rising? So that many hearts might be revealed. The way people respond to Jesus, rejecting or accepting him, opposing him or worshiping him, killing him or dying for him, reveals their hearts. Specifically it reveals the nature of their relation to God in either salvation or judgment, rising or falling. Jesus’ coming reveals people as they really are in their hearts. The offer of salvation may be universal (to all peoples), but it brings a personal challenge. Many will be scandalized by the means God must use to bring salvation to his people: the cross of Christ. This cross is the “sword” that would pierce Mary’s heart. And your heart too. One’s reaction to Jesus reveals one’s reaction to God.
Jesus truly is the sign that is opposed throughout the ages, even to this day. God’s words to Pharaoh are just as fit for Jesus, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” He is Destiny’s Child. Jesus Christ, God’s true firstborn Son, born to die on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, redeemed to be the Redeemer, the Savior of the world, the salvation of God, is the sign of God’s divinely revealed truth that reveals the true nature of people’s hearts. Some fall on account of the gospel due to their opposition and unbelief, while others rise due to their repentance and faith. In the final accounting, Destiny’s Child is the cause of your raised fist or bended knee, depending on who Jesus is to you. When you look over the shoulders of Joseph, Mary, and Simeon upon little baby Jesus, who do you see?
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