2 February 2020 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; 23 ( As it is written in the law of the Lord , Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) 24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. 26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, 28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. 33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. 34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35 ( Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. 36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. 39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. 40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. (Luke 2:22-40)
There are a number of important points brought forth in today’s sermon text. We have the beautiful picture of the Baby Jesus being brought to the Temple for His Presentation to the Lord. In all things, even as a baby, our Lord complied with all of the mandates of the Law. So did His mother Mary and Joseph. The best environment for the raising of children is early in the duties of worship and praise of the Lord. It is important that we raise our young in the nurture of God’s Word. (Note the dimunition of Christ in the ESV: 33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. (Luke 2:33) (NOTICE: This change in the text, inconsistent with the underlying Greek text of the Received Text, would have us believe that Joseph was the father of Jesus, but see how the KJV relates the passage: “And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.) Which do you believe? Do you believe Jesus was the Son of Joseph or of God the Father?
We also learn an elder, devoted over a lifetime to the work of the Lord, develops a spiritual sense to see truths that others may be blind to see. Simeon and Anna were both elderly workers in the Temple. God has shown Simeon long before by means of a faith-led Spirit that he would behold the Savior before falling asleep in the Lord. Not only is a sound knowledge in all of the Law, prophecies, and Gospels sufficient for that spiritual sense; there must be a love of the very Word of God and a persistent thirst and desire to squeeze all the truth and knowledge one can get from it through study and meditation on it. This both Simeon and Anna had done. Anna was of a very advanced age. Her only husband died after seven years of marriage leaving Anna to the work of the Lord for the next eighty-four years. That would make Anna over one hundred years of age. What do we learn for our personal lives about these two? We learn, in the first case of Simeon, to depend upon the Lord to fulfill every promise made even when hope may seem forlorn in advanced age. From Anna we learn that all things that happen in our lives are under the direct sovereignty of God. Anna was seemingly left alone after only seven years of marriage; but God used that time, over the next eighty-four years, to draw Anna ever closer into a relationship with her Maker and true Husband. “5 For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.” (Isaiah 54:5)
A life of service to our Lord brings the joy of angels and the sorrows of the veil of tears at once. It must have been a burden upon the heart of Simeon to express this to the tender mother of our Lord: “28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. 33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.” Truly this confirmed the wondrous hope given to Mary by Gabriel in Nazareth. But the beauty and joy of Christ also must pass by way of the cross. This is the part that must have humbled Mary as well as Simeon in the telling of it: “34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;” The falling of many included the Jewish rulers and priests who rejected the promise made to Abraham of a Redeemer in Christ and, instead, clung to the Law as embellished by intricate rules and restraints by the religious rulers. But those Jews who believed (by far the minority – not unlike those in churches today – were raised up to the Mountain of the Lord in faith and courage.
But there was one final bit of Simeon’s words that would hurt Mary to her heart both now and at the foot of the cross: “35 ( Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” When did a sword pierce the Blessed Mary’s side?
Mary was a tender young virgin when approached by the Mighty Angel Gabriel. She believed firmly in all that Gabriel had told her. But the details got mixed up with the time, the love, the distance and the beauty of the whole truth of how Christ would Redeem His people Israel (both Old and New Testament Church). Even during His earthly ministry, it seems that Mary failed to grasp the deep meaning of her Beloved Son’s ministry. It seems that she did not bother to attend His preaching very often. We get a glimpse of this fact in the Gospel of St. Matthew:
“46 While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. 47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. 48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? 49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. (Matt 12:46-50)
Mary was likely troubled by the constant exposure of Jesus to His enemies, the Scribes, Pharisees, Sadduccees, and Rulers. Why did He take such unnecessary chances with His life being subject to great danger? It may have seemed quite preposterous to a loving mother. Then, at the very end, it was Mary who braved the wrath of the Jewish rulers and stood with John and the other women at the foot of the Cross of our Lord. She saw them mock her dearly beloved son, spit upon Him, beat Him mercilessly, strip Him naked in public, humiliate Him, and finally nail Him to a cruel Cross. How would any other mother react except in abject sorrow and wonder? But this will lead to the fulfillment of the last of Simeon’s prophecy. 35 ( Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) The Blessed Mary watched helplessly as her Son writhed in pain on the cross. She felt the warm drops of blood falling down in torrents – and she was helpless to lift a finger of comfort. But our Jesus (as Lord of Heaven) saw His mother’s misery and said, “Woman, behold, your son!”Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:26-27) She how Christ in His death made a continuing provision for those who love Him?
But there is more! “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. (John 19:28-34)
This last was the piercing of the Blessed Mary’s Heart. It did not hurt Christ as He had already given up the Ghost, but it rent the soul of Mary! And so was the prophecy fulfilled.
Our service to God will forever be filled with Joy and Love; however, those may be punctuated by moments of deep sorrow. Yet Hope and Joy prevail above all else.