No Bigotry Allowed
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Luke 2:30 (Holman) For my eyes have seen Your salvation.
Simeon, feeling he would never see anything better than Jesus on Earth, decided he might as well go on to Heaven. What the prophets hoped for, foresaw, and looked for, Simeon saw. He was satisfied, ready to die. He had the joy of dying at peace, content with how God had dealt with him.
It’s a blessing to see spiritual hopes fulfilled. John Knox lived long enough to see the Reformation entrenched in Scotland. I would love to see revival firsthand on this planet where Satan is god. I yearn to see all my descendants living for Jesus. Some of my cousins chose a different path. I assumed to be a descendant of my grandparents Edward, Sallie, Aubrey, or Lois was to be a firm believer for life. I was wrong. I want a better outcome.
We all have events we long to experience–some we’ll see, some we won’t. One future outcome is the most important of all; that we will serve Jesus faithfully through all our days. Our desire should be to finish well.
Simeon’s words here are often called a beautiful song of sunset, but could more accurately be called a picturesque song of sunrise. Christians often view death with optimism. John Wesley said to his brother, “Charles, our people die well.” Adoniram Judson said, “When Christ calls me, I shall go with the gladness of a boy bounding away from school.”
Dean Alford, to describe his view of the grave, had inscribed on his tombstone, “The inn of a traveller on the way to Jerusalem!” The evening before Ridley was martyred by being burned at the stake, a friend offered to stay overnight with him. He said, “No. I mean to go to bed, and sleep as quietly as ever I did in my life. My breakfast tomorrow will be sharp and painful; but I am sure my supper will be right pleasant and sweet.”
All believers have as their birthright the option to die in joy like this. We can all have God’s peace at the end. It is not the privilege of an elite few.
Like Simeon, we who are Christ-followers have also seen the Lord’s salvation—not with physical eyes that wane, but with spiritual eyes that never dim. The latter is much better. Remember, thousands of people who saw Jesus and His miracles with physical eyes but did not believe in Him.
Note in our text the beautiful imagery of an old man holding a little baby. I like this picturing of the old with the young. The two need each other. Without the young, older Christians fossilize, and become cranky, stuck in concrete. Without the old, the young become foolish and haphazard.
We who are older can teach younger ones wisdom and humility. We finally know enough to know we don’t know enough. We realize we are not as smart as we once thought we were. We need to find the delicate balance between encouraging them to be humble and at the same time lifting them up. One of Martin Luther’s boyhood teachers would bow before his pupils each day as a way of saying he believed greatness was in them.
Luke 2:31 You have prepared it in the presence of all peoples—
Luke, a Gentile, now started using Simeon’s words to lead us toward an emphasis on the Gospel being not only for Jews. Scene after scene in the Bible’s nativity narrative, from beginning to end, have pointed us to seeing the Gospel is for all kinds of different people.
The shepherds who welcomed Jesus were peasants. Royalty and Gentiles bowed to the Christ child in the wise men. The unborn praised Jesus from the womb of Elizabeth. Young adulthood adored Him in His parents. The old, near death, praised Him in Simeon and Anna.
In every part of the Christmas story, God showed He wanted to grace everyone whatever his or her age, origin, or ethnicity. He put dignity on them all. For instance, had He come only as an adult, would we maybe have thought life in the womb, infancy, childhood, and adolescence are less important? He blessed life womb to tomb. Cradle to grave matters to God.
Luke 2:32 –a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to Your
Don’t miss the missionary emphasis. From the first moments of the incarnation, mission was on God’s mind. Simeon, seeing past Jesus to the whole wide world, realized the child he was holding would bring to this planet a joy too good for any one group to hoard. It would have to be shared.
We Christ-followers see Jesus, the Light of the world, that we might share His light with others by shining it. We receive it in order to reflect it.
No bigotry allowed here. This open-minded way of thinking was essentially nonexistent in Jesus’ day. To Gentiles Jesus came to bring light; to Israel He came also to bring glory. He is their nation’s crowning jewel, God’s most beautiful gift, given to us to arrest the attention of all the world.
Note the full extent of the Gospel’s reach. It is to encompass every square inch of our planet. Christ’s light was given to penetrate all the Earth.
The message of Jesus is not to be limited to one people group, nation, religion, or hemisphere. It is to encircle the globe pole to pole. Jesus came to die for the whole world, and meant to have the whole world as His retinue.
Luke, a Gentile, reveled in this. He later became Paul’s friend, and frequently traveled with the missionary. My guess is, when Luke first heard Paul the Apostle say the Gospel was for the Gentiles, he probably interrupted him in mid sentence and asked, “Did you say Gentiles?”
Luke never recovered from the shock of learning God’s love is as wide as the whole world. He emphasized it often in his writings. The Father loves not only Israel and the Church, but also all unbelievers. Israel forgot it existed for the nations. I pray Second won’t repeat their error. Let’s carry the news of salvation to outsiders, to the ends of the Earth, beginning next door.
Luke 2:33-34b His father and mother were amazed at what was being
said about Him. Then Simeon blessed them and told His mother Mary: “Indeed, this child is destined for the fall. . .”
“Amazed” may be an understatement in light of their experiences in the past few months. They had the unique privilege of raising God’s Son.
Wanting the Father’s smile to rest on Joseph and Mary, Simeon committed them to God’s care. Then suddenly and unexpectedly, Simeon radically changed the mood of the moment. In the middle of his announcing revelry, he was overwhelmed with a sudden sense of foreboding. He was not trying to be mean. He rather wanted to keep Joseph and Mary from being overly surprised and disappointed at the fiery trials that awaited them.
The baby would cause many in Israel to fall. This is a recurring, normal Christian experience. Whenever God convicts us we stumble, and go down. We hurt, and yearn for relief from the discomfort of inner tension.
God’s purpose in convicting us is that all who fall will rise again. He wants them to recover, and find their spiritual bearings. The fall hopefully brings positive change, but if people choose to stay fallen, they grow worse.
One of life’s hardest lessons is to learn to let failures cause us to place absolute trust in Jesus. A vessel cannot be filled with a liquid till it is empty of all others; otherwise the resulting mixture will be diluted. For our heart to be filled with grace, our thoughts of merit based on works must be emptied.
Spurgeon said one of his most painful falls was learning salvation was of grace, not works. He said “each bone seemed broken”. He wanted to merit Heaven, but had to swallow pride, and come as a sinner. We must do the same, in our first moment of conversion and in each following moment.