Lake Wisconsin Evangelical Free Church

February 18, 2024

Luke 2:21-38


You can be finding your way to Luke chapter 2. Again, we’re going through the book of Luke. The two questions ever on our mind in regard to the gospel, because in one sense, everything shared here is the gospel, the good news. The question that’s begged every time we read, every time we hear, every time we’re confronted with any of the gospel is, do you believe and will you follow?

We go to Luke chapter 5 where the disciples had been fishing all night and caught nothing. And Jesus told them to throw their nets on the other side. And in obedience to Him, they believed. They caught an abundance of fish that was miraculous in its size. But they not only believed, but they decided to follow the Lord. They left everything behind, their job, their nets, their boats, their father even, to follow Him.

In the message today, Luke is going to share the testimony of some exemplary witnesses. And the questions are, do you believe what they have to say? And will you follow Jesus as they did? Luke is also going to share some new titles that describe in more detail who Jesus is and what He does for us. And the questions again are, do you believe that Jesus is who the Bible says He is? And will you follow Him?

And thirdly, Luke is going to show the continuing involvement and the testimony of the Holy Spirit. And once again, do you believe what the Holy Spirit is showing us? And will you follow Jesus? In particular, we’re going to be looking at two characters, Simeon and Anna. If we didn’t have the book of Luke, we wouldn’t know anything about these two individuals. Let’s begin reading in Luke chapter 2, verse 21.

21 When the eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus—the name given by the angel before he was conceived. 22 And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were finished, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every firstborn male will be dedicated to the Lord) 24 and to offer a sacrifice (according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons).

25 There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him up in his arms, praised God, and said,

29 Now, Master,
you can dismiss your servant in peace,
as you promised.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation.
31 You have prepared it
in the presence of all peoples—
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and glory to your people Israel.

33 His father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and told his mother Mary, “Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed— 35 and a sword will pierce your own soul—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well along in years, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and was a widow for eighty-four years. She did not leave the temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers. 38 At that very moment, she came up and began to thank God and to speak about him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

May we pray. Heavenly Father, give us understanding of Your Word. Give us appreciation that You have provided us with this testimony of how things were, that we might increase our faith and be more certain that Jesus is the Messiah that You sent to die on the cross for our sins, that we might have eternal life. It’s in His name that we pray. Amen.

What’s the background here? They’re doing something that is according to the law of Moses. They’re doing what is written in the law, according to what is stated in the law.

Luke is making it very clear in these first verses that Mary and Joseph are obeying the law. What is it that they’re doing? Well, Jesus was circumcised as a male on the eighth day, but there also had to be a purification and a presentation of the child. If it was a boy baby, the mother waited 40 days, and if it was a girl baby, she waited 80 days. I don’t know why. I haven’t been able to discover that.

She still had to do the housework at home, but she didn’t have to go to the temple and travel for that long. So they’re at the temple, and Jesus is being brought as it is required of Him. Because we have to go back to Israel being enslaved in Egypt, and in the last of the ten plagues, the firstborn of every home was to be murdered or killed that night.

Except for the Jews, if they placed the blood on the lentil and the post, the death angel went over that home and preserved the life of the firstborn son. So it was that God claimed that all of those firstborn sons that He had saved their life were to be dedicated to Him in service. When they got into the wilderness after the experience with the golden calves, it was appointed to the Levites that they as a tribe would serve the Lord in the place of all of these firstborn boys. So they counted all the Levite men and they counted all of the Israelite firstborn because the number had to be even for it to work out. As it was, there were more Israelite male babies and boys than there were Levites, so God said for each of those extra ones, a price has to be paid. And so it became in the law that from that point on, every first child was to be dedicated to the Lord’s service unless this redemption price was paid for them.

And so it was that Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple that day to present Him, to say He belongs to the Lord. But then the priest would ask this question of them, which would you rather do, give up your firstborn son or redeem him for five shekels? This is my firstborn, answered the father, taken to thee the five shekels due for his redemption. So in today’s money, you know how much a male child was worth?

Any guess? $2.50, all right? But they didn’t have to pay anything for the girls.

So it was that Mary and Joseph came to the temple, doing what was required by the law, and before they left, the priest placed his hand on the head of the child and pronounced this blessing. The Lord bless thee and preserve thee. The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee and give thee peace.

Length of days, years, and peace be gathered to thee. God keep thee from all evil and save thy soul. That’s the background of the passage here. Let’s now look at the titles for the son, and then we’re going to look at the witnesses and the Holy Spirit’s involvement.

We get some new titles here for Jesus. He is called Israel’s Consolation, and that word consolation has to do with exhortation. It’s encouraging, but it’s also offering comfort to people. And Israel, in that day, as they had been in the past, as they are in today, are constantly in conflict that Satan is causing his workers to go against them, and they’re always looking for the peace that their Messiah is going to provide. When Jesus came the first time, He didn’t provide comfort and consolation from the worldwide situation that day. He came first to do what was more important, to provide consolation, to provide comfort and encouragement spiritually to people.

But we know in the future He will return when complete consolation and encouragement and comfort is offered to all, when He sets the world straight and He gives us the new creation. He’s also called the Lord’s Messiah here. The word Christ also means Messiah. What it’s saying is this is the Savior that God has been promising to us all the way back to Genesis, that one day a seed of the woman would come, and that particular seed would defeat the serpent. Jesus here being presented is being led by the Spirit, speaking through Simeon and Anna that He is this particular and only chosen one. We see here in the passage that He’s God’s salvation.

It is through Jesus Christ that salvation from sin, a right relationship with God is going to be restored to us through Him. It tells us here that He’s interested in the Gentiles, that He’s going to be a light for the Gentiles, He’s going to speak to the Gentiles, He’s going to give understanding to them that they also need to come to salvation. But not only is He concerned about the Gentiles, but here it says that He’s concerned about the Israelite nation, the glory to God’s people Israel. God is interested in saving all peoples, Gentiles and Jews. And thirdly we see here not only is He interested in all these peoples, but He has a particular interest that continues to this day as He always had in the city of Jerusalem, for that is where He will rule one day in His millennial kingdom. So we find all of these new things about Jesus Christ, about the Son.

And once again the Gospel says, do you believe these things and will you follow Jesus because of them? Let’s look now at the witnesses. First we have Joseph and Mary. It tells us they offered a pair of turtle doves or two pigeons. The main sacrifice was supposed to be a lamb and one of these birds, but Mary and Joseph, they’re from the common people, they can’t afford to bring a lamb. So the law allowed them to bring a lesser sacrifice, two of these birds.

And it tells us the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were finished if they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord. There are two words here, purification and presentation. So it was that Mary, because she was a sinner, she was not sinless, she had to bring for herself an offering of purification. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, did not have to be purified. Instead He was just presented and offered up. So why were Mary and Joseph reliable witnesses?

Well, the main thing is that God had chosen them to be the parents of His Son. And if God trusted them with raising His Son in this world, certainly we see that they are reliable witnesses to us today what had happened. And Luke had gone back and talked to everybody that was available to find out what had happened through all of these events. And he tells us he meticulously recorded what they said. But not only are they reliable witnesses because God had chosen them, but they are reliable witnesses because we see that they are completely obedient to the law here in every way. According to the law, Joseph and Mary showed that they were obedient followers of God.

And that made them reliable witnesses to what they had seen, what they heard, what they held in their very hands, and what they knew. The next witness that we find here is Simeon. It tells us in verse 25, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. And this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. So I just want to emphasize, he was righteous, he was devout. For one word there, he was anticipative, and he was spirit-controlled.

Now when we talk about being righteous, we’re talking about our relationship that’s vertical with God the Father. And what the passage is telling us is that Simeon was right with God. He was right in his heart with God. He was right in his spirit with God. And he was also externally doing everything that he was supposed to do to follow the law. But he wasn’t only just right with God vertically, but there is this word devout.

And it talks about a horizontal relationship here. That not only did God know that he was righteous, but devout means that everybody else looked at him and said, Simeon is a devout man. Simeon is a righteous man. So he had this outward testimony that he loved the Lord. It also tells us that he was anticipative. He was looking forward to the Savior that was going to come into the world.

And so it is that all of us today should be continually looking for the return of the Lord. He had not lost hope. He was anxious. He was coming to the temple, continuing in worship in a life of righteousness, looking forward to the coming Messiah. And it tells us that he was also spirit controlled. Without the spirits leading, he didn’t just happen to be there that day at just the right time in just the right part of the temple complex so that he could find the Savior.

But the Holy Spirit had led him there. And it tells us that he’s looking forward to Israel’s consolation. I just want to stop to say here, what does that mean? He was looking for Israel’s consolation. He was looking for Israel’s comfort. But here he’s living in a society we’ve mentioned in the past under control of the Roman world where the Jews are being persecuted.

Even the religious leaders are false and not following the Lord as they’re supposed to. Of all times, it was a very rough time. There wasn’t peace there. But when Jesus came, he gave peace to Simeon. And Simeon said, now I can die in peace that I have seen your Savior. Peace isn’t the absence of trouble, according to Oswald Sanders.

But instead, peace is the presence of God. And in the midst of that tumultuous world where walking down the street, you might have been killed by a Roman soldier for any offense at any time, Simeon had peace because now he had seen the Lord’s Savior. I want to read a story about what true peace is to kind of help you understand it. This is from Rod Mattoon. He said, long ago there was a man that sought the perfect picture of peace to hang in his living room. And not finding one that satisfied, he announced that there would be a contest to produce this masterpiece.

The contest obviously was going to have some great financial reward with it. And so the challenge stirred the imagination of artists everywhere. Paintings arrived from far and wide, and finally the great day of revelation arrived. The judges uncovered one peaceful scene after another while the viewers clapped and cheered. The tensions grew as it got down to where there were only two pictures that had not been unveiled. One of the judges pulled the cover from one, and the crowd suddenly was hushed.

It was a mirror-smooth lake reflecting lacy green birches, soft blushes of the evening sky. And there was a beautiful grassy shore along which a flock of sheep grazed undisturbed. Everyone muttered, surely this is the winner. But next the man with the vision, the one that had sponsored the contest, he uncovered the second painting himself. And the crowd was suddenly surprised. Could this be peace?

It was a tumultuous waterfall cascading down a rocky precipice. The crowd could almost feel how cold it was with the penetrating spray, with the stormy gray clouds that were threatening to explode with lightning. There was wind and there was rain that they could feel in the picture. And in the midst of the thundering noise and the bitter chill, there was a spindly tree that was barely clinging to the rocks at the edge of the falls. And on one of its branches that reached out in front of the torrential falls, there was a little bird who had built her nest. The little bird, in the midst of all of this going on, looked content.

She was undisturbed in her stormy surroundings. She merely rested on her eggs. And with her eyes closed and her wings ready to cover her little ones, she herself manifested peace that transcended all the earthly turmoil that was going on around her. That’s what peace is. In the midst of all of this storm of the life, that we can have peace in Jesus Christ because he is the consolation that God has offered to us. So it is we have Simeon.

He was a reliable witness. Everybody knew him. He was righteous. He was devout. He was looking forward to the coming Messiah. And people knew that he was under the Spirit’s control.

The second witness that we have is Anna. It says, There was also a prophetess Anna, a daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher. She was well along in years, which is a nice way of saying she was what? She was old. Remember that phrase. My, you look well along in years today.

Having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage. So she had been married at one time and her husband only lived seven years after that. And then she was a widow for 84 years, a very long time. And it tells us that she did not leave the temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers. Now that doesn’t mean she ate and slept and bathed and dressed and did all these things in the temple. It’s just an expression.

I mean, you could say that Darla is at the church all day long or you feel like you’re at work all day long. We just know that it means that you’re there a lot. And every time people show up, Anna’s here again. She must be here what? All day long. She’s always here.

Why was she a reliable witness? She was a prophetess. She proclaimed the words of God and people knew that about her. She had a pedigree and ancestry as an Israelite. It tells us she was the daughter of Phanuel and the tribe of Asher. The Jews kept meticulous records because only those that were truly Jewish could go into the temples.

Her name means grace. Her father’s name means the face of God. And here it was. God gave her the grace that she literally saw what? The face of God that day in Jesus Christ. She was of the tribe of Asher.

That name meaning the tribe of joy. She was a real person. She had recorded ancestry. She was a reliable witness because she was mature. She had a lot of difficult experience in her life. And it tells us that she was a worshiper that people saw that in her.

And she was a person who spended time as a prayer. As one who fasted. So again, God gives us a very reliable witness who spoke by the Spirit’s leading and recognized that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. And that brings us to the next witness. The Holy Spirit. We hear about Him in the Old Testament here and there but when we get to the New Testament we just start seeing more and more of His involvement.

And we have a greater understanding. And I want us to spend some time going through today just to see all the things that Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit was doing during this time frame. And I’ll warn you not all my verses match on the screen with what I’m going to read because when I woke up this morning everything was gone that I saved last night. It always happens on Sunday morning. I just feel like it’s Satan trying to cause problems. But the first thing we see here is that the Holy Spirit fills people.

John the Baptist, it tells us in Luke 1 was filled with the Holy Spirit while he was still in his mother’s womb and the Holy Spirit led him inside of his mother’s womb to leap and to kick his mother when the presence of his Lord was there in the womb of Mary. And likewise, it tells us in Luke chapter 4 that Jesus was also filled by the Holy Spirit. So the Holy Spirit still does that for us today. He fills us as believers.

And Jesus Christ lived that out showing to us by example how we’re to rely on the Spirit. We also see that the Holy Spirit not only filled people but He empowered them to do special things. He empowers us with spiritual gifts that we would not otherwise have. It tells us that John would go before Him in the spirit and the power of Elijah. And we find that Jesus Himself returned to Galilee. He did this in the power of the Spirit.

So God doesn’t just save us and leave us then to fend for ourselves. He gives us supernatural power in our lives as a gift from the Holy Spirit. We also learn that the Holy Spirit comes upon people in a special way. The angel replied to Mary. He came upon her in a special way at her conception. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.

In Luke chapter 2 verses 25, again here with Simeon, it says that the Holy Spirit was on him and Jesus Christ of the Spirit of the Lord is on me. The Holy Spirit not only fills us and empowers us but there are special instances in our lives sometimes where we just need an extra encouragement and empowering of the Holy Spirit or He really wants to move us in a special way to do something. He may come up on you and just let you know, you need to witness to that person today or all of a sudden you have a sense, I need to go over and pray for somebody or I need to show concern about them. He leads us in these special ways to do things that we might not normally do. It also tells us that He reveals things to us. Luke chapter 2, here again we read, it was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah.

The Holy Spirit speaks to us. He reveals things to us. When we read God’s Word, He reveals understanding of God’s Word to us. When we look at the universe, He is the one that reveals to us that this is all here because of God and what He’s done in His creation. Without the Holy Spirit working in our lives, we would be like the lost world. All of this would appear to be foolishness.

It wouldn’t make sense. But the Spirit of God inside of us reveals truths to us. We have to read God’s Word. We have to study it. But then He helps us to understand it and how to use it. We also find that He is one who guides us.

Simeon was guided by the Spirit that day. Mary brought Jesus into the part of the temple where the ladies met. And here we have a man of God. He’s not going into the courts where the men met. He was specifically led that day to where Mary was so that he could have the joy of sharing about Jesus Christ and holding Him. So it is that the Holy Spirit, if we let Him control our lives, He will guide us day by day in decisions, where we’re supposed to go and what we’re supposed to do.

And Jesus exemplified this Himself in Luke 4. It says, Jesus left the Jordan full of the Holy Spirit and He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. We have the example here that Simeon was led into a joyful circumstance, but Jesus was led into the wilderness where He could be tempted by Satan and defeat Him. And so it is, the Spirit leads us where we need to go by God’s power into things that are good and in things that are difficult. He is our guide. We also find out that He will baptize all believers.

He will baptize you He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire, John said of Jesus, that His baptism would be more than just a physical one of water like John was offering. And so when we get to the book of Acts, we’ll be looking more at that. The Spirit also identifies the Son.

If we go to Jesus’ baptism in Luke 3, we see the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. And what we see is the Holy Spirit leaning on Him in a physical appearance like a dove. And it was the Father that said You are my beloved Son, with You I am well pleased. Part of what the Holy Spirit does is He points out the Son to us. He helps us to know if something is false doctrine that is going against our Lord or that follows an Antichrist. And throughout Scripture, He was confirming in people’s hearts as they read the Word, as they heard the Word that this is the Son of God.

And it’s a very real sense that we have in our hearts and minds as the Spirit leads us, not to guess, is this true? Should I really believe it? But He confirms with us the identity of God’s Messiah, Jesus Christ.

He also praises the Father. At that time, He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, and when He was rejoicing in the Holy Spirit, what He did is He said, I praise You, Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth. So it is the Holy Spirit empowers us, He fills us, He leads us that we as believers might praise the Father also. As we go about in the world, we should be sensitive to Him telling us, give glory to God for this today that people can know that you are a believer. Give thanks to God in the presence of other people today so that they can understand and know that you see that all good gifts come from Him. We also find out that the Holy Spirit is a gift from the Father, and we know that every gift that comes from the Father is a good gift.

In Luke 11, we read this, If you then who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? And whatever wonderful gift our fathers can give us on earth, what the Heavenly Father has to offer is of far more value and far more worth to us. We need to be appreciative that God has given us His Spirit. He doesn’t leave us alone here in this world.

Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit can be blasphemed, and I point this out today because it tells us that the Holy Spirit is not just some supernatural power out there. He’s not a positive force in this world. He actually is a person.

Just as God the Father could be blasphemed by anyone, which would have resulted in them being stoned by the Jews, the same penalty applies to the Holy Spirit who is a person, that He could be offended by people speaking against Him. So it is Father, Son, and Spirit are all personal in nature and their relationship to us. And the last thing that Luke will tell us about the Holy Spirit is that He is there to teach us. He’s there to guide us when we don’t understand things.

He is there to teach us to know what we need to say when we’re in difficult circumstances. Luke 12 reads, For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what must be said. And Jesus was referring to if they were put on trial, if they were taken before authorities who would hold their life in their hands, not to worry about that because the Holy Spirit is going to guide you what you need to say. But He also functions in teaching us to understand God’s Word, to know what it means and how to apply it to our lives. So the three things that we end up with today, the first thing is believe and follow. Jesus Christ is presented here as our Savior, that He provides a way to have a right relationship with the Father.

Do you believe that and will you follow Him? He’s presented here again as our Redeemer, meaning that we’re in slavery and we’re over here and we can’t do anything to help ourselves, we can’t do anything to pay the ransom price. But Jesus is able and Jesus is willing and He stepped in and it was the cost of His blood that He presented before the Father so that we could be purchased out of our life of enmity with the Father and placed into a right relationship with Him. Do you believe that and will you follow Christ? He’s also presented here as the Lord, meaning that He is the God, He’s the Creator of all things, we owe all things to Him and the Gospel writer is saying do you believe that He is the Lord and will you follow Him? He’s presented as the Messiah, meaning He is the one and only way to a right relationship with the Father.

He is the one and only specific Messiah that God had promised in the Old Testament that He was going to send into this world. Do you believe that and will you follow Him? Lastly, do you believe that He is the light that gives you guidance and He is the one that will bring peace into your heart in the midst of no matter how much is going on around you, will you believe that and will you follow Him?

The second thing we walk away with today is that we need to imitate. God wants us to share the Gospel with those around us in our family, in our neighborhoods, in the places where we work. And just like Mary and Joseph and Simeon and Anna were given the opportunity to present the Gospel, we need to imitate them so that we’re also reliable resources when we share the Gospel with people. We don’t need our neighbors and our workers to say well you talk about Jesus but you certainly don’t act like you follow Him. We need to live our lives in such a way. So we need to examine our own hearts.

Are we righteous? Are we living in a relationship with God when we are alone and no one else is around? Are our thoughts in communion with Him? Are we spending time to develop that relationship with Him? But not only are we developing and growing in our relationship to the Lord, but are we devout? Do other people continually see outwardly that we display our devotion to the Lord?

That we are followers of Him and obedient to Him? Are we anticipative? When things are rough and things are bad, do you have a negative attitude or are you able to share? You know, things are awful but Jesus is returning and I can look forward to that today. Do people see that in your life? Are you spirit controlled?

I have to think of Romans 12 1 where we are asked to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. That means every single day we are saying God, I not only give you my spirit and my mind, but it tells us to offer our bodies what we do, what our hands do, where our feet go. The words that we say that every day we say, I want the spirit to be in control of these things.

And when people see that in your life, it makes you a reliable testimony of God’s grace in the gospel. Are you spending enough time in private and public worship? Are you a worshiper to the point that people see that in your life?

Are you someone who spends time fasting and are you praying enough? These also are things that help people to see in our life that there’s something different, that what we’re telling them about Jesus Christ really means something to us because it changes our life and the way we live. We need to imitate these reliable witnesses. And the last thing is that we need to appreciate.

We need to appreciate what God has done for us in providing salvation. We need to appreciate what God has done in preserving for us a reliable record of these events that we have recorded in the Bible. And we need to appreciate that God has given us redemption. We need to appreciate that He’s given us peace. We need to appreciate that He has given us salvation. And lastly, we need to appreciate what He has done by giving us His Holy Spirit and desire to understand more how giving our life over to Him on a daily basis, all the things that He wants to do for us so we can have a closer relationship with the Lord and also be a better representative of Jesus in this life.

May we pray.

Heavenly Father, we come to You today. Help us to continue to believe and follow and if there are any among us that have not made that initial step of believing and deciding to follow, that You would prompt their hearts, Father, to speak to someone here among us today that has a name tag that we could share more about that with them. Help us to learn what we need to do in our life, Father, to improve our imitation of these reliable resources, whether we need to spend more time in prayer or in worship or work on our devoutness and our righteous living, that You would help us with that. And lastly, Father, help us to understand the great gift that You’ve given us. Show us how sinful that we are without You and how lost in other darkness.

Help us to understand what You’ve taken away from us, Father, that was so awful and so terrible. And also appreciate the great price more and more that You paid by giving Your very Son to die for us, that we might have life. And it is in His name that we pray. Amen.