Hearts are Revealed: Luke 2:21-40

I love questions. It is easy to assume one’s motives or think you know someone’s thought. That is why I love questions. The best ways to get to know people is to ask questions and then listen. Another reason I love questions, because it forces us to think and to reflect. A good question will help to expose the thoughts of hearts. So I am going to ask you 5 questions from our text this morning and my prayer is that the questions will force you to think, reflect and Lord willing, will help to expose your hearts. So let’s dig in. First question, are you obedient?

Are you Obedient? (v. 21-24)

One of the early complaints against Christianity was that it was a religion that bread dissension and disobedience against the government. It is important to remember who Luke has addressed this gospel to: the most excellent Theophilus, most likely a Roman ruler. You see throughout this gospel how Luke goes out of his way to show how Christianity does not create disorder and dissension, but order and honor.

The Jews looked to the Roman government to squash this religion by painting as a religion that would destroy the government. The Jews mischaracterized Christianity so that the Jews would be the ones to gain favor from the government while Christianity would be persecuted.

Look with me at verse 21 through 24:

“21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. 22 When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

And verse 27,

“Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required,"

And verse 39,

39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth

Luke shows 6 times in this section of how pious and obedient Mary and Joseph were to the Word of the Lord. Like, Zechariah and Elizabeth, they were obedient to Word of the Lord given through the angel and named the baby Jesus meaning “the Lord saves.” Truly, this baby would live up to his name, Praise God. In verse 22 says, “When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.” Leviticus 12 explains the purification ritual that must occur after the birth of the child. Luke is showing how Mary and Joseph were obeying the Law of Moses. They were going up to Jerusalem to offer a sacrifice to fulfill the Law. The offering was supposed to be a lamb, unless they could not afford one, then two doves or young pigeons would be acceptable. Luke points out that Mary and Joseph were of humble means as they could not afford the lamb, but instead offered a pair of doves or pigeons instead. Take note of how God came to those of humble means. The Lord regularly visits those of humble means. We often lament of our humble circumstances while the Lord meets us in the midst of them just like he did with Mary and Joseph.

Mary and Joseph not only fulfilled the rite of purification from Leviticus 12, but also that of Exodus 13:2 “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.” Consecrated to the Lord means to be set apart unto God as holy. We will see as this narrative unfolds just how holy this child Jesus will be.

Mary and Joseph are obedient to the Law of the Lord. The start of Christianity did not come from dissenters or the rebellious, but rather the obedient. The attempt of first century Jews to discredit Christianity should not surprise us for they did the same to our Lord Jesus Christ as they painted him as subversive to Roman rule.

Luke 23

Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ,[a] a king.”3 So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.4 Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”5 But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea[b] by his teaching.

I want you to see that this is a common scheme of the evil one. The Lord Jesus Christ and his followers are often portrayed against the government and order in society. Think about it? How are Christians perceived in our day? We stand up for marriage and we are looked at as intolerant and guilty of bigotry. Look no further than the backlash against Chick-fil-a after the founder Truett Cathy spoke up for traditional marriage. Several big-city mayors, Washington D.C.'s Vincent Gray, Chicago's Rahm Emanuel, and San Francisco's Edwin Lee, said that they would prevent Chick-fil-A outlets from opening in their cities since they did not want to encourage any business characterized by such intolerance.[1] Christians portrayed as subversive to societal order. Nothing is new under the sun.

But here is the question “Is your life able to stand against the criticism of our world?” All Luke had to do was to point out the truth that Mary and Joseph were obedient and pious Jews. They were not out to overthrow the government, but simple to obey the Lord. Can that be said about you? Beloved, if we are going to win this world, our lives have to be able to stand against the intolerant tolerance of our day that portrays Christians as harsh and unloving. We must let our light shine before men so that they may see our good deeds and praise our father in heaven. We must be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give the reason for the hope we have, but we must do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Are you Waiting? (v. 25-26)

Now, we turn to look at two older saints and their waiting for the Messiah. Let’s first look at Verse 25,

“25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”

Again we see a righteous and devout man shown special favor from the Lord. Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel. The consolation of Israel was referring to the hope of deliverance of the nation. This longing was very common in Jewish thought and this deliverance was going to come in the Messiah. It was revealed through the Holy Spirit that Simeon would see the Christ before his death meaning that he would see the beginning consolation or deliverance of Israel. Simeon lived in the hope that God’s promise of hope spoken through OT prophets would be fulfilled.[2]

Luke also draws attention that the Holy Spirit was upon Simeon. Simeon experienced revelation by the Holy Spirit was led by the Holy Spirit and he praised God in the Holy Spirit. Even before Pentecost when the Holy Spirit ushered in the age of the church, saints were led and guided by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has always been active. There is more continuity than discontinuity with the way the Spirit moved under the Old Covenant and the New. Besides that, Luke wants to show that God is one that is behind this whole scene.

Simeon reminds me of many of you. I am so thankful to be here at Park Baptist Church. I have learned so much from many of our senior saints since I came here. One of the most difficult things for a young man is to have a proper perspective of life. We are often so focused on our present needs and future worries that we can miss what really matters in life. As one enters the autumn of life, it is easier to gain proper perspective. I thank God for you senior saints in how you have helped me grow in my perspective as I wait for the hope of God’s promised being fulfilled in Jesus Christ. I pray that God would continue to use the senior saints in this church to help us learn how to wait on the precious promises of our Lord!! Simeon waited for the God’s promise to be fulfilled, are you waiting?

Are you Ready? (v.27-33)

It is one thing to wait, but it is another to be ready when what you are waiting for comes. Verse 27,

27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss[d] your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.

God promised Simeon that he would see the Christ before he died. When Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms the promised had been fulfilled. Can you imagine the joy that gripped Simeon? All his hope and expectations were realized. Like a mother holding her new born child after nine months or like the sick declared cancer free, Simeon was struck with joy. He could not help praise God saying: Sovereign Lord, the one in complete control. You Oh Lord have done what you have promised; now dismiss your servant in peace.

Simeon is telling the Lord that I am now ready to die. Now we say things like that a lot, don’t we? After eating a delicious piece of cake, we rub our bellies and say, “If I died now, I would be a happy man.” Or after experiencing a great moment in life, “Now I can die.” Simeon was not just saying a platitude; he truly was ready to die. Why?

Verse 30, “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of your people Israel.” When he looked down at that baby in his arms, he said I have seen the salvation of the Lord. It is important to note here that this is the first place in Luke’s gospel that there is the explicit reference to Jesus’ mission to the Gentiles. This is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah

Isaiah 42:6-8

“I am the Lord; I have called you[b] in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations; to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.8 I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

And Isaiah 49:6

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Salvation has come. God has come to be a light for the nations to reveal salvation to the world. Simeon was ready, but sadly I do not know if we are ready. Listen to what Luke 10:23-24 says of this salvation:

23 Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

And 1 Peter 1:10-12:

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care,11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

We live in a very privileged position. We live in the fullness of time when the message of salvation has been revealed. Do you take that for granted?

Grandparents are often quoted saying, “You are lucky because when I grew up I was to have to…. Walk ten miles to school every day…barefoot…in the snow…through the woods…with no jacket…carrying my sister….and her dog on my back. You are lucky.” Well we may not be lucky, but we sure are blessed. We live in a day with incredible convenience from cars to cell phones to modern medicine, but we often take for granted what we have. Beloved, let us not take for granted this salvation. Let us not forsake our blessed place. Let us look intently into this salvation for which angels, kings, and prophets longed to look.

Are you Falling or Rising? (v.34-35)

So how do we not take this salvation for granted? We look to Jesus. Mary and Joseph were amazed at what was said about Jesus. Now think about this, they knew Jesus was virgin born and both of them had seen a vision from an angel and yet, they still marveled at what was said about him. The more you look at Jesus the more amazed we should be. But Simeon explains that Jesus will not be a blessing to everyone. Verse 34

34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Jesus did not come only as salvation, but also would cause division. He is said to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel. It is clear throughout Jesus’ life that not every Israelite would accept Jesus Christ. Luke points that this rejection was foreseen early in his life. One of the images of the Messiah was that of a stone, a stone that would divide Israel. Isaiah prophesied this in 8:14 and 28:16-17. Peter picks this theme up in his first epistle. 1 Peter 2:4-8:

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”[a] 7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious.

But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,[b]”[c]8 and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”[d]They stumble because they disobey the message.

According to Peter, if you believe Jesus, than you are rising, but if you do not believe in Jesus than he becomes a rock that makes men fall. Disbelief causes men to stumble because they disobey the message. So are you falling or rising? Do you believe in Jesus Christ? The incarnate deity born of a virgin who lived a perfect life only to die a sinner’s death and that God raised from the dead to eternal glory. If you are here and you do not believe in Jesus as Lord, consider what it means to fall. What are the consequences of rejecting Jesus as Lord? You may think Jesus has some good things to say and even like him, but what are the consequences of rejecting him as your God? The Bible regards the fall not like tripping of a stone in a field, but falling off a 1,000 cliff onto a boulder. The consequences of rejecting Jesus are severe.

Now, this division has a purpose for in verse 35 it says, “so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” God wants to expose the thoughts of our hearts. We can fake it for a long time, but God always knows what is in our hearts. Beloved, we should want our hearts exposed. We should want our sin exposed for it is only in the exposure of our sin when we realize that we truly need a Savior. Stop and think about this for a minute. God wants your sin exposed not so that he can point at you and say, “See. Hypocrite. Look at what you did.” God exposes your sin so he can point to the Jesus on the cross and say, “See. I love you. I did not spare my own Son, but I sent him to save you. Jesus came to die for you. Stop running, stop hiding. Come to me!! Come to me. I want you to experience salvation.” We do not want anyone to know about our sin, but the one who knows of our sin wants to expose it so that the thoughts of our heart will be exposed to force us to stop running.

During college, one of my roommates and fellow football player, Brian, was hit hard during a kickoff during one of our football games. The hit hurt. He was still hurting late the following week. Brian went to see the doctor and they found cancer. He was 20 years old. The painful hit he experienced in a football game exposed his cancer. That hit ended up saving his life. The exposure of sin may cause pain, but it may end up saving your life. Are you falling or rising? Do not fall on this precious stone, but fall before him in worship for he who humbles himself will rise.

Are you Sharing? (v.36-40)

Briefly, lets look at how Luke closes this section with the prophetess Anna. Verse 36:

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Anna was a widow. She was a widow for a long time and yet she continued to stay faithful to God. She was in the temple day and night, fasting and praying. But notice what she did after seeing Jesus. She spoke about the child to all who were looking. Something happens when we encounter Jesus Christ that makes us want to share him. Are you sharing about Jesus? If not, why not?

[1] Carson, Don. Themelios Volume 37. Issue 3. More examples of Intolerant Tolerance.

[2] Bock, Darell. BECNT. 238-239.