Text: Luke 2: 21-38
Proposition: When we discover Jesus it’s often when and where we would least expect yet when we do, He’s always more than we could ever expect.
Introduction: Did you get what you expected for Christmas? Were there socks and oranges or E Readers and Blue rays? There’s a new tradition going about many households that is meant to take the crazy busy shopping aspect of Christmas down a notch or two. People give each other lists of what they would like for Christmas. I understand that but it’s the unexpected that makes Christmas gifts even more special to me. Telling someone what exactly you’d like to receive as a gift seems to me to take away the mystery that is so much a part of Christmas. I mean Jesus was not what everybody was expecting. Nobody expected a baby in a manager, nobody expected a virgin to give birth or angels to appear before shepherds or wise men called Magi to suddenly show up in Bethlehem with extravagant gifts for the Christ Child. Nobody expected Herod to try to kill the Child with a mass genocide campaign, certainly nobody expected the Messiah to come as a helpless baby born to young couple so poor they could barely make ends meet. And if you compare the list of what we didn’t expect regarding His birth the list is even greater when you consider what we didn’t expect regarding His death and resurrection. Which really begs the question, what do you expect about Jesus, because the story isn’t over. He’s coming again. As much as people were taken flat footed in the first coming of Christ they will likely be taken by surprise as much and even more at His Second Coming. It’s just six days since Christmas, I’d like to look at an account in Scripture that happened just eight days after Jesus was born and as we do I hope that your expectations of Who Jesus is grow more focused, more defined and more filled with hope. Have a look at Luke 2:21-38 .
I. When You First Discover Jesus He Doesn’t Look Like What You’d Expect.
Seven days had passed since that night in the manger, on the eighth day Joseph names the Child, ‘Jesus’, as both he and Mary were instructed to do by the angel Gabriel. In the Law of Moses in Leviticus 12 it said that a woman who gave birth to a male child would be considered unclean for seven days after which the young male child would be circumcised and then named. It was meant to be a way of teaching the people about how they were all born in sin and all born under the Law of Moses. Once the Child was named the woman then had another 33 days to pass through before she would be allowed to go to the Temple, forty days to be considered ceremonially clean. These details are strange to us, if we have a son circumcised it’s because of personal preference. If we name a child it’s when and what we feel is right. The idea of a woman being considered unclean because of having given birth is likely an offensive thought at best, one that speaks more against her dignity than as a symbol of the transmission of a sin nature. Traditions have a different value for us today because we are not like the Jewish people of the first century. Yet all these peculiar traditions of ceremonial uncleanness and circumcision and naming the child and going to the Temple are what Joseph and Mary did because of this Child Jesus. The peculiar part is that these traditions didn’t fit Jesus. There was no sin transmitted to Him by His mother. Though Jesus was circumcised as a sign of being under the Law of Moses yet He was sinless and was above the Law. In all the peculiar traditions that Joseph and Mary faithfully observed what was being communicated to us was that Jesus doesn’t look like what you’d first expect. In fact He looks a lot like us. You could say that Jesus used all the powers in heaven and earth to be just like us. We never expected that Jesus would want to do that. In modern day terms it would be like an All Powerful and All Majestic Jesus choosing to have a mortgage just like us, choosing poverty. It would be like Jesus choosing to be in a place of being laid off because of cut backs, He chose the experience of rejection. In all these ways and at much greater depth, Jesus has become like us, identifying with us, among us so that not only would He know our state but that being in our state since birth He would one day pay out our debt of sin completely. When you first discover Jesus He doesn’t look like what you’d expect because what He came to do wasn’t what we expected. He came to die not to succeed. He came to set free not to acquire. He came to bring life not solve life. Perhaps the very reason they went up to Jerusalem from Bethlehem after those forty days was a hint, there for all to see. It says that, “they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD’…”. The first born child who is a male of every Israelite family was called ‘holy to the Lord’. What this phrase points back to is the times of Moses when all the first born of Egypt died as the final act to convince the Pharaoh to let the nation of Israel be set free. From that night, called the Passover night, all the first born males were to be considered set apart for God’s call upon their lives. Now Joseph and Mary take this infant Jesus to Jerusalem, the first born of God, the One who would set all people free from the penalty of sin and He would do that by His death in our place. When you first meet Jesus He doesn’t look like you thought He would because what He does is much greater than just making our lives better. He came as Savior!
II. When You First Meet Jesus God Makes Sure You’re In the Right Place.
It says that Simeon had heard about the Messiah, in fact he had prayed and searched and sought to know who this Messiah was. He is called a just and devout man, one who believed that the Messiah would be the Consolation, the Comforter, the Living Hope for the nation of Israel. In God’s special providence He had made it known to Simeon that soon he would see this Messiah. It was a promise from God to Simeon just like the way God sends His promise from the hand of Jesus to you and I. This is what that promise sounds like, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jer.29:12-14) That’s the promise that Simeon lived for, it’s the same promise that God offers to you here this morning, that if you’ll seek Him with all your heart you will find Him. Perhaps more accurately we could say that God will make sure you are in the right place at the right time to meet Jesus. Simeon was. It was a perfect intersect, he comes walking into the Temple, the Spirit of God prompting him as to place and time and at just that very moment Joseph and Mary with the infant Jesus are coming into the Temple. Simeon had likely imagined the Messiah as a general on a great white horse or a statesman who spoke with grand and wise words but suddenly here in front of him was an infant and it was unmistakably Jesus. God has a way of seeing right through us, past our fears and pretenses, past our own sense of unworthiness right to the heart. If your heart is saying, ‘I just want to see Jesus, to know His consolation, His forgiveness of my sin, to give Him my life to do what He wills…God makes sure that that you are in the right place and at the right time for that to happen. And not only does Simeon get to see the Messiah he actually takes the infant Jesus into his arms, he for a moment, holds the Savior of the world in his arms. These words pour out of his heart, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of Your people Israel.” Simeon gets it, what God said He would do, He does. God’s salvation is prepared and presented before the face of all peoples. That because all people need Someone to stand between their sin and a holy God in order to take the hit for us. And it’s for all peoples, Gentiles and Jews. He’s like the light of God shining on a path way in the pitch black night, giving you enough light to see where the rocks are, where the branches that would trip you up are, where the cliff edge is as you walk within feet of it. He is the light that enables you to see the way. Then Simeon says this to Mary and to all of us, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." There will be many who will only know Jesus as a curse word and there will also be many who bow their hearts before Him and are lifted up to Him. The anguish of Christ’s death on the cross will be like a sword going through Mary’s heart and yet this is the way that God has established for us to be reconciled to Him. Where you stand at the cross, as a mocker or as one who receives the gift of Christ’s death and resurrection is a heart that will be revealed. These somber words are like Easter resting against Christmas. It’s the perfect place to be, seeing a Jesus that is more than we ever expected. It’s Discovering Jesus.