Read – Why did Jesus come to earth? Why did God become man? Why did Jesus die? The Greeley Tribune faith columnist on July 10, 2010 answered, “An honest reading of the Bible can only lead us to the conclusion that the Bible is uncertain on the significance of Jesus death.” Since he can’t find a biblical view, this writer suggests on his own that Jesus death was not “a divine necessity” but the tragic result of his promoting the cause of social justice.
Clark Pinnock and Robert Brow in Unbounded Love suggest the death of Christ was “for God an educational experience.” Jesus’ experience enabled God to identify with us so He forgives based on sympathy, not because the penalty for sin had been paid. So, is that what Jesus was all about? A learning exercise for God? We will learn this morning, most decidedly not.
Mary and Joseph have come to the temple after 40 days to offer sacrifices for Mary’s purification and to present Jesus to God. They have to be wondering, “Are we doing it right?” But in obedience to the Word, they come to the temple where God fills in more pieces thru 2 choice servants.
Simeon is righteous and devout -- a true believer. Like Abraham in Gen 15:6, “he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” He was a good man, but he was saved by faith. Simeon was awaiting the consolation of Israel – a term that points us to the OT Messiah, the promised One who would provide salvation and rule on the throne of David forever. But Simeon had received another promise for his faithfulness – one way out of the ordinary. V. 26, “And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” The term “Christ” means anointed one -- Messiah. God had promised Simeon that he would see Messiah before he died. What a rare promise! Perhaps Simeon came looking every day, but we know on this day he came in the Spirit – directed by the HS, and he and Joseph and Mary connected. This was extraordinary. Simeon was not a priest nor temple official. Yet he somehow convinced Mary and Joseph to let him hold their baby, and then prophesied concerning His Messianic mission – affirming that things were going according to plan – and providing further insight into God’s plan for this amazing event – the incarnation. Four great truths emerge regarding God’s plan to bring salvation to the world through the life and death of Jesus. I assure you the Bible is not uncertain about the mission of Christ.
I. Its Preparation – by God
Notice Simeon’s comments in Luke 2: 30) for my eyes have seen your salvation 31) that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples.” Who is the author of salvation? There is no doubt in Simeon’s mind. It is your salvation that you have prepared. There is not one single iota, not one spec of man in God’s plan of salvation. It is His salvation that He has prepared. We are simply beneficiaries of amazing grace. No one can boast about being a Christian. Salvation is all of God.
To me this is wonderful news! But to most people it’s an affront they can’t get over. Most people outside of Christ are not in blatant rebellion. A few are, but not most. Most think they are okay; they think they are in, but their faith is based on something they do. They insist on their merit. So they stake their eternal destiny on the hope that being as good as the next guy will make them acceptable to God. But do you not see, Beloved, that is salvation by me, not salvation by God. That is my salvation prepared by me, not God’s salvation prepared by God. There is an eternal difference between the two.
Eph 1:4 teaches God “chose us in him before the foundation of the world.” God chose me; I did not choose Him. If you are in Christ today, it is because God chose you. He chose us before the world even existed. His choosing was based on the life and death of Jesus -- His mission. Turn to I Pet 1:18, “knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers (that is the tendency to sin, the brokenness with which we are all born. We were ransomed), not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was (watch this) foreknown before the foundation of the world (God’s eternal plan) but was made manifest (messianic mission) in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him (not through ourselves, but him) are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” Beloved, to suggest that the Bible is uncertain about the significance of Jesus’ death is a blatant lie. It is blasphemous. In dying for your sins and mine, Jesus absorbed the righteous wrath of God against sin for all who will believe. What we could never do for ourselves, He did for us. It is His salvation prepared by Him -- available to anyone who will accept the gift. God says in I John 2:2, “He is the propitiation (that is, the payment to satisfy God’s holy judgment on all sin) for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” That’s why He died – not accidentally and tragically, but purposefully and intentionally to pay the wages of death our sin had earned. This is the mission of the Lord’s Christ -- the longstanding plan of God, prepared before time began and executed in time by Jesus of Nazareth. It’s God’s plan and God’s salvation. How tragic that so many insist on their own goodness to their own condemnation. Beloved, test yourself? In the words of II Cor 13: 5) Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.” He didn’t say, “Examine to see if you are good enough, but are you in the faith?”
Remember Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Dr. Jekyll knows he’s a mix of good and evil. Believing his bad nature holds back his good, he creates a potion to separate the two. His hope is that his good self, which will come out during the day, will be free from the influence of evil. But, when he takes the potion one night and his evil comes out, he is far worse than he expected. Every act is selfish. His name, Hyde, reflects his desire to cover up, to rationalize every action. Stevenson’s point is even the best of people hide from themselves the horrendous egoism and selfishness that is within. Horrified at his capacity for evil, Jekyll resolves not to take the potion anymore. He devotes himself to charity to atone for his sinful nature and congratulates himself on his efforts. He addresses his readers, “You know how earnestly, in the last months of the last year, I labored to relieve suffering; you know that much was done for others . . . . (But as) I smiled, comparing myself with other men, comparing my active goodwill with the lazy cruelty of their neglect . . . at the very moment of that vain-glorious thought, a qualm came over me, a horrid nausea and the most dreadful shuddering . . . . I looked down . . . . I was once more Edward Hyde.” In his pride of accomplishment, Jekyll has become Hyde without the potion. Devastated, he kills himself. Stevenson’s insight is profound. Like so many, Jekyll tries desperately to cover his sin with great piles of good works. Yet his efforts don’t shrink his pride and selfishness, they aggravate it. He becomes Hyde without the potion, not in spite of his goodness, but because of his goodness. His goodness became his greatest evil. This is a vivid picture of any person creating his or her own salvation. Is this you? Then you are not saved, dear friend. Salvation is of God alone; we can only accept it, never create it.
II. Its Person -- Christ
Lu 2:26, “And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Simeon has been promised that he will see the Lord’s Messiah. But look what else he saw in v. 30, “for my eyes have seen your salvation.” He didn’t just see Messiah, he saw salvation. He saw a baby named Jesus -- “Jehovah is salvation” – and he knew he was staring salvation in the face. What he said reflects a wonderful truth. Simeon was not looking at a creed. He was not looking at a list of do’s and don’t’s. He was not looking into a mirror that implied he would find salvation in self-actualization or good works. He was looking into the face of a person – Jesus Christ. And he recognized the truth Jesus expressed later in John 17: 3) And this is eternal life (this is it – here it is – here is salvation), that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Simeon got it. Salvation is the person of Christ. It was not Buddha that Simeon was seeing, Beloved. It was not Vishnu or Mohammed or Joseph Smith. It was Jesus Christ. In Him and Him alone is salvation.
In these postmodern days when relativism and tolerance reign supreme, people object that salvation is only in Christ. There must be multiple ways to God; Jesus is just one of them. What fuels these claims? Human wisdom – nothing more. But God says “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). If Jesus is just a good prophet, we might accept that he is just one way of many to God. But the Bible presents Him as much more – as the Son of God who came to deliver mankind by His own death and resurrection. To think that God would die Himself for our sin in the person of His Son, and then accept other ways to Him defies logic. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life – no man comes to the Father except by me.” Man, that’s exclusive. No loopholes! And it is pretty clear why when you consider II Cor 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” You want to know grace? Look with Simeon into the face of this helpless baby boy, born on the outskirts of respected society. Consider His past at home in heaven, radiating glory, surrounded by angels proclaiming His holiness, creating and ruling with His Father. Look at His future. See this Lord of glory hanging naked on a cross, crushed by His Father because He bears in His own body every sin of every person He ever created. The richest of the rich became the poorest of the poor – and you think the Father is open to other approaches to Him? Salvation is in Christ alone. The price He paid to purchase our salvation defies description. Only Jesus can save. God says in I John 4:2, “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.” To reject Christ is to reject God.
A missionary told an old Indian chief about Jesus, describing him as God’s only way to heaven. The aged chief agreed, “The Jesus road is a good road. But I have followed the Indian road all my life, and I cannot change now.” A year later the chief was deathly sick and the missionary came. “Can I turn to Jesus now?” the dying man asked. “My own road stops here. It has no way through the valley!” Beloved, every human road ends in the grave. Don’t be fooled. Buddha is dead. Mohammed is dead. Vishnu is dead. All dead – all except Jesus – the only way to God, the only way through the valley of death.
III. Its Purpose -- Peace
So much hope is here. Lu 2:29-30, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30) for my eyes have seen your salvation.” Do you realize how few people depart this life in peace? Don’t you want to be one of them? Then you must meet Jesus. Your good works can only bring doubt as you lie on your deathbed. But Jesus brings peace.
Jesus’ mission is about peace from start to finish. It is about peace with God; peace with others; and peace within. Peace with God is priority 1. There is no peace anywhere without peace with God. Apart from Christ, we are enemies of God. You mean, God hates us? No. But our sin creates an uncrossable gap between Him and us that cannot be bridged except by Jesus. You must get this. Ultimately we do not need to be saved from Satan; we do not need to be saved from people. What we need saving from is God’s settled anger at sin! But the wonder of all wonders is that God has offered Himself in the person of Christ to save us from Himself. That’s good news.
Turn to Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In Christ, we have peace with God, but we didn’t get it by anything we did. Look at verse 8, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners (all sinners are enemies of God, and yet) Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood (those who have believed in Him), much more shall we be saved by him from (what? From) the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” Are you seeing the mission? It’s God making peace with Himself on our behalf!
Now, having peace with God is the basis for having peace with others. That’s Paul’s point in Eph 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both (Jew and Gentile) one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” Having got right with God, we can be made right with others – through Christ. You just can’t have Christ and not desire peace because He is peace personified.
Furthermore, peace with God is the basis for peace within – even in the face of death. Simeon could go in peace once he met Jesus. To die in peace you must meet Jesus. He alone has turned death into victory. He brings peace within. In John Piper’s first sermon to his church 30 years ago he said, “If I didn’t believe that departing to be with Christ is better than staying here, how could I dare to aspire to the role of pastor – anywhere – not to mention at Bethlehem Baptist Church where 108 members are over 80 years old and another 171 over 65? But I do believe it, and say to every gray-haired believer in this church, with all the authority of Christ’s apostle, the best is yet to come! And I don’t mean a fat pension and a luxury condominium. I mean Christ.” Have you met him? That’s the way to go in peace.
IV. Its Purview – the World
Lu 2:32: Simeon says Jesus will be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” That was a shock to Mary and Joseph. Lu 2:33 tells us as much: “And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.” They knew Jesus was special. But a light to the Gentiles? Get outta here! Messiah was to deliver Israel from Roman oppression. They sure didn’t see him as a light to the enemy – the Gentile world.
But this denied their own covenant with God thru Abe. God told him in Gen 12:2-3, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” The Jewish people clung tenaciously to that covenant – all except that last clause. That got lost in the mists of time. It was not on their agenda. But it never ceased to be part of God’s agenda. God chose Israel not just for their benefit, but for the benefit of others – to show God to others – a mission they failed miserably.
Listen to Isaiah 60:2-3, “For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. 3 And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” Israel’s glory was to have been their position as the light of the world. They were God’s chosen instrument of revealing Himself to a lost world. They have failed; but He has not. What Israel did not do as a nation, Jesus will now do in His own person. John says in 1:9, “The true light, which gives light to everyone (note: not just Jews but everyone) was coming into the world.” That light was Jesus. Jesus Himself says in John 8:12, ““I am the light of the world (not Israel – the world). Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Light reveals, and He reveals God and the salvation God has prepared to everyone! It blew the Jews’ mind that the Gentiles could be saved, too.
But salvation has always been for everyone who will believe. Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first (because it was revealed through their history) and also to the Greek.” The gospel has always been for everyone though it was revealed and executed through Israel.
Today is no different. Jesus still invites: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). Come one; come all. It is never too late while there is life. No one is too good and no one is too bad. Jesus came to save sinners, not do-gooders. Everyone is welcome. Brennan Manning in his book The Ragamuffin Gospel says it eloquently: “Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing . . . in front of the Lamb, . . . I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son. I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives; the businessman besieged with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions; . . . the deathbed convert who for decades had his cake and ate it, broke every law of God and man, wallowed in lust, and raped the earth. ‘But how?’ we ask. Then the voice says, ‘They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’” There they are. There we are.” The gospel, dear friends, is for everyone! Good making peace with Himself on our behalf.
That’s the messianic mission – to seek and to save all – all, regardless of background, all who are lost and will come to Him by faith in His shed blood. Have you come? Will you be there? Let’s pray.