At the morning service I preached from Luke 2:22-40. There we read of Mary and Joseph bringing the baby Jesus into the temple in Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, and to offer the requisite sacrifices for a mother who’s just delivered a baby (vs. 22, 23). Since Jesus would go on to declare that the temple is “my Father’s house” (v. 49), his entering the temple was truly his homecoming. And since he is God incarnate, his arrival to the holy sanctuary fulfilled the words of the prophet Malachi: “… And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple…” (Malachi 3:1).
Luke tells us about this episode in the life of Jesus for us for three reasons.
First, Jesus was brought into the temple in order to conform to the law of God. Faithful Mary and Joseph were careful to do for Jesus everything “according to the Law of Moses” (v. 22). This included paying the redemption price for a firstborn son (vs. 22, 23), the sacrifices for a new mother (v.24), and a few weeks earlier, the circumcision of Jesus (v.21). In this way, even from birth, it is manifest that Jesus was “born under the law” (Galatians 4:4). To be our Savior, Jesus had to identify fully with us as creatures bound by God’s law. This he did by his conforming to the law, even from birth. He thus was able to offer himself as a sacrifice on the cross on our behalf, as our representative, to bear our sins that we might be forgiven.
Next, Jesus was brought into the temple to fulfill God’s promises. Two extraordinary saints met the baby Jesus with thanks and praise to God. The first was Simeon, who declared he was ready to “depart in peace” (that is, to die) because in seeing Jesus he had seen the salvation that God had promised (vs. 26, 29-30). Then the elderly widow Anna, seeing Jesus, “began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (v. 38). And so both bore witness to the faithfulness of God, that in the birth of Jesus he had given Israel the Christ he had long promised. What is remarkable about these two saints is how they waited for that glorious day. They have much to teach us about waiting on God and looking for the return of Christ. The Christian hope is incompatible with “instant gratification”; rather, we must patiently watch and pray, as we wait for the fulfillment of all God’s promises to us in Christ.
Third, Jesus entered the temple to bring salvation to the world. Simeon, holding the baby Jesus and crying out with joy, declared that the child was “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (v.32). By the Spirit Simeon echoed what the Spirit had declared through an earlier prophet: “.. I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). Remarkably, Simeon praised God for this world-wide salvation in the very place where the uniqueness of Israel as God’s covenant people was most dramatically displayed: the Jerusalem temple. Signs warned Gentiles that should they enter the sanctuary of God they would be put to death. But if the stone-and-mortar temple was for the Jews, the Greater Temple, Jesus himself, was for Jew and Gentile. He is the true temple (John 2:19-21) through whom God’s elect from all the nations of the world come to God for salvation and eternal life.
At the evening service we continued our study of the Heidelberg Catechism. We took a hard look at the differences between the Roman Catholic Mass and the biblical doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. One visitor was a man who had grown up in the Catholic church and is now a Presbyterian pastor. His personal insights helped our understanding.
Soli Deo Gloria!