************ Sermon on Luke 2:29-30 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on December 31, 2006

Luke 2:21-40
Luke 2:29-30
"Are You Ready to Die?"

Are you ready to die? That's the question I want to ask you on this last night of 2006. Are you ready to die? As time swiftly flows, as moment by moment and day by day and year by year you find yourself getting older, are you ready to die?

Thanks to medical science we are doing a pretty good job of postponing death. Thirty years ago most of my funerals were of people in their 60s or 70s. Now most of my funerals are of people in their 80s or 90s. A person who lives to be 100 years or more was once a rarity but today they are as common as the common cold. But whenever it is that your death occurs will you be ready?

And, we keep finding out you have to be ready at any moment. Two things happened Friday night. First, the news was filled with the execution of Saddam Hussein. Second, we got a phone call telling us that friends of ours in Wisconsin had their son killed in a car accident. I doubt if Saddam was ready to die. I believe that the son of our friends was ready.

After all the excitement of advent and Christmas you might wonder why I am preaching on this. In this season of joy, death is not our preferred subject of conversation. Nor is it something most of us care to think about.

And yet we cannot help but notice that death lies at the heart of the Christmas message. Remember King Herod and Bethlehem's baby boys? Herod killed every infant two years old and under. And, remember why Jesus came into this world? He came to suffer and to die. He took on our flesh so that He could experience our death. And, our Scripture reading in front of us this evening it tells us about two old people waiting to die.

I Ready to Die?
A Are you ready to die? King Hezekiah wasn't ready to die. Remember his story? Hezekiah was only 39 years old. He was the political leader of God's chosen people. He had served and worshiped God so faithfully. He had led the people away from the godlessness of his own father to spiritual rebirth and renewal. Yet, God sent the prophet Isaiah to Hezekiah with a very pointed message. In words that left no room for doubt and no possibility of escape, the prophet declared, "You are going to die; you will not recover" (Is 38:1). All hope was removed; his death was both certain and soon. Hezekiah reacted swiftly and passionately. "Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD" (Is 38:2). "Hezekiah wept bitterly" (Is 38:3).

If a godly king like Hezekiah was not ready to die, how can any of us be ready to die?

B Are you ready to die? What do you want to do, what do you want to see, where do you want to go, what do you want to accomplish before you are ready to die? What are your goals? Hike the Grand Canyon? Run the Boston Marathon? Cycle across the country (that is something I would like to do)? Travel to Australia? Get married? Have grandchildren? Become a multi-millionaire? Pay off your house? Are any of these your life's ambition? Is this what you need to do before you are ready to die?

C When we look at our Bible reading we would say that if anyone was ready to die, it was Simeon even before he entered the Temple to meet Jesus. We are told that Simeon was a godly man righteous and devout (Lk 2:25). He knew the Scriptures. He was a regular visitor at God's house. He was looking for and praying for the Messiah. His heart was in the right place. His hope was in the right thing. He had the right kind of attitude. Simeon even was a Spirit-possessed man (Lk 2:25); he did not have to wait until Pentecost to get the Spirit. We don't know how or even when Simeon received the Spirit, but we do know he had it. Simeon was as close to being right with God as anyone could be. Not perfect no one is but close enough that you would think God would give him credit.

Yet, I want you to notice that none of this was enough. Something was still missing. Something more was needed. Simeon knew this. Only after the events of our Bible reading was Simeon ready to die.
(Luke 2:29-30) "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. (30) For my eyes have seen your salvation ..."

Notice what Simeon did not say. Simeon did not say, "Lord, I am ready to die now that I got my own dairy, bought my dream house, took over the business, saw my kids graduate from college, and became an elder in the church." None of this was Simeon's life ambition. None of this is what made his life worth living. None of this prepared him for death.

So I ask you again, what do you need to be ready for death?

II Meeting Jesus
A Simeon was prompted by the Spirit one day to go to the Temple and wait. He must have stood there that day, eyeing the worshipers as they went in and out, waiting for some clear and unmistakable sign from the Spirit.

Then, at last, it came. "There, Simeon. That father and mother and baby. That is the Chosen One. That is the Messiah!" I wonder how long Simeon stared. A baby? A mere child? Yet, as a student of Scripture, Simeon knew God often provided the most unlikely answers to the prayers of His people. So Simeon took the baby Jesus into his arms, praised God, and said,
(Luke 2:29-30) "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. (30) For my eyes have seen your salvation ..."

After this we are not told anything more about Simeon. We don't know how he died or when he died. We don't know how much longer he lived. All we know is that when death did come, Simeon was ready and waiting.

B Simeon met Jesus and he was ready to die. This means Simeon saw more than the baby in his arms. Simeon saw more than the cradle or the manger. Simeon saw more than a young father and mother. Simeon saw, as it were, the dark side of Christmas.

Christmas, as you know, is not all sweetness and light and joy. Christmas and Simeon saw this also includes sorrow and pain and heartache. I already mentioned Herod and the baby boys of Bethlehem. From there we can fast forward thirty years to an angry mob shouting, screaming, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"

Filled with the Spirit, Simeon knew he was seeing God's salvation. And, filled with the Spirit, Simeon knew that God's salvation involved sacrifice and pain. I doubt if Simeon knew exactly how God, in Christ, would deal with our sins. It doubt if he was able to discern the shape of the coming kingdom of God. But he did see many would fall and rise over Jesus (Lk 2:33). And, he did see that Mary would be terribly hurt and wounded in all of this (Lk 2:35).

Simeon met Jesus and he was ready to die. More specifically, Simeon met Jesus as Savior and he was ready to die. That is the point of our text.

Do you realize what this means for you and me? It means none of us can be ready to die unless we have seen and known Jesus as Savior.
I haven't told the congregation the story of John Kohlmoos many of you know him as Moose from his days as a school bus driver. I came to know John because he needed computer help. On one of my first visits he told me he knew I was a minister but he hoped I wouldn't shove religion down his face. So I kept quiet and prayed the Lord would give me an opportunity.
For four straight years I mostly witnessed by example though I kept finding ways to slip religion into our conversations. John laughed more than once at how innovative I was in doing this. "There you go again," he said more than once.
Then came the day John needed brain surgery. His wife called me all scared. I was in the hospital early that morning. I told John that for 4 years I had mostly respected his wishes but I could no longer be silent because he faced the possibility of death. I asked if I could talk about his relationship with Jesus. When he gave his approval I gave one of the most heartfelt and shortest sermons I have ever preached and John, by God's grace, gave his heart to the Lord.
What was different this time? John knew he could die and John realized he needed to be ready for death.
John is like Simeon you aren't ready to die unless you have seen the Savior.

I need to tell you something. Like Simeon, we have seen Christ. We have seen Christ as a babe wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. We have seen Christ take up His cross and die on Calvary. We have seen Christ arise from the dead. We have see Him ascend to God's right hand in heaven. We have seen Him. We have met Him. Right now, this very moment, He is holding us in His arms and never leaves us nor forsakes us. Like Simeon, we have seen the Savior. So, like Simeon, we should be ready to die.

C Are you ready to die? Have you met the Savior?

Don't answer too quickly, congregation. Lots of people claim to be Christians but they don't have a personal relationship with the Savior. Think of what happened in the Temple the day Simeon met the Lord. Simeon was not the only one who saw Jesus. The priests saw Jesus but they did not believe. Lots of other worshipers were there and saw Jesus but they did not believe. Other parents were there with their babies and they did not believe.

If you were to canvass the subdivision next door and ask people if they were Christians, I dare say most of them would say yes to this. Yet, a lot of them don't ever attend church or read the Bible or pray. They say they are Christian but they don't have a personal relationship with Jesus.

If you were to canvass our congregation, I suspect everyone would claim to be a Christian. Yet, the Bible tells us otherwise. The Bible tells us there are weeds mixed in among the wheat in God's harvest field (Mt 13:24-30)). The Bible tells us there are good fish and bad fish caught together in the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt 13:47-49). Consider also these words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount:
(Mat 7:21-23) "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (22) Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' (23) Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
Imagine that: people who prophesy, drive out demons, and perform miracles in the name of Jesus and yet Jesus says, "I never knew you."

Are you ready to die? Do you have a living and personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you have a real relationship with Jesus? Do you act like a Christian and look like a Christian and behave like a Christian? Are you ready to die because you know the Lord?

III Waiting for Jesus
Simeon, we are told, "was waiting for the consolation of Israel" (Lk 2:25). This was the most important thing in Simeon's life. What he wanted more than anything else was to see the Savior, the Messiah. Simeon's life ambition was to see his Savior. And, once he saw the Savior he was ready to accept death.

Simeon lived for the coming of the Messiah. You know, that is the way we should live we should live for the coming the coming again of the Messiah. Because only those who live for His coming are ready to die.

At the start of Advent we looked at the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist. The angel told Zechariah that John's mission was "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Lk 1:17). We jump forward 30 or so years and John the Baptist preached to the crowds that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand so repent and be baptized. Jesus is coming, preached John, so you need to make some changes, you need to get ready.

Do you live for the coming of the Messiah? Have you made ready for the coming of the Messiah? Are you ready to die?
A couple of nights ago on the History Channel there was a documentary on 7 disasters that could wipe the human race off the planet. I didn't catch all of them. But I did hear about a black hole swallowing our galaxy, a super volcano blowing, an asteroid hitting earth, a nuclear weapon exchange, germ warfare, and global warming.
The documentary mentioned what people could do to get ready. Some would store food, water, and fuel and live underground. Some would spend all they have and party the night away. Some would keep working and mowing the lawn and paying their bills. Some would pray.

If you are like Simeon, you would get ready and be ready to die because you have met the Messiah. If you are like Simeon, you repent of your sin and believe in Christ Jesus.

Are you ready to die? Let's say this is not only the last night of 2006 but also the last night of your life, are you ready to die? Have you met the Savior? Are you ready for the Savior to come again?
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