************ Sermon on Luke 2:29-30 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 21, 1997
Subtopic: Preparation for
Title: Life Insurance
In his book Spirit Life, D. Stuart Briscoe writes, "When I moved to the United States, I was impressed with the number of total strangers who visited my home to wish me well -- they all sold insurance! One day my visitor was talking about the necessity to be prudent in the preparation for all possibilities. "If something should happen to you, Mr. Briscoe... ' he started to say, but I interrupted with, 'please don't say that. It upsets me." He was a little startled, but tried again, 'But with all due respects, sir, we must be ready if something should happen to us.' 'Don't say that,' I insisted. he looked totally bewildered and said, 'I don't understand what I said to upset you.' 'Then I'll tell you,' I replied. 'It upsets me that you talk about (life's) only certainty as if it's a possibility. Death isn't a possibility, it's a certainty. You don't say "If," you say "When," whenever death is the subject.' Then I added, 'By the way, when something happens to you, what will really happen?'"
Let me ask you that question: when you die, do you know what will happen to you? Donald Cargill, a bright star in the history of the Scottish church, knew exactly what was going to happen to him when he died. He was condemned by the government and sentenced to the gallows. When he came to the scaffold, Cargill said these moving words, although it is said that the drums were beaten in an attempt to drown out his voice:
Topic: DeathCan you talk this way when you face death?
Subtopic: Of the Righteous
Now I am near to getting to my crown, which shall be sure; for I bless the Lord, and desire all of you to bless Him that He hath brought me here, and makes me triumph over devils, and men, and sin -- they shall wound me no more. I forgive all men the wrongs they have done to me, and pray the Lord may forgive all the wrongs that any of the elect have done against Him. I pray that sufferers may be kept from sin, and helped to know their duty -- farewell reading and preaching, praying and believing, wanderings, reproaches, and sufferings. Welcome joy unspeakable and full of glory.
I Die in Peace
In front of us in Scripture is an aged Simeon. He was ready to die, he even wanted to die, because he knew exactly what was going to happen to him. He says,
Luke 2:29 "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace." "Let me die," he says. "Let me die in peace."
"Peace" can mean many things. The goal of the Middle-East peace talks is a state of tranquility between Israel and her neighbors so that they will no longer face the rage and havoc of war. When there is trouble in a marriage, a counselor aims for harmony between the partners. American soldiers are in Bosnia for the security, safety, and prosperity of the people there. The peace that Simeon speaks of here is none of these. Rather, he speaks of the blessed state of devout and upright men and women in the presence of God after death. It is abundant life or life to the full. It is when the whole person — body and soul, mind and spirit, emotions and heart — fully experience the wondrous power of the Messiah in every part of their being.
"Let me die in peace," says Simeon. Simeon knew that there awaited him the crown of righteousness (2 Tim 4:8) in a place of glory. That's the peace he is talking about.
Again I ask, do you know what will happen to you when you die? Do you know where you will end up?
II A Watchman
A I don't know whether you noticed, but Scripture tells us something important about Simeon. We are told that Simeon "was waiting for the consolation of Israel." He is not all that different from Joseph of Arimathea whom Luke later describes as "a good and upright man ... waiting for the kingdom of God" (Lk 23:50,51). Another parallel is the circle of those who, with Anna, "were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem" (Lk 2:38). Simeon, Joseph of Arimathea, and Anna were all anticipating the coming of the Messiah, the Redeemer, the Savior.
We need to see Simeon and Joseph and Anna in the light of Old Testament prophecy. Through the prophet Malachi, for instance, the Lord Almighty said,
(Mal 3:1) "See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come ..." The messenger who prepares the way is further identified in Malachi's prophecy as "the prophet Elijah" (Mal 4:5).
In Luke 1, it is said of John the Baptist that "he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah ... to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Lk 1:17). This can only mean that John the Baptist is Malachi's messenger who prepares the way for the Lord. This further means, in accordance with Malachi's prophecy, that soon the Lord Himself, the messenger of the covenant will come to His temple. John's ministry, in other words, created the expectation, the anticipation, that soon the Lord Himself would be coming to the Temple, even as Malachi said He would.
As a righteous and devout man Simeon is waiting and watching for these and other prophecies to take place. He is "waiting for the consolation of Israel."
B Scripture raises the image here of a watchman. In the Ancient World when someone or something special was expected or anticipated, a watchman would be appointed to wait and watch for its arrival. The watchman would position himself on some high place — the top of a hill, in a tree, or on a wall — and would keep watch through day and night until the anticipated person or thing was seen. He would then announce its arrival and be discharged from his duties.
Simeon is the watchman. He was waiting and watching and praying for the coming of the Messiah. He was filled with eager anticipation and great expectation because "it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ" (Lk 2:26).
C One day, Simeon was "moved" or "led" by the Spirit to go to the Temple to see the Christ. How excited he must have been. You can be sure he went as quickly as he possibly could. Imagine, his watching was almost over; his hours and days and years of waiting were almost finished. He could finally cry out that the consolation of Israel, the kingdom of God, the redemption of Jerusalem, had come.
In entering the Temple, Simeon sees Joseph and Mary with the Child. Somehow he knows that baby Jesus is Who he has been waiting, watching, and praying for all those years. So, he holds out his arms. He takes the Child and praises God.
D We know that most if not all of Israel was waiting for the Messiah's birth. For centuries they dreamed and spoke with longing of His coming. They could hardly wait for the Messiah's arrival. Yet, when the Messiah did finally come only a handful of people recognized Him for Who He was. Anna, Simeon, and a few others were the only ones who acknowledged baby Jesus to be the Christ, the Messiah. How come of all those who were waiting for the Messiah's appearance only a few recognized Him when He came?
Topic: Second Coming of ChristWe would have to say that Simeon and Anna were both waiting and watching for the Messiah's coming. They were waiting and watching so they were able to recognize Him when He came.
Subtopic: True Attitude Concerning
Title: Wait and Watch
Our absent Lord has given special commendation to those who not only WAIT for His return, but also earnestly WATCH for Him. The difference between these terms is illustrated by the story of a fishing vessel returning home after many days at sea. As they neared the shore, the sailors gazed eagerly toward the dock where a group of their loved ones had gathered. The skipper looked through his binoculars and identified some of them: "I see Bill's Mary, and there is Tom's Margaret and David's Anne." One man became concerned because his wife was not there. Later, he left the boat with a heavy heart and hurried up the hill to his cottage. As he opened the door, she ran to meet him saying, "I have been waiting for you!" He replied with a gentle rebuke, "Yes, but the other men's wives were watching for them!"
E We can learn a lesson, congregation, from Simeon's watching. Yes, it is true that the Lord's Christ has already come. But it is also true that someday He will come again. So do we, like Simeon, eagerly wait and watch and pray for His coming? Are we filled with eager anticipation and great expectation? There is a song we sing that speaks to this:
yet saints their watch are keeping;How I pray that this song reflects the desire of each and every one of us. How I pray that we, like Simeon, are watchmen. How I pray that when the Lord's Christ finally comes we will be ready, prepared like a bride for her husband.
their cry goes up: "How long?"
and soon the night of weeping
shall be the morn of song.
"Wake, awake, for night is flying,"
the watchmen on the heights are crying;
"Awake, Jerusalem, arise!"
Midnight hears the welcome voices
and at the thrilling cry rejoices:
"Where are the virgins pure and wise?
The Bridegroom comes: Awake!
Your lamps with gladness take!
With bridal care and faith's bold prayer,
to meet the Bridegroom, come, prepare!"
III Meets the Messiah
A Simeon holds the Christ-child in his arms and he prays for death. "Dismiss you servant in peace," says Simeon to the Lord God. Most people fight death right to the end. Yet, Simeon can ask to die in peace. How come? What's the reason?
Don't forget, Simeon was a watchman, and a faithful one at that. For many years he had been watching, waiting, and praying for the coming of the Lord's Christ. For many years he had been waiting for the consolation of Israel. For many years now he had been in a state of eager anticipation and great expectation.
But now, now his time of watching is over. His, finally, is the privilege to cry out that the Christ has come. So, like a faithful servant who has finished his assigned task, he can ask for release from his duties. Now that his job is done he can ask God to discharge him from the task of further watching.
"Dismiss your servant in peace," asks Simeon. "Let me die," he says, "because my job, my calling, my task in life, is finished."
B Surely we do Simeon an injustice if we say he prays for death merely because his job, his calling, his task, is finished. "Dismiss you servant in peace," says Simeon to the Lord God,
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 glory to your people Israel.
Simeon can ask to die, he can welcome death, because he has met the Savior of all men. More than that, Simeon can ask to die, he can welcome death, because he has met his own Savior.
We have to admire Simeon's faith. All that Simeon holds and sees is a little baby. Yet, he believes that God has fulfilled His Word. He holds a little baby, and it is given to him to believe this is the Savior of all men.
C Of course, not everyone who has seen the Messiah can die in peace. Herod and Pilate saw Jesus and they did not die in peace. The Pharisees and Sadducees saw Jesus and they did not die in peace. The crowds of Palm Sunday and Good Friday saw Jesus and most of them did not die in peace either. Judas saw Jesus and was even one of the Twelve, but he did not die in peace.
Some who see Jesus die in peace and others who see Jesus die to everlasting hell fire. But, then, Simeon predicted this would happen: "This child," he said, "is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel" (Lk 2:34). Some will fall to their doom because of Christ and others will be raised to everlasting glory because of Christ. The only difference between the two is faith.
By grace, Simeon sees Jesus and believes He is the Messiah. By grace, Simeon sees Jesus and believes He is the Savior. "Let me die in peace," says Simeon, "for my eyes have seen your salvation ..."
(Lk 2:29,30) "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. (30) For my eyes have seen your salvation ..." Can you say that? When you die, will you die in peace?
Let me tell you, none of us, not a single one of us, can go in peace unless we have met the Savior of all men, our Savior from sin. So I need to ask you, have you met the Savior? Have you met the Christ-Child?
It is not enough to just meet the Christ-Child, the Savior from sin. Like Simeon, you must also hold out your hands, your arms, your hearts, to receive Him. In other words, to be dismissed in peace, to die in peace, to be discharged from one's calling, it is necessary also to have Simeon's faith. Then you too, as a faithful watchman, can depart in peace.
So I ask you again: can you say the words of Simeon? You can, IF you know Jesus. I urge you, like Simeon, to recognize Jesus as the Savior. Then someday you too can say, "Let me die, Lord. Let me die in peace."
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page