Presentation of Our Lord, (February 2, 2014)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
TITLE: “Up into God”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter two.
“Now I’ve seen everything!” You know the phrase. When some thing outrageous happens, when something so absurd and unbelievable happens, that’s the saying. “Now I’ve seen everything!”
Simeon had a “Now I’ve seen everything” moment that day. It was forty days after Christmas, after Jesus’ birth. Joseph and Mary had brought Jesus to the Temple to fulfill the Law. Every firstborn son was holy to the Lord, dedicated to Him. And so the people made a sacrifice, they literally redeemed their first born sons forty days after they are born. This is also the time when the women were ritually purified from the flow of blood that came with the birth of a child.
So here is Simeon, an old man, waiting for the consolation of Israel, as our text says. What does that mean? It means this. Israel had waited for centuries for the coming Messiah, promised all the way back in Genesis, and Isaiah, and throughout the Old Testament. They waited and waited and waited. But Simeon had had a dream that he would not die until He had seen the Lord’s Christ, the Lord’s Messiah.
But he was getting old. Would God keep His promise? Or must he continue to wait and wait and wait and wait?
We all suffer through those times of waiting. We all have moments and times when it doesn’t seem clear whether God is going to keep His promises or not. Why is this happening to me, Lord, becomes the cry of the one who suffers.
And we suffer because of our sin. Now I don’t mean that this specific sin led to this specific punishment. What I mean is that every time things are messed up and broken, that is the result of sin in the world. Death itself is the ultimate result of sin. “The wages of sin is death,” says St. Paul in Romans 6:23. That is the Law speaking to you, right now.
What’s more, because we know this, because we recognize instinctively that death just isn’t right, well, if we are honest with ourselves, we fear death. Why do we fear death? We fear death because the wages of sin is death, and so if I die, what’s going to happen to me? Will I go to heaven or hell? Will God keep his promises or not?
It is that fear which drives the love of God to send His Son into our own flesh and blood. Our Epistle in Hebrews puts it this way:
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews 2:14–15 ESV)
In other words, Jesus entered into the world as a son, as a human baby, so that His path to death and resurrection would be your path to death and resurrection. When you are baptized into Christ, you are baptized into His death, as we heard last week at the Baptism. Because you are baptized, you do not need to fear death. Because you are baptized, you are now free from the slavery of sin, death and the power of the devil. Because you are baptized, you are now free, free to be human, to love and to sacrifice and to give, because death has no more hold over you.
So all this is going on when Simeon takes the infant Jesus into His arms, blesses God and sings,
““Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”” (Luke 2:29–32 ESV)
Simeon is ready to depart in peace because He has seen the salvation of the whole world in that little babe so few days old. In other words, Simeon says, “Now I’ve seen everything!”
But what about you, beloved? You aren’t Simeon, sitting at the steps of the Temple so many thousands of years ago. You aren’t Anna, or one of the twelve disciples, or John the Baptist, or Mary or Joseph. You don’t see Jesus in the flesh, like all those who lived with Him in His earthly life. What comfort do you have? What is your consolation?
Your consolation is this. You are baptized. You are clothed with Christ. You have died with Christ in the waters of the font. And what that means is that You have been presented to God already, holy and pure, clean and perfect in every way. Oh I know. It sure doesn’t feel that way! But just because you can’t feel it doesn’t mean it is false. You can’t feel the atmosphere, but it is there. You can’t feel the sun when you’re in a building, but it is still there. You may not feel holy, but you are. Why? Because God says so in His Son.
So today you come to the Altar of God to partake of Jesus’ own body and blood. You don’t holy Jesus in your arms; you take His very body and blood in you. He is in you and you in Him. And God now looks at this Altar and sees nothing but holiness and perfection. He sees you clean and whole, without spot or blemish. As Isaiah said,
““Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 ESV)
This is God’s promise to you. So now, you have seen everything, too. Like Simeon, you are ready to depart and be with Christ, whether it is today or tomorrow, ten years or a hundred years from now, it doesn’t matter. You are in Him and He in you. You can say and sing with Simeon and all the saints before and after:
“Now I’ve seen everything!”
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.