SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
December 30, 2007
Key Verse: Then
Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for
the falling and the rising of many in
Sometimes I find it helpful to “stand back” from a passage of scripture and ask two questions. One, exactly what is going on here? And two, what is God teaching me through what is going on? Join me in asking those questions of Luke’s story of Simeon and Anna.
The first thing we see is the faithful obedience of Joseph and Mary. As devout Jews they were expected to bring their baby to the temple to be circumcised and named. They did so, thus obeying the angel Gabriel by naming their baby “Jesus.” They did what was expected of them. They offered a sacrifice according to the law of the Lord. They did their duty as godly parents even though they had no idea how or when the plan of God would unfold.
In this God teaches me that daily I need to do what God expects of me even when I have no idea what God is doing. More often than not we do not see God’s hand at work in the heat of the day. Many years may pass before we understand how God has been working out his plan. In the meantime our business is to do the right thing, the Christian thing, as faithful disciples of Christ. If we do our duty as devout believers eventually God will reward our obedience. But he does that on his own timetable.
As for Simeon his presence at the temple that day was not a coincidence. Indeed it was a God-incident. Observe that Simeon was also a devout man who had been doing his duty. God honored his obedience by giving Simeon a divine revelation. His observation about Jesus was not speculation; it was revelation – from God.
Simeon was not in the temple by accident. He was there by divine appointment, guided there by the Holy Spirit. When his eyes fell upon the baby Jesus, Simeon knew that God had kept his promise to let him see the Messiah before he died. Simeon must have felt “goose bumps” at the thrill of being right where God wanted him that day and that hour.
The words uttered by Simeon were
given him by the Spirit of God. Had Simeon not been inspired by God, he might
have said to Mary, “What a cute little baby; he looks just like his daddy.”
However Simeon was chosen by God to proclaim to Joseph and Mary that their baby
was the long-awaited Messiah – who would be a light to the Gentiles and glory
Here God teaches me that if I remain obedient, even in the midst of suffering that I cannot comprehend, he will give me the joy of being in the right place at the right time to do exactly what he created me to do. The joy of such moments is akin to what Simeon felt when he looked upon the baby Jesus. Sometimes I must struggle in the dark, unable to grasp what God is doing, but if I am faithful in those hours of darkness, eventually the dawn will appear and I will experience the joy that comes in the morning.
Simeon’s words to Joseph and Mary were about more than joy. They included a warning about suffering also. Mary had no idea what Simeon meant about “a sword that will pierce your own soul too.” But later, when she saw her son cruelly beaten and hanging on a cross to die, she no doubt recalled the words of Simeon. Finally she understood that the gospel of Jesus includes suffering as well as joy.
God teaches me here that proclaiming the good news of the gospel is never done without cost. Suffering is part of the fabric of life and we all need a word from God about suffering. Jesus was that Word. He came to share our suffering and to help us see how God can both use and triumph over suffering.
There is of course suffering that none of us can understand or explain. Only God knows why a little girl named Mercy should suffer and die from leukemia and be buried the day after Christmas. Yet I am in awe at the indomitable spirit of Mercy’s mother who brushed away her tears and said, “Now Mercy will be there to celebrate Jesus’ birthday with him.” Such faith is as much a mystery as the suffering of the innocent. But is not this kind of faith evidence that God is in our suffering with us working out his plan?
All who serve Jesus will suffer. His servants will suffer even as he suffered but if we remain faithful we too shall receive the victory. God will give us the crown of life – eternal life. In the midst of our pain he will give us the grace to endure and the hope that he will use even our suffering for our good and his glory.
The world paid little notice to what Simeon and Anna said and did. But God used it to encourage his servants Joseph and Mary. God had a gracious plan for Simeon and Ann. He has a plan for each of us too.
Part of that plan is surely to find ways, as Simeon and Ann did, to proclaim to others that Jesus is the Messiah. We do that best when we praise God continually for his most precious gift, not just as Christmastime. The world may not notice what we do but God will reward our faithfulness with inward joy.
As we step back from these scenes in Luke’s story, we may observe one more thing. Simeon and Anna are old but they have an important role in the incarnation story.
Look at the picture. There is the newborn baby Jesus. There are his young parents. There are adults, the humble shepherds. And there are the senior adults, Simeon and Anna. The beautiful lesson here is that there is a place in God’s kingdom for everyone – Gentiles and Jews, men and women, young and old. All are important to God. All have a role to play in the unfolding drama of God’s plan of salvation for the whole world.
If we are willing, the Lord will help each of us to find our place. God still needs people who will share the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. He can still use lips that will praise God for the gift of his Son.
We cannot afford to wait until we understand the mystery of suffering. That day will not come this side of heaven. In the meantime we can put aside our insistence on knowing answers and join the ranks of those in every age whose faithful obedience inspires us share the gospel.
Many before us and some beside us now, have found the grace to say, “If with tears I must serve the Lord, then with tears I will serve him.” Such grace is available to each of us at this very moment, and God be praised, it is enough. Take it. Embrace it. And walk on. Someone you know needs to hear the good news about Jesus from your lips!
(Contact Walter at firstname.lastname@example.org)