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John 1:9-13 1
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Background

The true Light is not “true” as compared to the concept of “true or false.” True is used here as an answer to God’s perfect response to human failure. We need then to compare Jesus to the worldly solutions, to the failings of our world which are all imperfect by their very nature. The meaning of the Greek is clear but difficulty arises from the fact that in English there is only one word to represent these two ideas. The word for the fuller meaning of “ideally true” is not confined to John’s Gospel  but is used frequently in his writings. The adjective is used nine times in this Gospel, and not at all in the other three. A comparison of the passages will show how important it is to get the right meaning of what the word means. You can find the here: (See John 4:23; John 4:37; John 6:32; John 7:28; John 8:16; John 15:1; John 17:3; John 19:35.) This Light, Jesus, is truth because the Light, Jesus, is not subject to the changing conditions of time and space. Jesus is true for all humanity, and brings “light to everyone.”

To fully understand Christ as Light, we first look to John the Baptist who came to bear witness concerning Jesus. Nothing more fully shows the darkness of human’s minds than that when the Light had appeared, there needed a witness (John the Baptist) to call attention to it.  By His Spirit and grace He enlightens all so that they are drawn to salvation through Him. Those who are not enlightened by Jesus, will perish in darkness. Jesus would come into our world  and take our nature upon Himself, and live among us. The Son of the Highest, the Son of God  was here in this lower world, in the world, but not really part of it. The purpose was to save a lost world, a world separated from God by its own making. Yet, in spite of His visit, the world still struggles to know Him.

When Jesus returns again as a Judge, the world will know Him. Many will claim that they are Jesus’s own (a child of God), even though they did not repent of their sins, or relinquish their will to Jesus so He could reign over them.  To be a “child of God” we must be born again. This new birth is ( 1 Peter. 1:23 ) “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” By the Divine presence Jesus, He was always in the world, even before its creation. People will typically discover their weaknesses from those most familiar with them, but it was not so with Jesus. Those who were most intimate with Him saw His glory, His perfection. Although He came as a servant, His form was like the Son of God. We know this through the holiness of His doctrine, and in His miracles. Jesus was full of grace, fully acceptable to his Father (God),  and therefore qualified to plead for us. It was Jesus who shared the truth of God to us.

Items for Discussion

  • How would you define “light” and compare it to Jesus’s coming to our world?
  • What do you think it means to be a “child of God?”
  • How does our world tell us to fix things and why is this inadequate?
  • What is the most significant change our society can make to welcome Jesus?
  • What are the attributes of a child that we are asked to model on behalf of our God?
  • What are the opportunities over the Advent and Christmas season to show people who Jesus really is?

Luke 2:22-38
22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Background 2

At the point of the advent story, Jesus is only a few weeks old, but he has been recognized as the Messiah by:

  • Elizabeth, Mary’s kinswoman, whose baby, John, “leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She called out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!’” (1:41-42).
  • Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband, who prophesied that God “has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David ” (1:69).
  • Angels and shepherds (2:8-20). The Wise Men will come later.

Purification applies only to the mother. Whether intentionally or not, Luke combines two rites here:

  • One is the purification of the mother following the birth of a child (Leviticus 12:1-8). The mother is considered unclean for forty days following the birth of a son or eighty days following the birth of a daughter. During that time, she is prohibited from going to the temple or handling holy objects.
  • The other is the presentation in the temple—a consecration and redemption of the firstborn (Exodus 13:1-2, 11-16) signifying that the child is “holy to the Lord” (v. 23). The redemption commemorates the deliverance of the people of Israel through the final plague—the death of the firstborn of Egypt. Henceforth, all firstborn of Israel (animals as well as humans) are to be redeemed.
  • A third requirement for a baby boy is circumcision. That took place earlier, on the eighth day after Jesus’ birth (v. 21).

Luke makes it clear that Jesus, from the very beginning, is obedient to the Law of Moses. He also confirms the devotion of Joseph and Mary to the law, mentioning the law three times in verses 22-24 and again in verses 27 and 39. Luke has already told us of Mary’s devotion (1:38, 46-55). We will soon learn that Joseph and Mary go to Jerusalem every year for Passover (2:41-42). The law of Moses was God’s plan in the Old Testament for the salvation of the Jewish people. Jesus is God’s plan in the New Testament for the salvation of all people. It is fitting that Jesus, from the beginning of His life, has His roots firmly planted in God’s law. As he will later explain, “Don’t think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn’t come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).

The law requires a sacrifice of “a year old lamb for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering” (Leviticus 12:6). However, there is a provision in the law for a woman who cannot afford a lamb. In that case, she is allowed to sacrifice two turtledoves or two pigeons (Leviticus 12:8). This offering of two pigeons tells us that Joseph and Mary are poor. Jesus begins his life in concert with the poor whose cause he will champion throughout his ministry. He was born in a stable and was raised as the son of a carpenter in Nazareth, far from Jerusalem and the temple—far from the center of wealth and power.

We meet Simeon. Luke emphasizes Simeon’s unusual qualifications. He is righteous and devout. He has spent a lifetime “looking for the consolation of Israel” (v. 25). The Holy Spirit rests on him, and has revealed to him that he will not die until he has seen the Messiah (vv. 25-26). The Spirit guides him to the temple, where he encounters Joseph, Mary, and Jesus (v. 27). He takes the baby in his arms and prays, “Now you are releasing your servant, Master, according to your word, in peace; for my eyes have seen your salvation” (vv. 29-30). God has fulfilled his promise, and Simeon has seen the Savior. Surely, over the years, he has prayed a thousand prayers, hoped a thousand hopes, and suffered a thousand disappointments. Finally, his dream is realized, and he can die in peace. God has rewarded his waiting. We are a busy and impatient society. We expect instant gratification, and do not like to be kept waiting. When our dreams don’t come true in a day, we need to keep in mind that God is still at work, still preparing the gift to fit our needs and preparing us for the gift. We need to pray, not just for the gift, but also for patience to wait for God’s unveiling.

Simeon tells Mary, “a sword will pierce through your (Mary’s)  own soul” (v. 35). There will be times during Jesus’ ministry when Jesus seems not to care about his family (8:19-21)—or when he seems to speak sharply to Mary (John 2:4), and those must be painful times for Mary. Also, Mary cannot fail to see that Jesus stirs great controversy, and it must be painful to know that it is the best rather than the worst of society that opposes him. At the cross, the sword that pierces Jesus’ side surely will not be as painful as the sword that pierces Mary’s heart. God has honored Mary by choosing her to be the mother of the Messiah, but the honor does not include an easy life. What could be more painful than a mother witnessing her son’s executed as a common criminal?

Items for Discussion

  • Why should we care about this story? Is it important to have Jesus recognized as Messiah while a child?
  • What does Luke teach you in this story?
  • What is the difference between the Law of Moses and Jewish law at the time?
  • Is it significant to know that Jesus came honoring the Law of Moses? Why?
  • Are there any special conclusions you draw from this story in Luke about Jesus?

Discussion Challenge

  • It is all about Jesus. So how to we help the world get to know Him better?

 

 

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
  2. https://sermonwriter.com/biblical-commentary/luke-222-40/
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