Sunday, December 30, 2007

the BAD or GOOD News About Jesus

Luke 2:22-38 
Jesus’ birth was the best thing that could have happen to you—or the worst.

The day after Christmas or a week after Christmas can be disappointing or outright sad. Perhaps Mary and Joseph felt the same after Jesus’ birth. The visitors from the hills overlooking Bethlehem had left. They were getting use to each other as a family. In the days to come they had to face the bad news with the good news. From Luke 2:22-38, we read of this...
The shepherds had left days before. The wonder of that special night was somehow in the past and the reality of DUTY was on the minds of the parents. They needed to go to Jerusalem. 
Lev 12: 1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Say to the Israelites: ‘A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. 3 On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. 4 Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over. 5 If she gives birth to a daughter, for two weeks the woman will be unclean, as during her period. Then she must wait sixty-six days to be purified from her bleeding.
6 “ ‘When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering. 7 He shall offer them before the LORD to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood. 
 “ ‘These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl. 8 If she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’ ”

They needed to get to the Temple so the baby could be legitimate or kosher. He needed to be presented to the Temple and dedicated to the Lord as it was the DUTY of all parents of a first-born male child. As it said in the Law: "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord"

In life, there is sometimes good news mixed with bad.  

With our story today, we find two people, really three, who are living in a tough situation. The times are not all that sure, what with the Roman government in control of Israel. There are rebels trying to overthrow the Romans. Thieves and beggars are looking for fast riches. Those who were poor had to pay more taxes and to top it all off, here is a couple who do not have a home to call their own——yet.

So, being good Jewish parents, Joseph and Mary travel to the capital city to present their first-born son at the Temple. What they experienced there would only add to what Mary already held in her heart. It was something bad and good concerning her Son.

The Good News :
The old man Simeon, who saw them there was so excited. The One he had been waiting for ALL his life was before him. He broke into praise to the Father by saying:

29 "Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, 
You now dismiss Your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
31 which You have prepared in the sight of all people,
32 a Light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel."

That was the good news. God’s salvation was here! In the sight of ALL people everywhere—not to a few select people. This salvation was also for the Gentiles AND for the people of Israel.

But to Mary, he would say some sad or bad news: 
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."

This Child is intended to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel. The imagery of this verse comes from...
Isaiah 8:14-15 14 “and He will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel He will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem He will be a trap and a snare. 15 Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured.” 

That means that some in Israel will not follow this Rock. That they will stumble over Him because they were looking for another—looking another way and they missed the Messiah. They will not make it. They will loose their way and be captured because we do not fight against flesh and blood. We are fighting against the spiritual forces in heavenly realms. 

(Eph 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.)
and 28:16 
16 So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a Stone in Zion, a tested Stone, a precious Cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.”
These Old Testament texts are alluded to in the New Testament 
(Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:6-8; Luke 20:17-18). 

Jesus will divide the nation (and the world) in two. Some will respond and others will oppose Him. That means that those who oppose Him will speak him against. People will be challenged with the facts of Jesus. The road to this Promise-fulfillment will not be a smooth one. To identify with Jesus will bring pain, because many will reject Him. That sounds like bad news to me! But wait!

Should that keep us from being open to His Love? Should that keep us from embracing the Truth found in the Person of Jesus? I think not. To be honest with ourselves and question the things at are puzzling and let go of those things that are dead ends, one would find the Peace that passes all understanding.  

In truth, the message of Simeon is both good news and bad because it shows us there is a difference with this Jesus. He is not neutral. He does make a difference in lives. He changes their hearts. He gives them forgiveness. He is the Light for us Gentiles to follow. And thru Him, we become the Glory of God’s People Israel—meaning we become the holders of the blessings of Abraham. AND He is alive today to prove that to be true.  

Good News, indeed! As it brings five things into focus!

1. Produced by Faith; By Faith we approachEph 3:12.
In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

2. Strengthened by Faith; I know whom I have believed2 Tim 1:12.
That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know Whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day. 


3. Made Sure by HopeAnchor for the soulHeb 6:19.
We have this Hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, Getting right before God Himself!

4. Confirmed by the SpiritWe know it1 John 3:24.
Those who obey His commands live in Him, and He in them. And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us.

The division Jesus brings reveals the thoughts of many hearts. Jesus is God's litmus test for where a person is.
Litmus is a powdery substance obtained from lichens (a fungi and algae growing together in symbiosis or are mutually beneficial between two things) that is used to indicate whether something is an acid or a base.
A test in which a single factor determines the outcome of weather or not one is a believe or not.

Do I sense a need to depend on God and come to him to walk in light, or do I not? My response to Jesus is the test, and the answer comes from my heart. Each person's response to Him reveals where he or she is before God, just as one day Jesus will reveal where everyone's heart is (Acts 10:42-43
He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43. All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.")

God's work is for all people. As with the shepherd’s reference in verse 20 going to the people all over, both Jew and Gentile, verse 32 makes clear. In fact, Jesus is the Light (1:78-79). But Jesus serves as the Light for Gentiles as He is a revelation to them. This term refers to His opening up the way of salvation to the nations in a way unknown or at least misunderstood before His coming.

The fifth focus…
5. Is the Effect of RighteousnessPeaceIsa 32:17.
The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.

No longer are men to wander looking for salvation—hoping to DO enough. It has been filled to overflowing in the Righteousness of Jesus alone!

The Bad News:
In case it was missed, the bad news went like this:
   Mix with Non Jews—outside the Fold—God’s Plan (1st in the book).
   Experience pain-rejected by a divided Israel.
   Stumbling stone 
Romans 9: 31-33 but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone." 33. As it is written: "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame."( from Isaiah 8:14; 28:16.)
Matthew 10:34-36.
34."Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35. For I have come to turn " 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 36. a man's enemies will be the members of his own household. 

This sounds like the worst statement our Lord made. Maybe it was misquoted? Micah 7:6.

Though no details of Anna's prophecy are given, this section completes the cycle the Temple witnesses. Again, Anna's godliness is underlined by references to her old age, her faithful widowhood and her regular ministry at the Temple. She is full of thanksgiving at the arrival of the Child who will complete God's promise, and she speaks about the Child to all who were looking forward to the Redemption of Jerusalem. Just like the men on the hills with their sheep, they went everywhere and when they went, they spoke of the things they both saw and were told. All who frequented the Temple would have heard her teachings. Her hope, like Simeon's, looks to the completion of what God is starting.

Jesus' Growth (2:39-40).

Having obeyed the Mosaic law, Jesus' parents return with Him to Nazareth in Galilee where He grows in strength and wisdom, receiving the favor of God. There He awaits the ministry that will fulfill what Mary, Zechariah, the angels, the shepherds, Simeon and Anna have proclaimed. 
God will fulfill His word and perform His plan.

Has this been Good News for you or bad news? If it is good news, then you are experiencing the New Life already that He came to give. If it has been bad news, than we need to talk. I feel that going into 2008 without the Promise of God’s Grace and Forgiveness is not a good way to go. We have a relationship with one another or you have a relationship with someone else in this Fellowship. Ask them to help you.  

Then verse 40 would be ours to enjoy.
  There the child grew strong in body and wise in spirit. And the grace of God was on him. The Message.

Next week: Please read Ezra…
AND have a very Happy New Year!  See you on January 6, 2008!