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Gospel Readiness – Sermon Notes

By December 15, 2023December 17th, 2023Sermon Notes

In the military we have a saying, “Hurry up and wait.” If you want to know what life in the military is like, just understand it’s a lot of “hurry up and wait.”

This is ingrained early on at basic training. We are told “move with purpose!” “Move with a sense of urgency!” “We’ve got places to be!” “We’re late!”

Once you arrive at wherever it was you needed to be, you … wait.

In the military there are actually two kinds of waiting. The first kind is what I’ve just described: “hurry up and wait.” The second kind of waiting is known as readiness.

“Hurry up and wait” is passive. You get your things in order, you submit the right form, and then you play the waiting game. It’s purely passive. There’s nothing for you to do.

Readiness, on the other hand is active. Readiness is what you do to get ready to deploy. In order to be in a state of readiness, you have to be “green” on medical, dental, fitness, and whatever qualifications and skills are needed for your job.

Readiness is a kind of waiting, but you’re not passively sitting around. You’re constantly doing upgrade training, taking care of routine matters, etc.

Advent is a season of waiting. The first advent marks what we celebrate at Christmas—one of the great mysteries of our faith: the incarnation of the Son of God. The eternal Son of God assumed a human nature so that he was both fully God and fully man. The first advent marks the arrival of Jesus as the promised Messiah who would save us from our sins.

We look forward to the second advent—the return of Christ, when he will return to judge the world in righteousness and usher in the new heavens and new earth.

Advent is a season of waiting. But it is not the passive “hurry up and wait” kind of waiting. Advent is a season of active waiting, or expectant watchfulness–– Advent is a season of readiness.

We look to the first advent to find instruction for how we ought to live as we await Christ’s return.

This morning, I want to stir us up and encourage us to move toward a state of “gospel readiness” as we live between the advents. I want us to live as a people who eagerly and expectantly look for opportunities to make the gospel known. That’s what I mean by “gospel readiness.”

I want us to be the kind of people who, as Peter says, are “ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Christmastime celebrates the glorious truth that the Light of the world has come. Our task is to go announce that to people who do not even know they are living in darkness.

Our passage this morning is Luke 2:25–38. This passage is the last of the narrative units surrounding Jesus’ birth in the gospel of Luke. Luke begins with the predictions of the birth of John the Baptist, and the birth of Jesus. Then you have the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth, and both John and Jesus’ birth narratives.

And finally, you have Jesus’ circumcision and presentation at the temple in Jerusalem, which was done in order to fulfill the requirements of the law. It’s here where our passage picks up.

Before I read, let me give you some big picture things to keep in mind. This is a story about hope fulfilled that leads to joyful exultation (praise). It’s a story about active readiness.
In this story, we have two figures, Simeon and Anna, who exemplified what it meant to live in a state of active readiness as they looked forward to the promised Messiah.

They saw that this Christ-child was the fulfillment of all of their hopes and longings. He was the fulfillment of all that they had been actively waiting for. This leads them to spill over with praise. They give praise to God, and they begin to share with others the significance of this child.

It’s a story of faithful readiness leading to joyful exultation.

Let me read Luke 2:25–38.
25 There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him up in his arms, praised God, and said,
29 Now, Master,
you can dismiss your servant in peace,
as you promised.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation.
31 You have prepared it
in the presence of all peoples—
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles[a] and glory to your people Israel.
33 His father and mother[b] were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and told his mother Mary, “Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed[c]— 35 and a sword will pierce your own soul—that the thoughts[d] of many hearts may be revealed.”
36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well along in years, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,[e] 37 and was a widow for eighty-four years.[f] She did not leave the temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers. 38 At that very moment,[g] she came up and began to thank God and to speak about him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.[h] As I said, this morning I want us stir us up to move toward a state of gospel readiness. My prayer is that as we look at this passage together, we learn how to do that.

I want to divide this passage into two parts: 1) Hope Fulfilled and 2) Joyful Exultation

First, “hope fulfilled” –– How does this passage reveal the full glory of Jesus? Second, “joyful exultation” –– how does hope fulfilled lead to joyful praise?

1. Hope Fulfilled
First, let us consider how this passage reveals to us the full glory of Christ.

Our passage reveals a basic truth of the whole Bible, namely, that the Bible itself is designed by God to reveal to us the full glory of Christ. In other words, the Bible is all about Jesus.

2 Cor 1:20 says that all of God’s promises are “Yes” in him [Christ]. This means that Christ is the fulfillment of all of God’s saving purposes.

So if the entire Bible is a unified story pointing to how Christ is the fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan, we should ask—how does our passage Luke 2:25–38, demonstrate this?

How does Luke use the Bible (the OT) to show us how all of God’s saving purposes are summed up and fulfilled in Christ? How does this passage teach us that Jesus is hope fulfilled?

I’ll just highlight one way Luke uses the Bible to demonstrate how Jesus is hope fulfilled. One way he does this is by identifying Jesus with the long-awaited servant of Isaiah.

Now, what’s the significance of that? Who is that servant figure from Isaiah?

Isaiah was a prophet who warned Judah, the Southern Kingdom of Israel of God’s judgement to come if they continued in their sin and rebellion against God. Isaiah predicted the fall of Jerusalem and their exile into Babylon.

And beginning in Isaiah chapter 40, Isaiah begins to prophesy a message of comfort. The later chapters of Isa speak of a servant figure who would redeem and restore the people of Israel and who would usher in an eternal kingdom of righteousness.

So—that’s what’s going on in Isaiah. When we get to Luke in Jesus’ time, the Jews had now returned from exile back to Jerusalem. And they are awaiting this Messiah figure.

Luke presents both Simeon and Anna as people who are actively waiting for this Messiah figure. They’re living in a state of readiness.

Simeon is a man “righteous and devout,” and the Holy Spirit was on him (vs 25). Vs 26 tells us that the Holy Spirit revealed to him (presumably in a dream/vision) that he would not die before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. Anna likewise is righteous, serving God daily in the temple with fasting and prayer. That’s active anticipation.

And here’s a key phrase from vs 25: he was “looking forward to Israel’s consolation.”
It’s very similar to a phrase in vs 38 describing Anna: she “began to speak about him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Israel.”

The phrase “looking forward to” means expectantly waiting. It’s where I get this idea of readiness.

Simeon was actively waiting–– for what? –– the consolation of Israel.

Think about that word consolation. What do you do to console someone? You hold them.

When someone needs to be consoled, they’re troubled, they’re broken, they’re suffering. They need comfort and hope.

That’s the state of Israel before Christ came into the world. With that word consolation, Luke is alluding to Isaiah 40.

In Isa 38–39, Isaiah prophecies Israel’s exile into Babylon due to their sin and rebellion against God. Isa 40 is a message of comfort. Israel sinned, and God justly judged their sin through Babylonian captivity. Yet, God is the faithful covenant Lord. He is the faithful covenant partner, when Israel, the unfaithful covenant partner routinely fell short. As the faithful one, God promises consolation for his people with a promise of restoration and the forgiveness of their sins.

Isaiah 40:1–2: “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and announce to her that her time of hard service is over, her iniquity has been pardoned.”

Isaiah 40 continues and describes the advent of a “warrior-shepherd” in vv 9–11 who is the Lord himself come to care for and protect his flock:

“See, the Lord GOD comes with strength, and his power establishes his rule. His wages are with him, and his reward accompanies him. He protects his flock like a shepherd; he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them in the fold of his garment. He gently leads those that are nursing.”

Of course, Jesus himself declares that he is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11). Simeon is waiting for all this to be fulfilled. He’s longing for a warrior-shepherd who will come and bring comfort to God’s people.

We should note, in the context of Isa 40, that the comfort is primarily the forgiveness of sins. And who can forgive sins but God alone? Simeon sees Jesus as the one who will bring comfort to Israel––so this must mean that Jesus is divine, because only God can forgive sin, only God can bring comfort in this sense.

Simeon has been faithfully living in a state of readiness. He has been anticipating God’s fulfillment of his promise to bring comfort to his people Israel. And guided by the Holy Spirit (vs 27), Simeon enters the temple and sees Jesus.

He approaches Mary and Joseph, takes up Jesus in his arms and praises God with a prophetic hymn.

Simeon believes Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to comfort his people. In the hymn, Simeon says, “For my eyes have seen your salvation. You have prepared it in the presence of all peoples–– a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to your people Israel.” (vv 30–32)

This is a citation of Isaiah 49:6, which speaks of a servant figure who would be a light to the nations and bring salvation to the ends of the earth.

As Simeon holds Jesus in his arms, he is declaring, from Scripture, that God’s salvation has come.

“My eyes have seen your salvation.” (vs 30). Jesus embodies God’s salvation.
God’s salvation here is not merely an act of God (though it is that), but it is God himself. God himself has come.

In the Bible, salvation is often associated with light. So Simeon, quoting Isaiah 49:6 says that Jesus is “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to your people Israel” (vs 32).

What does it mean that Jesus is a “light for revelation to the Gentiles?” In short, this means that God’s salvation has come to the nations! God’s salvation is made known to all peoples.

This is a fulfillment of a promise God gave to Abraham that in him all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen 12:1–3). Jesus, who is the offspring of Abraham, is the light who brings salvation to all the nations. Jesus is the one in whom all the nations would be blessed. Jesus brings salvation to the whole world.

This is why every single one of those ministries you heard about last week exists. This is why Onelink exists. This is why River families and friends live overseas. This is why Embrace, Hope’s Gate, FCA, CAYM, Youth Horizons exist. We want to proclaim that the light of the world has come. This is a proclamation of life and hope that only exists in Jesus.

He is a light to the nations and glory for Israel. What does it mean that Jesus is Israel’s glory?
I think this is another way of speaking about the beauty and splendor of salvation. God has been faithful to redeem Israel, and he has shone forth his light in such a way that all the peoples of the earth may be engrafted into Israel.

We’ve spent a lot of time in Isaiah, but it’s because Luke is using these passages in Isaiah to interpret the significance of Jesus. He’s demonstrating that Jesus is hope fulfilled.

Let me say a brief word bringing this into our context.

For Simeon and Anna, in terms of redemptive history, Christ had not yet come. For much of their lives, they were waiting and longing for the consolation and redemption of Israel.

For us, we live on the other side of the Incarnation, and we know that God’s salvation has come. Yet, we await the fullness of its consummation in the new heavens and the new earth. And so we live in a world still effected by sin, evil, human atrocities, disasters, suffering, etc.

Yet we suffer with hope. And we have a message of hope fulfilled for the world.
We have a message that light (salvation) has come.

When you are dead in your trespasses and sins and sitting in darkness, you might not even know you’re in the darkness. All of us know people who need to hear the message of salvation. It might be some of you in this room.

Paul says that Satan, “the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers [so they are in darkness] to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor 4:4)

This is why we proclaim the gospel! When we proclaim the gospel, we believe God is at work, through the Spirit, to regenerate people’s hearts. God is at work to shine in their hearts and cause them to be born again.

2 Cor 4:6, Paul says, “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ [Think of that—the God who created the cosmos and said ‘Let there be light’ has spoken with power… and that same power] “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Jesus is a light for revelation to the Gentiles. He is the light that shines in our hearts and enables us to see him as our glorious savior who forgives us of our sins. He is the one who makes us alive together with him. He is our hope fulfilled.

In the time that remains, I want to focus on how this ought to lead to joyful exultation.

2. Joyful Exultation

I say this ought to lead to joyful exultation, because that is the proper response to Christ for the one who has been born again.

But, that’s not the case with everyone. Simeon prophesies various responses to the person of Jesus.

He says in vs 34 that “Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed –– and a sword will pierce your own soul –– that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Luke develops this point just a few chapters later in chapter 4 where Jesus is rejected at Nazareth. The people there reject his message, and Jesus reminds them that the people of Israel had a history of rejecting her prophets. Jesus reminds them of the ministries of Elijah and Elisha, where Gentiles were blessed through their ministry.

That enrages the people so much so that they form an angry mob and try to run Jesus off a cliff.

In chapter 12, Jesus says, “Do you think that I came here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” [If Jesus had a Christmas card, this might be it]

Now, Jesus did bring peace (reconciliation with God). But his point is that in order for there to be peace, there must first be judgement against sin. The division he speaks of is a separation of the righteous from the unrighteous (at the final judgement): the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares…

Jesus knew that he would be as Simeon said –– a sign that would be opposed. Some would reject him… Some hate the light because they love the darkness (John 3:19).

But that’s not who I want to focus on. I want to focus on the response of Simeon and Anna.

As I’ve said, they both exemplified an active waiting. They expectantly waited for the consolation and redemption of Israel.

And as they both realized their hope was fulfilled in this Christ-child, this leads them to spill over with joyful exultation.

Simeon overflows with praise. He holds Jesus up in his arms and praises God—and begins to prophesy over him.

Vs 33 says Mary and Joseph were “amazed at what was being said about him.” They marveled. And vs 34 says, Simeon “blessed them.”

Simeon’s response was to shout forth praise and speak blessing on those around him.

Similarly, Anna–– the elderly prophetess –– spills over with praise. Vs 38 says she “began to thank God and to speak about him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Israel.”

She too breaks forth in praise and begins to evangelize. She begins to share with others the significance of this child.

They see their hope fulfilled and this leads to joyful exultation.

Both Simeon and Anna serve as examples for us as we think about this advent season. This is a season of readiness. Expectant waiting. They lived in a state of readiness. When they saw their hopes fulfilled they were ready to share the good news about him.

As I conclude, let me offer two qualifications about “gospel readiness” and “joyful exultation” so I am not misunderstood.

First, to say that we ought to live in a state of gospel readiness leading to joyful exultation is not to say that this is easy and comes without effort.

Readiness entails training and practice. Trace talks about “gospel fluency.” This is a skill that you put effort into in order to grow and develop. It’s also important to remember that this is a skill that’s not about perfection.

When we share the gospel, our job is to be faithful to share it. Yes, we should pray for clarity and we should seek to speak clearly (Paul prays this for himself in Col 4:4–– that he should proclaim the mystery of Christ clearly, and make it known as he should).

But God will work in spite of our shortcomings; in all of our stumbling and stammering. Often, we are afraid to share the gospel because we don’t want to “miss” anything or we aren’t confident. But that’s exactly why Paul prays as he does. In his speaking, he prays for God’s assistance for boldness and clarity.

Second, to joyfully exult in the gospel is not to ignore the reality of suffering or hardship. Rather, the hope of the gospel enables us to joyfully exult in Jesus in the midst of suffering and hardship. We have this treasure in jars of clay (2 Cor 4:7). We are sorrowful yet always rejoicing (2 Cor 6:9). In the midst of trials and suffering, we cling to Jesus, knowing that he is our hope—the God of all comfort, who promises he will never leave nor forsake us.

Our hope has come. May this lead us to joyful exultation as we share the good news with our family and friends.