Resurrection and Luke 2:22-35

 

10 ANT cover *How many of you remember: Choose Your Own Adventure books? The way these books are set up is that you enter the particular story as the main character, and at different moments you choose b/t 2-3 options as to where the plot will go. So there ends up being 10 or more possible endings to the same story. For example, this week I checked out: Prisoner of the Ant People. I was drawn to this book b/c I wanted to think through my options if I was ever in such a situation. In this story on page 22 you are trapped by a purple laser beam, and discover that your friend and colleague is actually the leader of the Ant people, who is planning on taking over the universe. This is devastating news to you. But you have choices, and it is up to you to determine your fate. So, after this awful discovery of betrayal will you: 1) Plead w/ the Ant to let you COOPERATE w/ the ant people, or 2), will you use your powers of mental concentration to RESIST the ant and his purple laser beam? Talk about a rock and a hard place.

These Choose Your Own Adventure books are pretty fun. They also serve as a metaphor for how many of us perceive the world. We believe that WE determine our fate. It is up to US to determine our future reality. And in many ways this is true. If I eat nothing but Twinkies and caramels and never brush my teeth, I will be less healthy than I am now and w/ more cavities. This also goes along w/ our self-perception as Americans. As Americans, we believe we can each forge new ground and conquer a new life for ourselves. This rugged individualism spills into our theology. Our holiness is up to US. Our status w/ God is determined by OUR actions. We believe our salvation is private, and it is all up to us. As Reformed folk we may proclaim the sovereignty of God, but we often live like we are the ones who determine our fate.

We are now in the middle of the Season of Easter. This is a 6-week season in between the season of Lent and the season of Pentecost. The season of Easter begins w/ Easter Sunday and logically focuses on the Resurrection. So the question I would like to ask this season is: What does the resurrected life look like? And to help us I want to continue looking at the Gospel of Luke.

 

Text

Today we will look at Luke 2:22-35. So grab a Bible and turn to Luke 2:22. If you look closely, you will see that throughout Lukes gospel the theme of resurrection is strong. All the gospels report occasions when Jesus actually raised to life someone who has very recently died, not only as a dramatic instance of healing power but also as a signpost towards what God will do for Jesus.[1] Luke intended to weave the resurrection throughout his gospel, and this is seen even when JC was still a baby. So lets look at Luke 2:22-35. And as we do so, ask yourself what this has to do w/ the resurrection.

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.

In these verses, the baby JC is brought to Jerusalem, so mom might be made pure after giving birth, and so that JC could be circumcised. In v. 22, it says the family came to make offerings required by the law. The context Luke speaks of is in Leviticus 12, which says:

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 But 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.

To our modern eyes this may feel weird and isolating, but the intention of these requirements offer 2 things. First, they allow for the child to celebrated and introduced into the community. Circumcision was a rite of introduction into the Jewish community. Second, for the mom, these requirements allow time for the mother to heal after birth. As v. 23 says, they are dedicating their 1st born child to God, as required by Exodus 12. This requirement is placed in the Passover account as moment of gratitude after God saved the Israelites from death in Egypt. v. 24 of Luke tells us the couple offered the required sacrifice, but subtly shows us that this couple was poor, not being able to afford a lamb for sacrifice.

For us these verses are important b/c they show us that JC was raised in a traditional and faithful Jewish home. He was a member of the community, being initiated into the national identity. They were not “out-there on their own,” but rooted Jewish people.

Continuing in Luke 2, in v. 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 Lords Messiah.” Simeon is an interesting man in our passage. He was a devout man of God, filled w/ the HS during a time before the outpouring of the HS. He was an observant man, who saw the state of the world and LONGED for redemption. This is why it says he waited for Gods consolation. Meaning, as the NLT says, He was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. He longed for things to made right. And he must have lived w/ great anticipation and forced patience, b/c the HS told Him He would see the messiah. So he was a man of waiting, a man who was constantly looking.

Looking at Luke 2:27, it says Simeon was:

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.

Filled w/ the HS, Simeon is prompted that day to go to the temple. And seeing JC, the day Simeon has literally been waiting for his whole life comes. He holds JC and praised God, saying: I have seen Your salvation for all people. He says: You can take me home now b/c I have seen the messiah who will not just rescue Israel, but everyone. This is significant b/c even from birth, JC was seen as the savior of all the nations. He was rooted in His Jewish context and community, but He was savior to all people.

So you can see why in Luke 2:33 it says: “The childs father and mother marveled at what was said about him.” This was an incredible statement, that their son was the messiah. Continuing, “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.” Simeon blesses Mary and Joseph, and prophesied over JC.

So what does this have to do w/ the resurrection? Simeon is obviously speaking about how JC is messiah, but what does this have to do w/ the resurrection? As the New Testament historian NT Wright says: This is a miniature judgment scene. We do not think about this often, but resurrection is in close relationship to what many call “the end days.” [Really it is not the end of days, but the days of fulfillment, when all will be made right and evil will be banished forever. But this is beside the point.] Simeon says that JC is appointed for the fall and rise of many. JC will be opposed, so that thoughts may be revealed. This little prophecy of Simeon points to what will happen on the day of fulfillment or judgment. The dead will rise, and wrongs will be revealed and made right. Simeon says peoples inner thoughts will be brought to light. So when we rise and stand before the throne of grace, our revealed thoughts will be laid bare before the living One. This is where resurrection and the day of fulfillment happen together. Luke, knowing where his narrative will end, wants it to be seen that Jesus death and resurrection will not occur privately, but that His fate will determine the fate of Israel itself. JCs life, work, death, and resurrection all announce that God is bringing about fulfillment, that the dead things are being replaced w/ life. The fate of JC determines the fate of Israel and all people. His work is culminated on that day of fulfillment, when all thoughts will be revealed, and all will see the power and goodness of God.[2]

The good news we see in this passage is that even from the beginning it was known that JC is the salvation of the nations. JC is messiah, and His life would determine Israels fate. The fate of Israel and the world is determined by the life of JC.

 

Today

But, this is not something we believe and live into. In contrast to this truth, we live as if we determine our fate. How can our futures not be in our hands, we are Americans? We control what will happen to us. And we are not responsible for anyone but us. Salvation is private, and up to us. Really what this comes down to is our desire to be in control. We do not like the idea that things can be out of our control. We carefully setup our lives up so they can be the way we want them to be – whether it is financial planning, or scheduling our days, weeks, and months, so we can get it all in (or by purposely not doing any scheduling so we can keep our lives feeling more spontaneous). Either way, we cling to the shiny token called “control,” and do not want to let it go.

This reminded me of the story of Shaka Zulu. Shaka was a powerful leader in the mid 1800s of the Zulu nation in South Africa. Apparently the British sent a military delegation to Shaka in hopes that arrangements would be made to allow the Brits and Zulus to live peacefully. A man named Captain Fairwell led a particular delegation to Shaka. It was not the 1st one to be sent; Shaka was familiar with the various deals England had offered previously. The story goes that Shaka said: Tell me Captain, How do you catch a monkey? Captain Fairwell responded: A gourd is used that has a narrow neck. The top is cut off and something is put inside, a piece of fruit or something shiny. He reaches in and grabs the bait. He then is trapped because he cannot withdraw his fist. Shaka replied: Once the monkey realizes he is trapped, why does he not let go of the bait? Because his greed makes him blind, the Captain answered. And what is he greedy for, Shaka asked. I suppose for something he cannot have, was the answer. After a long pause, Shaka sarcastically said: And what new bait have you, Captain, brought for this monkey? I yearn for something shiny.[3]

For all of us we yearn for the shiny token called control. But like the monkey who will not let go of its prize, when we cling to control we too are trapped, trapped to carry the burden of our wellbeing and eternal fate. The belief that we determine our fate, and have the ability to live a full rich life on our own efforts, is a trap that weighs us down. Someone once said the reason for all stress is that we are not living in relationship to God as we could. This feels overly simplistic to me, but I believe it gets at what we struggle w/. We often live like our salvation is private, and determined by our actions, that it is all up to us. But the good news of Gods grace is that JC is the salvation of the nations, that His actions determine our fate. It is b/c of His work on the cross, and His resurrection, that allows us to live, b/c our identity is wrapped up in HIS identity as the holy One. The difference this makes is that we can let it go, and look to Him. Knowing our identity is in Him frees us up to live. JC said: My yoke is easy and my burden is light. This is what living a resurrected life is all about. Its about living free of the anxiety that you have to get it all right, that you have to be perfect. And to answer our question: What is the resurrected life? In this passage we see that the resurrected life is determined and rooted in the life of JC. We are secure in Him, b/c our identity is wrapped up in Him, and therefore we are alive and free.

So my prayer is that you will be confronted this week w/ your control issues, and that you will release the shiny token of control and find freedom. That you would rest in the peace of the resurrection of JC.

 

Amen.

[1] The Resurrection of the Son of God. NT Wright, p. 438.

[2] The Resurrection of the Son of God. NT Wright, p. 436

[3] http://www.bibleclassbooks.com/dody/catch-a-monkey.html

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