The Presentation of Christ in the Temple

Commonly Called

The Purification of Saint Mary the Virgin

 (Epiphany 4, 2019)

The Lesson Appointed

for

The Epistle – Malachi 3:1-5

The Gospel – St. Luke 2:22-40

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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In the spirit of Epiphany, we have a Holy Day, an Epiphany you might say, that does not show up in the Prayer Book as an Epiphany lesson…thought it certainly is one for us to consider. 

 

 

 

 

In fact as the account of Jesus being presented in the Temple today comes to a close, the very next verses are the ones we heard a few weeks back where Jesus as a young boy is in the Temple.  

 

First some historical background. We know that Jesus, both as a child and as an adult was completely compliant with the Laws of Moses.

 

Even at an age where He could not do it Himself, Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the Temple to perform what the Law of Moses commanded.

 

Exodus 13:1–2

 

“The LORD said to Moses, [2] “Consecrate to me all the firstborn.

Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.” (ESV)

 

Further, from Leviticus 12:6–8, the Law says,

 

“And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering, [7] and he (the priest) shall offer it before the LORD and make atonement for her.

 

Then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, either male or female. [8] And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering.

And the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.” (ESV)

 

All this they did. Following the custom, Mary would lay hands on the pigeons, then a priest would take them to the southwest corner of the altar, wringing one bird’s neck as a sin offering and burning the other as a whole burnt offering.”[1]

 

This is 40 days now, after the birth of Jesus.  We are 40 days (or so) after Christmas.

 

Jesus is now dedicated to the Lord’s service. Though His service will be much different than the other boys who were called to work in the Temple.

 

 

 

His service to the Lord will be to complete the work of redemption promised to begin in the Garden of Eden and find its fulfillment in the New Heavens and New Earth.

 

So from the very beginning of His life, Jesus fulfilled prophecy. The prophets all pointed to Him.

Even the Lesson for the Epistle today is from an Old Testament Prophet by the name of Malachi.

 

Malachi, speaking for God long before the birth of Jesus, says that God will send forth His messenger…which came to pass in the person of John the Baptist.

 

He goes on to say, “The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple.

 

Today, Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the Temple.

He calls Jesus “the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight is coming.”

 

Jesus, the messenger of the New Covenant…the mediator of the New Covenant has entered the Temple….yet he is only a child.

 

But the prophecy is fulfilled nevertheless.

 

But someone understood this perfectly well in today’s Gospel account.

Notice as it goes on, this is what happens.

 

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

 

 

“He was just in all his relationships with other men. He was devout, i.e., pious, God-fearing in his service of God, and he waited for the consolation of Israel.

 

He waited for the First Coming of the Lord…who is now in his very presence….He is waiting for the coming Messiah…living an upright life while he waits the Lord’s coming.

 

And it says, “…it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.”

 

We will get to his song of praise in a minute….which you all should recognize.

 

Just as Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness after His baptism, we hear today that Simeon “…came in the Spirit into the Temple…”

“…and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, [28] he (Simeon) took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

 

Here is where we all should be familiar with the text.  Some will have it memorized. It is what is called in Latin and in the Prayer Book the Nunc Dimitis….

 

            [29] “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,

                        according to your word;

            [30] for my eyes have seen your salvation

            [31]     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

            [32] a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

                        and for glory to your people Israel.”

 

Our version is the King James, but the ESV is very similar. 

 

This is what Jesus came to do. This is what Simeon…informed by the Holy Spirit said upon seeing the 40 day old Jesus the Christ.

 

Lord, you are now letting me, your servant depart…depart this world, die in peace.

 

Origen:—“Knowing that no one could release him from the chains of his body with the hope of future life but He Whom he held in his arms.”[2]

 

Calvin – “From this song it is sufficiently evident, that Simeon looked at the Son of God with different eyes from the eyes of flesh.

The Spirit of God enlightened his eyes by faith, to perceive, under a mean and poor dress, the glory of the Son of God.” [3]

 

We don’t know when the Lord revealed this to Simeon. He might mean simply when the Spirit led him up to the Temple that day.

He might have felt some urgency to be there at a specific time in a specific location. Either way, Simeon was told he would see the Lord before he died and here it happens.

 

He says, “…my eyes have seen your salvation

            [31]     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

            [32] a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

                        and for glory to your people Israel.”

 

We hear again the promised Christ, the Messiah, coming as not only to the Jews, but to the Gentiles as well.

 

A light to lighten the Gentiles. Christ came for all men.

 

And looking upon the Christ child was for Simeon…and all who believe, looking upon salvation.

 

Mary and Joseph are marveling at what Simeon is saying. Simeon goes says to Mary specifically, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed [35] (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

 

So we know that Jesus was the cause of the fall and rise of many.

 

Those who believed in Him were lifted up. Those who rejected Him will ultimately fall….and fall eternaly.

 

Jesus says, John 9:39

“For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” (ESV)

 

This is what Malachi is prophesying in part today when he says of the Lord’s coming, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. (Mal 3:3, ESV)

 

He is also the sign that will be rejected. We know what they said about Him and to Him….“He hath a devil, and is mad. Why do you listen to him?”

 

Or, “By the prince of the devils he casteth out devils;”

 

Or, “He deceiveth the people.”

 

Sadler - “He was the Salvation of God, the Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the Glory of God’s people Israel; and yet He was to be despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrow, and acquainted with grief. Such opposites meet in the Christ of God.”[4]

 

There is one more character here today as well. Anna….a prophetess. She is advanced in years.  She is elderly 84 or more…yet still a virgin…a widow.

 

She was in the Temple worshipping, fasting, praying night and day. She did not leave there.

It is not clear but doubtful one could live in the Temple. It seems most believe this means that she would go to the Temple early, like we hear about in Acts….and they would attend the Temple daily to pray.

 

Either way, she is devout. And she comes up at that very time, as Christ is being presented and she begins to prophesy about the event…. “…she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (ESV)

 

So why is all of this relevant for us today?

 

Well, our Collect summarizes it for us this way, “Almighty and everlasting God, we humbly beseech thy Majesty, that, as thy only-begotten Son was this day presented in the Temple in the substance of our flesh, so we may be presented unto thee with pure and clean hearts, by the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Christ was presented this day in the Temple, 40 days after His birth, to fulfil the Law. He came to fulfil the obedience to what the Law required of Israel.

 

He also came, presented in the substance of our flesh. He came in the flesh, born a child, grew to be a man, in the flesh….the same flesh you and I dwell in right now. ..fully human in every way. 

 

And this also for a reason. Were He to have dwelled here in any other way than just like us, then He would not have been able to complete what God requires of all of us.

 

He came in the flesh and even died in the flesh so that in every way, He experienced or went through all that we go through.

He knew anxiety. He knew loneliness. He knew pain.  He knew happiness and joy as well.

 

His time here in the flesh was so that He could do what that third element in the prayer said.

 

Not only is He our only Mediator and Advocate in heaven for us now, but He intercedes for us right now….He applies all that He did in the flesh, in obedience, life and death to our account so that God the Father is pleased with us.

 

He is at the right hand of the Father now, pleading our case, interceding for us, so that in the end, when we die, we may be presented unto the Father pure and clean.

 

 

Right now, we stand Justified before God on account of Christ. This means that because of Christ, though we remain in the flesh and we are still sinners, we have a right and good standing with the Father now.

 

We are still sinners. But we are justified sinners.

 

But when Christ comes again to judge the living and the dead, He will present His precious people ….those He shed His blood for, to the Father as a pleasing offering.

 

A sweet smelling savor. Acceptable unto God.  

 

We are Christ’s prize that He presents to the Father. He is pleased to present us, because we have been washed in the blood of Christ and by His blood we have been made clean.

 

Our sinful bodies are made clean by His body and our souls are washed through His most precious blood.

 

And finally, we will evermore dwell in Him and He in us.

 

This is why all of this is significant and presented to us today in the Purification of the Blessed Virgin and the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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[1] Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Lk 2:22–24). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[2] Sadler, M. F. (1892). The Gospel according to St. Luke, with Notes Critical and Practical (Fourth Edition, p. 58). London: George Bell and Sons.

[3] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 1, p. 143). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[4] Sadler, M. F. (1892). The Gospel according to St. Luke, with Notes Critical and Practical (Fourth Edition, p. 60). London: George Bell and Sons.