Jesus, a light to the Gentiles

Promise of Freedom – God Always Had a Plan  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  21:46
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Promise of Freedom – God Always Had a Plan
Jesus, a light to the Gentiles
Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, Luke 2:25-32, Acts 26:23
I was very amused the other day when a friend of mine put up a post
Well there you go folks.
The end is nigh.... and we missed it!
Many people approach Scripture thinking that they know exactly what it says, especially about things that they already have an opinion on.
This is especially true when it comes to prophecy.
Many people have written many books about end times, what we call eschatology.
Many people have made lots of money from these books.
All of them have been wrong.
Here is a principle that I have found to be very helpful.
When it comes to prophecy in the Bible, it is very easy to understand what God intended after the fact.
On a few things he is very clear.
Especially when it comes to the words of Jesus about the fact that he will return.
But when it comes to the details there are many different views.
So don’t get to hung up on any particular detail.
The facts are simple.
Christ will return.
God wins.
Apart from that, just get on with doing the things he said we should do now.
You know the Great Comission and the Great Commandment.
We need to be ready and do all we can to give others the opportunity to know him before we all face judgement day.
Now when it comes to understanding what God intended after the fact there are many things that we can learn and benefit from so let’s be sure of the things we can be sure about, especially when it comes to who Jesus is and what he came to do.
The Old Testament is full of prophecies concerning Jesus that only became clear to his disciples after the fact.
One of these is found in Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6.
And I can guarantee you that at the time when Isaiah spoke these words no one had a clue what he meant.
There were partial fulfillments that we can see looking back through history.
So let’s breifly have a look at these before we see how these things were understood at the time of Jesus’ birth and then later on by the New Testament writers.
Isaiah 42:6, 49:6
Isaiah 49:6 NLT
6 He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
There was a partial fulfillment of these words under the Persian Kings Cyrus and those who followed him.
This was the time when the people of Israel were allowed to return from exile in Babylon.
Part of the story is told in Cyrus Cylinder that confirms what the Bible says in the book of Ezra.
The Kings of Persiah after the time of Cyrus where favorable to allowing subjucated peoples to return to their lands and they would often provide resources for them to rebuild their cities and temples.
We read of these accounts in Haggai, Zechariah, Esther and Nehemiah.
But Israel never became that light to the gentiles that she was meant to be.
Yes many people were attracted to the Jewish faith because of its morality and clear understanding of a personal God.
But as time went on, it became increasingly clear to the jewish people themselves that there should be an expectation of the messiah.
And it seems that these two passages in Isaiah were seen in this way by many.
There was an expectation, especially among the people of the land, the common people who were devout, that there was some great figure to come who would not only bring political freedom but more importantly would bring about a time of peace and true worship of God.
It is in this context that we come across the story of Simeon in Luke 2:25-32
Luke 2:25–32 NLT
25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. 30 I have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared for all people. 32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”
Luke records the inspired reaction of Simeon to the bringing of Jesus into the Temple.
We seem always to think of this man as old, though there is no evidence apart from his cheerful readiness to die (29; Cf. 26).
The name was a common one; apart from this story we know nothing about him.
Verses 25 to 26 tell us that Simeon was an upright man.
Righteous shows that he behaved well towards people, while devout (eulabis; used by Luke alone in the New Testament) signifies 'careful about religious duties (in the classics it means 'cautious').
The consolation of Israel for which he looked is another name for the coming of the Messiah (cf. SB).
This was expected to be preceded by a time of great suffering ('the woes of the Messiah'), so that he would certainly bring comfort.
In days when the nation was oppressed the faithful looked all the more intensely for the Deliverer who would solve their problems.
We find that the Holy Spirit was upon Simeon, which seems to mean on him continually.
In Old Testament times we read of the Spirit coming upon people on special occasions, but a continuing presence is rare.
Simeon's endowment was something special.
The Spirit had indicated to Simeon, in some way not specified, that he would see the Messiah, the Lord's Christ (Cf. 2:1 1) before his death.
In fulfilment of this promise we read in verses 27 to 28 that the Holy Spirit brought Simeon into the temple at the same time as Joseph and Mary.
Simeon was 'in the Spirit' (cf. Rev. 1:10, etc.), which includes inspired by the Spirit but seems also to indicate something more, a special sensitivity.
Joseph and Mary are called the parents, which does not mean that Luke has forgotten that he has just told us of the virgin birth.
The custom of the law refers to the offering of the five shekels on behalf of the child rather than the sacrifice for the mother, for Luke says they do it for him.
In verses 29 to 32 Simeon blessed God, he offered up a prayer of thanksgiving (which would normally begin, 'Blessed be thou, 0 Lord').
The “now” in verse 29 is important.
He is ready to die peacefully now that he has seen God's salvation,
The Baby through whom God would in time bring salvation.
His language is that used of the freeing of a slave and he may be thinking of death as 'his release from a long task' (Plummer).
Simeon goes on to show that this salvation is not for any one nation but for all.
This is clear enough in all peoples, but Simeon spells it out by speaking 'of both the Gentiles and the people of Israel
There is appropriateness in linking glory with Israel.
In the Old Testament, glory is often mentioned in connection with God's manifestations of himself to his people.
But Israel will see glory in its truest and fullest sense when it sees the Son of God (cf. Jn. 1:14).
His being a light to Gentiles means no diminution of Israel's glory, but rather its full realization.
Simeon's prophecy recorded in verses 33 to 35 tells us that the whole story is not sweetness and light.
Luke 2:33–35 NLT
33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”
Salvation will be purchased at a very heavy cost.
Simeon invokes a blessing on Jesus' father and his mother.
Then he goes on to speak of Jesus as set, or destined to cause the fall and rising of many in Israel.
Some say that it is not certain whether Simeon has in mind one group of people or two.
If one, he is saying that, unless people lose all pride in their own spiritual achievement there is no place for them.
They must fall and take the lowly place; then they can rise.
If two, he means that Jesus will divide people:
Those who reject him will in the end fall (cf. Is. 8:'4f.) and those who accept him will rise, they will enter into salvation.
I believe that both meanings are intended, those who are spiritually proud must fall before they can be truly spiritual and those who reject Christ will fall away from heaven.
Not surprisingly, Jesus will be spoken against.
He will also be a sign, the expression means that he will point to the action of God.
Simeon goes on to the cost to Mary.
The sword referred to is the “rhomphaia” a large sword, not the small “machaira” that was used by the apostles at Jesus’ arrest.
This sword that will pierce Mary's soul is the death of Jesus.
His suffering will not leave her untouched.
Simeon's final words point to the revelatory function of Jesus' work.
People declare themselves by their attitude to him.
We cannot ultimately be neutral.
When people see Christ suffer, their reaction shows on which side they stand.
And this is what Acts 26:23 goes on to declare to us.
Acts 26:23 NLT
23 that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.”
Jesus the Messiah, suffered and died and became the first to rise from the dead.
In so doing he became God’s light to the nations.
The one and only path of salvation.
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