An Improbable King, Pt. 4

Luke 2:21-38 – The Improbable King pt. 4

I saw a tweet describing the feel of this past week.

  • Working left to right.
    • First, a stick figure smiling, wearing a Santa cap, under dates: December 1st – 26th, titled “Festive.”


  • Second, a stick figure frowning, piece of cheese in hand, under dates: December 27th – 31st, titled “Confused, full of cheese, Unsure of the day of the week.


  • Last, a much rounder figure, wearing a non-descript expression, representing January on! Someone tweeted about these middle days, between Christmas and New Year’s:

“It’s the best time of year.  Nobody minds if I don’t go outside.  I can eat…anything I want and at any time of day and nobody minds.  My outfit is part normal clothes, part pajamas.  This is how I would live all [the] time if I won the lottery!”

This is the natural pivot point in the year.

  • We actually desire to be jumpstarted out of our malaise!
  • You might be taking an introspective inventory of last year, asking,

“What was the most significant lesson you learned about yourself last year?”

  • If you really desire betterment or change for life your inventory has to broaden.
  • Not simply on 2019 but boil everything away.

“What is the base-summary of your entire life?”

Luke 2 introduces two people, model lives, summarized by One Person.  Our focus of our last two weeks’ study, The Improbable King.

  • Simeon and Anna.
    • “Have heard very much about these two?”
    • A nod sometimes at Christmas.


  • Do not miss the attention Luke puts on two worshippers wholly given in anticipation of the Messiah!

A big mistake to believe you cannot relate to them!

  • Scripture gives us examples to follow.


“Can we relate?”  “Should we relate?”  “How can this matter going into 2020?”

Christ defining 2020 means you will have:

  1. Clarity of purpose (vv. 22-29)

Two unique people who have much in common.

  • Simeon and Anna.
    • Simeon a prophet.
    • Anna a prophetess.


  • Unique lives given in anticipation of the Messiah.
    • 400 years of silence.
    • Light, finally dawning.


  • Simeon, known as “righteous and devout” (v. 25).
    • In his final years, close in age to Anna.
    • Over one hundred years?


  • Life’s work, “waiting for the consolation of Israel” (v. 25).

Most notably, Simeon had the “Holy Spirit…upon him” (v. 25).

  • Simeon’s “righteousness” was from the heart.
  • His “devotion” was Spirit wrought!
    • Simeon’s temple worship was not religious obligation.
    • He had the best motivation.
    • The Spirit’s promptings, looking for Jesus.


  • The Holy Spirit had awakened him to a life’s calling.
  • A “watchman” on the wall “waiting” for the Messiah to usher in peace for Israel (v. 25).

The Lord “revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (v. 26).

  • This is about “revelation” and about God keeping his promise!
    • Not seeing death!
    • Before seeing Christ!

This is our prayer for every living soul.  Please let everyone see Christ in this life before death!  See eternal life before the curse to death.

Catch the bird’s eye view on details God orchestrated for Simeon’s encounter with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus to come to pass!

  • Luke 2:1-20 is the birth of Jesus.
  • All beginning with Caesar Augustus! Right on schedule!
  • Verse 21 documents the expected process for Israelites, upon giving birth to a son.

Circumcision set this new male apart as a Jew according to the Law.

  • A sign of purity and covenant.
    • Named “Jesus” (v. 21).
    • Per an angel’s instruction!


  • “Jesus” - from Hebrew, Joshua meaning, “Jehovah saves!”

Verse 22 marks 40 days after delivery.

  • Mary and Joseph, required by Levitical Law, presents an offering for “purification” (vv. 22-23).
  • Not wealthy enough to offer a lamb; offered “a pair of turtledoves.”
  • Wise men had not yet visited.
    • Their offerings would have prompted a greater gift.
    • Jesus, born poor, born perfect.

Tying this together with Simeon, timing is anything but coincidence.

Verse 27 says Simeon “came in the Spirit into the temple” (v. 27).

  • God led Simeon to go in there.
  • Simeon entered the temple area.
    • The court of women.
    • Joseph and Mary operating according “to the custom of the Law” (v. 27).

Without hesitation, Simeon just knows this is the Christ! (vv. 28ff)

  • Simeon’s entire life is to be this “witness.”
  • No different than Anna’s role, the second witness of verification.

I love Simeon’s boldness.  “He took him up in his arms” (v. 28).

  • He is bold and daring.
  • You might say, “Too daring?”
  • “Was he?”

“The incarnate Son of God?”

  • Deity en-fleshed

ESV  Isaiah 9:6 aFor to us a child is born, to us ba son is given; cand the government shall be dupon1 his shoulder, and his name shall be called2 Wonderful eCounselor, fMighty God, gEverlasting hFather, Prince of iPeace.

  • He just goes for it.
  • “Is this not exactly how Jesus intended to come?” “To engage!”

This is what you are supposed to do!

  • The more you learn of God’s holiness, the more this seems contradictory.
  • However, the more you know God’s grace, the more you know how appropriate this truly is!
    • We run to Jesus and like this old man.
    • We too would take Jesus into our arms!
    • Access is for “whosoever will!”

C.H. Spurgeon: “Come, poor troubled ones, come and take Jesus into your arms, as though He were still a babe, take him to your heart and say, ‘He is everything to me- my Love, my Hope, my brother…’”

“Do you have clarity of purpose in your life?”

Clarity on Jesus is gained from one source.  From Scripture.

  • Study to know Jesus.
  • Scripture is inherently clear.

“Need motivation?”

  • Study to teach.
    • Find someone who knows less than you do and teach them what you know. Teach kids!
  • Read the Bible and read books about the Bible.
    • “Doctrine” means teaching.
    • When you can teach the Bible, this means you know the Bible.
    • This is “Making disciples” (Matt. 28:18-20).

“How do I know I will know Christ more through 2020?”

“I know I am going to teach and preach Christ in 2020.”

The testimony of St. Augustine (Doctor of Grace, Bishop of Hippo, early 400’s).

  • From, The Confessions his testimony is boiled down to his being willing to take up Scripture and read it.
    • Augustine was a young man living in rank immorality and loose living.
    • Not converted until age 32.
    • As a teenager having illicit relationships and an illegitimate son.
    • When told they could not marry, the unnamed mother became a strong convert to Christ.


  • Augustine’s guilt lead him to more immorality then to a prayer garden in Milan!
    • There with his friend, Alypius.
    • Augustine wept over his attachment to sin!

I cast myself down I now not how, under a certain fig-tree, giving full vent to my tears; and the floods of my eyes gushed out an unacceptable sacrifice to thee…So was I speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo!  I heard from a neighboring house a voice, as of boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating. “Take up and read; Take up and read.” [Tolle, lege!  Tolle, lege!”] 

Instantly, my countenance altered, I began to think most intently whether children were wont in any kind of play to sing such words…So checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book, and read the first chapter I find…Eagerly I returned to…where Alypius was sitting…there…I laid the volume of the Apostles [Romans]…I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell:

ESV  Romans 13:13 aLet us walk properly as in the daytime, bnot in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, cnot in quarreling and jealousy.

14 But aput on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, bto gratify its desires.


This is the providence of God!  Take up the Word and take up the Lord Jesus Christ!  With passion!


  1. Closure on mission (vv. 29-32)

The end of verse 28 leading into verse 29 tells us Simeon is now ready to die!

This moment, the “Nunc Dimittis” in Latin, “Now you dismiss” or “Now I can die.”

Simeon’s meaning in life is clear.

  • Spirit-filled, living witness, to see, Christ.
  • Who now has closure!
  • For Simeon, this amount of revelation was sufficient.

Simeon characterizes “death” as “departure.”

  • “Depart” as moving from one place to another.
  • For an unbeliever, “death” is a complete unknown. “Blank!”
  • A believer steps out of one life into another.

People attach the meaning of life to everything but Jesus.

  • Simeon’s calling should be the same as ours.
  • Just attach everything you care about, to Jesus.

Simeon simply rested in God’s word (in his case, direct revelation) being fulfilled.

ESV  Luke 2:29 "Lord, now you are letting your servant1 depart ain peace, baccording to your word;

For Simeon, “salvation” was a synonym for Jesus (v. 30).

  • Simeon was “clear!”
  • Without hesitation, he took Jesus into his arms, saying his human “eyes” were seeing God’s way of salvation (v. 30).

Jesus is the only way to be saved.

People only believe when God gives people, Simeon’s eyes!

  • It is easy to say, “Of course Simeon was confident that Jesus was the Savior, he was holding him in his arms.”
    • “A lot of people get to hold Jesus.” Yet remain unclear!
      • Several people were seeing this same, very normal looking child.
      • Seeing normal parents acting according to custom and Law.


  • Temple managers who had no idea whom they were in the presence of!


  • What makes Simeon’s declaration important.
    • Difference between Simeon and everybody else.
    • Simeon saw Jesus through the Spirit’s empowerment!

Pray for people to “see Jesus as salvation.”

Final thought on the point of Closure!

  • Live your life in light of its end.
    • Your end will be determined by your life’s priorities!
    • Live in light of how you will be remembered.
      • Should not want to let you loved ones down.
      • Should want to please your Lord with your whole life.


  1. Comfort in sovereignty (vv. 31-40)

I use this word comfort not because everything in life is comfortable but because trusting God’s plan brings comfort.

  • Simeon knew God’s plan because he knew the Old Testament.
    • Israel was always meant to be God’s lighthouse.
    • The watching world was to see God through Israel.


  • Simeon knew God offered hope for “all peoples” (v. 31).
  • “A light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to [God’s] people Israel” (v. 32).

The groundwork for Simeon’s declaration came from Isaiah.

ESV  Isaiah 42:6 "I am the LORD; aI have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you bas a covenant for the people, ca light for the nations,


ESV  Isaiah 49:6 he says: "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; aI will make you bas a light for the nations, that cmy salvation may reach to the end of the earth."

ESV  Isaiah 52:10 aThe LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, band all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.


ESV  Isaiah 60:3 aAnd nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.


Same promise given to Abraham, that “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3).

  • The risen Christ commissioned his disciples and his church to go out and evangelize.
    • “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15).
    • In heaven all the tribes or people groups from every nation are gathered around the exalted Christ!


  • This same Christ!


  • In today’s world, we have the same comfort as Simeon.
    • God’s Sovereignty is a failsafe.
    • Nothing stops this mission.


Simeon also knew this plan came with a cost!

  • Verse 33 turns the focus from Jesus to his parents.
    • Joseph and Mary were “marveling” at what Simeon was saying (v. 33).
      • Surprising?
      • Teen-agers, living out everything that they knew.


  • Jesus was their new baby.
  • Hard enough to grapple with but keeping Angelic truths in balance would have been a challenge.


  • So, Simeon blesses them with the reality of their Sovereign, “Jesus!” (vv. 34-35)

God’s plan is perfect but God’s plan came with a tremendous cost.

  • The weight of Christ’s Saving Cross comes to bear.
  • Israel will be rocked by Jesus.
    • Some would believe – a remnant – but many would not.
    • Many will reject Jesus.
    • Jesus is a “sign” or “symbol” of opposition.
    • He would be “opposed” (v. 34).

Mary’s, mother’s heart and soul would be “pierced through” (v. 35).

  • Direct reference to the Cross.
    • The ultimate dividing line between receiving and rejecting Jesus!
    • Jesus’ sacrificial death, exposes hearts.


  • “Revealed.” (v. 35)

Luke now brings up a second witness to the Messiah.

Anna, like Simeon, possessed the same: Clarity, Closure, and Comfort.

  • Anna, “a prophetess” meaning she spoke God’s Word, like Miriam (Ex. 15:20) and Deborah (Jdg. 4:4) – (v. 36).
  • Her life’s mission was to be the second witness of the Messiah’s arrival (cff. Dt. 19:15, 2 Cor. 13:1).

ESV  2 Corinthians 13:1 aThis is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established bby the evidence of two or three witnesses.)


  • Parallel the two on the road to Emmaus who served as witnesses to Christ’s resurrection.


The significance of being “the daughter of Phanuel” is not clear (v. 36).

  • Phanuel’s name, only mentioned here, means “face of God.”
    • Symbolic of Anna’s encounter, seeing God’s face.
    • Colossians 1:15, Christ being “the image of God.”


ESV  Colossians 1:15 aHe is the image of bthe invisible God, cthe firstborn of all creation.


  • Of the “tribe of Asher” (v. 36).
    • Asher was the name of Leah’s son (cf. Gen. 30:13).
      • Sister to Rachel and concurrent wife to Jacob.


  • Asher means blessed.
    • The “tribe of Asher.”
    • Part of the northern kingdom, 10 of the 12 tribes.
    • One of the lost tribes (from Assyrian Captivity), now returned under King Jesus!

Luke affirms Anna’s old age, “advanced in years” (v. 36).

  • She, who was married, probably as a teen-ager but married only “seven years” (v. 36).
  • Probably a widow for over 60 years.
  • Her life given in service to the Lord.

An Old Testament version of the “Widow indeed” affirmed by godly reputation, devotion, and service (cf. 1 Tim. 5:9-10).

Functionally, Anna “did not depart from the temple” meaning she undoubtedly lived there, perhaps in unusual circumstances as a prophetess.

  • Her life’s calling was “worshipping” – literally serving “with fasting and prayer night and day” (v. 37).
  • Anna’s “fasting” reflects Israel’s dark days.

ESV  Matthew 9:15 And Jesus said to them, a"Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? bThe days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and cthen they will fast.

  • Fasting in Scripture is always associated with dramatic circumstances.
  • Anna’s life was perpetually focused on Israel’s need to embrace the Messiah.

Comfort comes from the sovereignly ordained circumstances of God.

  • “And coming up that very hour” notes perfect timing (v. 38).
    • Anna’s response?
      • Luke’s emphasis is not on Anna merely lingering in Christ’s presence.
      • “She began to give thanks” - promoting Christ’s arrival.

“…and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (v. 38).

  • Anna did not cast pearls before swine.
  • Not force-feeding scoffers but speaking to those who would listen!

Old Anna – John Piper

At eighty-four her eyes were dim.
In Israel the days were grim.
The Roman overlords would spit
Upon the temple steps and sit
Across the court and watch the priest
On duty leave his feast
And put a towel on his staff
To wipe it up. And then they'd laugh
To see the prelate mount the pyre
And burn the towel with holy fire,
And wash his hands and cast a glance,
As if a spear, which said, "The lance
Of God omnipotent, unprized,
Unfeared by you uncircumcized,
Will hew in pieces every dog
That fears him not and feeds on hog!"
Old Anna spent her days in prayer.
She grieved to hear the Levites swear
And plot behind the temple doors
To take revenge or visit whores
Or give out prophecies on whim.
In Israel the days were grim.
Her eyes were dim but not yet blind
And daily she would come and find
Her place, as close as women could,
Within the court and there she stood
With open hands to God, or knelt
And poured out everything she felt
Of love to Him and hope within
For One to come and bear the sin
Of priests and soldiers, dog and Jew,
And, she confessed, of Anna, too.
Sometimes the priests would jeer and say,
"You're blind, old woman, stay away."
Old Anna loved to smile and state:
"You don't need eyes to pray and wait."
In fact, she thought, you don't need eyes
To live in love or make you wise
Or give you joy or bring you light.
Sometimes old Anna woke at night
And saw, within, the Coming One
As brilliant as the rising sun.

O, Lord, grant us the same to see
As we light advent candle three.

Believers.  You have seen what Simeon and Anna have seen.

  • We too are his witness.
  • We too have: Clarity of purpose, Closure on mission, and Comfort in Sovereignty.
    • We know our Savior.
    • We have seen the One who was pierced through for our sins!

May we see all of 2020 through Simeon’s eyes, through Anna’s eyes.

  • Settle for nothing less for 2020.
  • A vision like this is 2020 vision!
    • Clarity of purpose, Closure on your mission in life, and Comfort trusting in God’s plan.
    • He has you and your year in his hands!

Unbelievers.  Do not see Jesus as another baby that you pass simply pass by!

  • This is Christ our Savior.
  • Take him at his Word and believe!



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