Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Story of a Prophet

The Story of a Prophet

We all know the Story; we’ve heard it over and over again.  If you close your eyes you can almost picture them, the Old Testament words that are read each year during Advent.  The words of Isaiah and Micah that relate to the coming messiah.  They are repeated in sermons, songs and printed on Christmas cards.

Most of us can even recite bits and pieces of those prophecies some are from the Prophet Isaiah  “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.”  and The Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)”

And Micah’s word about where Jesus would be born But you, O Bethlehem, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.”

And those words were read and repeated for hundreds of years within the Jewish community as they looked to the one who would free them from their oppressors and restore Israel to the glory it had experienced under King David.

And all of those prophecies were fulfilled when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. 

The Old Testament Prophecies have all the earmarks of a great story as they point toward the coming Messiah.  They are repeated in sermons, songs and printed on Christmas cards.

We all know the Story; we’ve heard it over and over again. But there is another story, a story seldom told that is part of the Christmas Narrative as well.

Over the Christmas season our theme has been “The Story Seldom Told”  so instead of focusing on the Mary and the birth of Jesus we looked at Elizabeth and the birth of John.

Instead of looking at the 3 Kings, who were actually weren’t kings, they were identified as Wise Men and there was no number mentioned,  so instead of looking at the undetermined number of men of non royal descent  we looked at the two kings who were actually mentioned by name in the Christmas story, King Herod and King Jesus. 

And last Sunday instead of spending time on the journey that Mary and Joseph made from Nazareth to Bethlehem which fulfilled the prophecy of Micah we looked at how they had to flee Bethlehem and go to Egypt to escape the jealous wrath of King Herod who saw in this new born child a threat to his leadership.  And that journey fulfilled another prophecy. 

Tonight we aren’t going to focus on the prophecies concerning the birth of Jesus, instead we are looking at the prophecy concerning the purpose of Jesus.

Maybe you remember looking at your newborn child and imaging all the possibilities wrapped up in that tiny person.  And who someday they would provide for you in your golden years. 

In Luke chapter 2 we read how Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to be dedicated and circumcised.   I would suspect that they saw this as an incredible opportunity, Jesus was probably the only one of their children to be presented to God at the temple. The rest probably were presented at the synagogue in Nazareth where they lived.

And it was during the dedication service that they encountered a man named Simeon.  We don’t know a lot about Simeon.  The bible doesn’t record that he was a priest or a religious leader we are simply told that he was righteous and devout and that the Holy Spirit had come upon him.

And on the day that Jesus’ mother and Joseph took Jesus to the temple we read Luke 2:25-32  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 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.  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, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised.  I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people.  He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

Here is the story of a man who was living in the hope of a promise.  The bible tells us that Simeon was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah.

And when I read the words of Simeon I realized that I was reading words of hope, a hope realized and a hope foreseen.

A hope for today and a hope for eternity.  A hope for Simeon and a hope for the world.

A Hope for me and A hope for you.

Tonight, Jesus offers us the same hope that was offered to Simeon.  When this old man looked down at the 8-day old baby he saw hope.  It would be almost another 2000 before Carl Sandburg would be born, but what Simeon saw in the baby Jesus is captured in Sandburg’s words. “A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on.”  In this case it was the reality of John 3:16  “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.   

That first Christmas happened because in God’s opinion the world should go on, and not just go on but to go on with hope.
And for the next 33 years Jesus offered hope to the world, and ultimately hope to us.  Which is why it is written in Matthew 12:21  And his (Jesus’) name will be the hope of all the world.

So let’s jump into the Jesus story: Matthew 4:23  Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness.

Jesus Offers Hope in the Face of Broken Bodies  Time and time again through the story we read the words “Jesus healed”.  He healed the blind, the crippled, the lepers and those who were oppressed by demons.  He healed with his touch and he healed with his words.  There was even one occasion recorded that he healed a lady who simply touched his garment as he walked by.

Men, women and children who perhaps had given up any hope of ever being whole, and Jesus gave them that hope.  Shrivelled legs were restored, sightless eyes given sight and silent tongues spoke.

And I truly believe that God still heals through the power of Jesus today.  Does he heal every one every time?  Be pretty crowded if he did.  We live in finite bodies, Paul describes it this way in  2 Corinthians 4:7  We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

And I do not believe that it is a cop out to say that the final healing for the Christian is death, and that is why Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 4:13  And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.

But sometimes, God pushes aside the natural laws that he puts in place and a supernatural healing takes place.  And that is why we pray for people to be healed.  It was John Wimber one of the founders of the Vineyard Church who said “When we prayed for no one, no one was healed.  Now we pray for lots of people and some people are healed.”

There is a great statement in the book of Romans where Paul   Romans 4:18  Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—

Maybe this evening you feel that you have no reason for hope, like Abraham I would encourage you to keep hoping. 

And for the Christian there is hope that even surpasses a healing hope. 

Because every person who was ever healed by Christ, eventually died.

Which leads us to the next part of the story

Mark 10:17  As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”   Jesus was asked that question over and over again throughout the gospels. 

And the question is still being asked today, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Tonight let me assure you that  Jesus Offers Hope in the Face of Eternity  When Simeon looked into the eyes of the Christ Child he said Luke 2:29-31  “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised.  I have seen your salvation,  which you have prepared for all people.

Where did Simeon see God’s salvation?  Not in a set of rules or religious obligations but in this child.

Salvation is a Person, and not something that you do to earn your way to God.

Salvation is a Person, and that Person is the Lord Jesus Christ. You either know Jesus or you don’t know him.  You’ve either entrusted your eternity to Jesus or you haven’t. 

And Jesus himself was very clear that he isn’t one way to salvation but the only way.
John 14:6  Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

And that hope that we have is a hope based on the assurance of the word of God when we are told in 1 John 5:13  I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.

I was talking to someone this past week and they had commented on hearing  a preacher say that they hoped their children didn’t miss heaven by 18 inches. 

They were speaking of the 18 inches that separate the mind from the heart.

I hope that not one of you will miss heaven by 18 inches, that you will allow your belief to make the journey from your mind to your heart.

And maybe you are thinking, “well that’s well and good for others, but I’ve done too much, God couldn't forgive me or use me.” 

There is no sin that God cannot forgive and no person that God cannot use.

In John’s gospel we read a story where Jesus arrives at a well on one of his journey’s and there he meets a gentile woman who had been married four times and was living common law with her partner.

Now listen to the offer that Jesus makes to the woman,  John 4:14  Jesus said “But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

And this woman discovers what we all need to know and that is,  Jesus Offers Hope in the Face of Hopelessness  Pretty sure that this unknown lady figured that God had probably given up on her much like many of her neighbours had. 

It was no accident that in a time when the community well would have been a gathering spot for the village women, this woman was alone. 

The bible is full of people who had blown it, and God proves over and over again that his grace is enough.  It was enough for the woman at the well, it was enough for Denn Guptill and it is enough for you.  If you choose to accept it. 

I don’t know what you’ve done or where you are tonight but like Simeon if you look to Jesus you will see light of God’s salvation. 

And so as we come to the end of my message my prayer for you is the same as Paul’s prayer was for the church in Ephesus. 

Ephesians 1:18  I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.

Advent Candle Lighting.

Luke 2:32  “He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

No comments: