The Presentation of Christ in the Temple

Commonly called

The Purification of St. Mary the Virgin

2017

 

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.

+

 

In 2 Corinthians Paul writes these words,

 

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. (referring to some sort of physical ailment Paul was enduring) But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

 

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10 ESV)

 

God’s power, says Paul, is made perfect in weakness.  God’s ability to do things…His ability to function, is made perfect or carried out or comes to its full expression or end, through things that are weak.

 

God’s strength…that which helps our needs, which refreshes us, which lifts us is all the more obvious when we are vulnerable.

 

That is what that phrase means.

 

This verse is one that many know and rely on or recall to mind when they are going through difficult times.  When we are weak, God’s power becomes all that more strong to us.

 

 

When we come to the end of our rope, God’s strength is what we end up finally relying on to keep us.

It shows us just who is strong.  And it is the Lord.

 

And we see this image time and time again in the Bible.  Over and over we see weakness turning into power. 

We see a small baby in a manger being the Son of God.  We see Him in humility being led to His death and yet we see at the end, through His rising to life again a great demonstration of His power…  defeating death…defeating sin.

 

Today the images are no different.

 

Christ is presented in the Temple…in the substance of our flesh.  Certainly within the Epiphany Season theme.  Christ manifesting His power in weakness.

 

Manifested in our flesh…not in His glory.  Our weak flesh.

 

And our first our lesson today comes from the Prophet Malachi and is appointed for the Epistle today.  Notice first, in this passage we hear about the power.  But compared to the weakness seen in the Gospel, it almost doesn't compare.

 

Here is the power of the reading…

 

“Behold, I [the LORD God] send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap.

 

 

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, … Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts. (ESV)

 

The passage reads with great power.  He will come.  He will refine.  He will suddenly come.  Who can stand it when He does come?  He will come with judgment.  He will thrust aside those who do not fear Him.

 

This is the prophecy that is tied and related to the event that is read about in the Gospel that we just heard read this morning as well.

 

 

Notice the contrast from power to weakness…the power cloaked in weakness…  Or maybe better, the power made perfect in weakness.

 

“And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”

 

This is He of whom it is said will refine like a furnace and before whom no one will be able to stand? This is He will bring judgment.

 

And for anyone to see this, it requires the eyes of faith and the understanding of the Spirit for us to read such passages and know that this seemingly insignificant event and all that surrounds it is prophesied by Malachi here and either comes to pass here in one sense and comes to its fulfillment in the time to come.

 

We do meet one person who sees this event for what it is.  He also is here in the Gospel today.  Simeon. 

 

A righteous and devout man. 

One waiting for the coming of the Messiah.  One waiting for the consummation of Israel.

 

The Holy Spirit was upon him. God highly favored him as we can see here.

 

He is a man who had been granted the eyes to see this child for who He really is.  Listen again to what happens as his eyes behold the baby Christ Child.

 

God had revealed to him through the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ…before he had seen the Messiah.

 

He comes into the Temple one day.  Perhaps it was a day he did not usually come to the Temple.  It doesn't say he worked in the Temple as a priest even.  He is said to have been in the Spirit or led by the Spirit that day to go there.”

 

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

 

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

                        according to your word;

            for my eyes have seen your salvation

            that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

            a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

                        and for glory to your people Israel.”

 

Mary and Joseph as the parents of their newborn child are doing as the Law prescribes. 

They are bringing the child to the Temple, as he was now 40 days old. (Last Thursday marked the 40th day)

 

Leviticus 12

 

“The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If a woman conceives and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days….And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. Then she shall continue for thirty-three days in the blood of her purifying. She shall not touch anything holy, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are completed.

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, and he shall offer it before the LORD and make atonement for her. …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)

 

This is exactly what Joseph and Mary do.

 

This is coupled with Exodus 13:11-16

 

“When the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your fathers, and shall give it to you, you shall set apart to the LORD all that first opens the womb. ..Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.” (ESV)

 

But in this event and through the obedience of Joseph and Mary, Simeon sees something, revealed to him by the Holy Spirit.

 

He sees and knows who this child is.

 

And He is overjoyed at the opportunity he has been given to witness the Messiah in His infancy.  Power cloaked in weakness.

 

Needless to say, Jesus’ “father and mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother…

[this is astonishing] “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

 

There is another here as well. Anna.  She is advanced in years.  She is devoted to the Temple.  She is there day and night praying.  She too is awaiting the LORD’s move to redeem Israel.

 

And she too here seems to know what is happening.

It says that she came up to the Temple at that very hour and began to give thanks to God and to speak of Him to everyone around who was waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

 

The account closes just as innocently as it opened.  When they had finished doing everything that the Law required they returned to Galilee, to Nazareth.  The child [Jesus] grew and became strong filled with wisdom.  The favor of God was upon Him.

 

Why does this even have meaning to us?

It demonstrates how God, in the weakest of situations with the weakest of people can and does perform mighty works of power.

 

His power is made perfect in weakness.

His power is demonstrated in weakness.

 

Our Collect here has this important reminder for us today. 

We humbly beseech the Lord God.
So there is the contrast first between us and Him.

We beseech the Lord that as Christ was presented in the Temple in the substance of our flesh, (weakness)

that He may present us to the Father, with pure and clean hearts at the Last Day. (power)

 

That is the work of Christ.  No matter how much ridicule He received. No matter how much people laugh at Christ and Christians today or think the whole thing irrelevant, (and weak)…
… our only hope in this life and in the life to come is the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

No other name under Heaven given to man, in whom and through whom we may receive salvation ….but only the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

This is ultimately to keep us from boasting.  It is to keep us from relying too much on ourselves and less or never on God.

 

Paul reminds us of this when he writes, 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

 

Take this as speaking to each of us…“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him [God the Father] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (ESV)

We are even in Christ ourselves because the Father places us there.

There is no room for human power or boasting.

Christ is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification.

God chose us in our weakened state, to show His love for us in power.

 

+

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