Christ fulfils – Luke 2:21-40

It’s remarkable to see that Christ fulfils people’s lives even from an account of his infancy.

When we had babies we soon learned that there are plenty of people who are ready to dish out advice. Feeding advice. Sleeping advice. All sorts. I decided that I’d not be one of those people, so I try not to tell parents how to parent unless they ask. But one thing I always recommend: Make the most of your children. They grow up so fast. Never more so than in their first year. And, I think, most of all in their first month.

The Bible doesn’t give us much detail on Jesus’ childhood, but we get a glimpse here of some events when he was about 6 weeks old. No longer the newborn baby in a manger. He’s changing!

But one thing remains the same: People are still saying astonishing things about him! Things that affect you today.

These notes accompany a sermon on YouTube delivered in July 2022 at Bromborough Evangelical Church, Wirral. You can find more in the series in our Sermon Index.

The law was fulfilled in Christ

The first verse we read stands a little apart from the rest. Read Luke 2:21.

  • He was named Jesus, the name the angel gave.
  • Just as John was named by the same angel Gabriel.

And, just like John’s parents, Mary & Joseph are godly people. They have their son circumcised on the 8th day, exactly as the law demanded of them. Jesus was a Jew, born into Israel under Old Testament law.

It’s worth noticing the language Luke uses to describe Mary and Joseph:

  • In v27 they’re called Jesus’ parents
  • In v33 they’re called (lit.) his “father and mother” (though the NLT says “parents”)
  • It’s not an inconsistency or a denial of the virgin birth – Luke has spelt out the virgin birth in plenty of detail for us.
  • This is just a simple and obvious way to refer to them, rather than “His mother and her husband who many people supposed to be his father”!
  • We might also notice that Jesus was, in effect, adopted (or at least fostered) by an earthly father. 
    • (The Bible doesn’t make much of that so we won’t, but it is worth noting in passing.)

So these godly parents do what is required by law. Being 5 miles from Jerusalem, they go there for the ritual. Let’s read the law they’re fulfilling, then see what they did:

  • Read Leviticus 12:1-8
  • Read Luke 2:22-24

They were godly, and they were poor. Poverty is never looked down on in the Bible. The Lord cares deeply about the poor, weak, and vulnerable.

But poverty is never an excuse for a lack of godliness, either, and Joseph and Mary are held up to us as examples of that.

Where’s the gold?

That said, there’s an interesting twist here too.

  • Read Luke 2:39-40.
  • Luke makes no mention of the Magi (wise men).
  • Mary & Joseph must have gone from Jerusalem back to Bethlehem where they stayed for a time until Herod gave his awful command to kill the baby boys in Bethlehem.
  • The fled to Egypt, and later returned to Nazareth.
  • They were never rich, but the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh would have helped with some travelling expenses, and maybe with settling back in Nazareth.

Your heart goes out to them. It’s a very human situation.

More than a human situation

And yet, under it all, there’s rich theology going on.

  • The word “law” (of Moses, of the Lord) is used five times in these verses.
  • Not only was Jesus later to uphold all manner of ethics and morality, he specifically fulfilled every aspect of the Old Testament law.
  • In Galatians 4:4-5, Paul put it this way: “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.”
  • For Jews, born into the covenant people of God, measured by adherence to every tiny aspect of the law, their hope before God is that the Messiah has kept the whole of the law in their place.

That’s why Simeon describes Jesus to God as “the glory of your people Israel”.

  • This child is Adam 2. A fresh start and hope for humanity.
  • Because only as someone who had kept every aspect of the law could he die for someone who had broken any part of that law.
  • He is Messiah, king of the Jews.
  • And for all who have faith in him, their sinfulness is credited to him at the cross, and his righteousness is credited to the sinner for salvation.

He the only Saviour and hope for Israel. But not only Israel:

Your life can be filled full in Christ

We meet two new people in Jerusalem: Simeon and Anna. Whoever they were, it’s clear that they were devout, godly, God-fearing people. And they were both very much waiting for the Messiah.

Simeon, perhaps, more than most.

  • Luke 2:25-26 “The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.”
  • A promise had been made to him and was now being kept.
  • The Holy Spirit led him to the temple to see Jesus.

His words are pretty amazing. Read Luke 2:28-32.

  • People have lots of things on their bucket lists: See the Grand Canyon, ride a camel, swim with dolphins…
  • Simeon had just one thing: To see the Lord’s Messiah.
  • With that one thing, he was ready to die.
  • Nothing could top it. He’d been waiting, and now it had happened.

You have idolatry all around you, and in your own heart.

  • You need company – we’re designed for community – and you look for it in clubs and societies, but not among God’s people. 
  • You need worship – we’re designed for praise – and you support sports team, you rave about music or TV, or you build all your time around your family instead of the Lord.
  • You need security – we’re designed to know that God is our rock, and we miss him in our sin – so you save up for a rainy day, secure your pension, build up a portfolio… 

The things in our lives aren’t wrong in themselves. There’s nothing wrong with being poor or being rich either. But when you look to satisfy your personal longings for company, worship, security, love etc in things you can lose, you’re in trouble. Everything you can touch will pass. Your career, home, education, even your family.

Idolatry is in Christians, too

It’s easy for Christians to have mis-placed love too:

  • Read about Anna again: Luke 2:36-38.
  • It’s good to love the Lord’s people (because he does).
  • It’s good to love his word, his work, and to enjoy worship.
  • But it’s a simple mis-step to find your fulfilment in those things, rather than in Christ for whom you’re doing them!

Anna’s delight wasn’t in the worship, fasting and prayer. Her delight was Jesus. Even the most wonderful form of worship – whether that’s the preaching, the music, the prayer, etc – they’re only just means and Christ is the end. Always. Because, in the end, he is all our delight. 

He is the only person you can know today who will be the same a hundred years from now – or even a billion millennia of days. The world is a mess – but there’s meaning and purpose in Christ.

There’s so much suffering and anxiety – Jesus came to bring peace on earth. You can have peace in a messed-up world. This church isn’t here to make you feel better. It’s here to point you to Jesus, even if you’ve known him for years.

Simeon and Anna were ready to die happy simply because they had seen the Lord.

He’s all you need on your bucket list. And, in truth, he’s not even an optional item:

Your eternity will be decided by Christ

Look again at what Simeon said about Jesus: Read Luke 2:32.

Jesus the Messiah came from Israel, the nation of the Jews. He was born under Old Testament law.

  • He kept it. He obeyed it in every way.
  • And he fulfilled it in the sense that it spoke of a better way to come: A better sacrifice, new priesthood, new covenant.

Jesus is, then, the glory of Israel in being the perfect embodiment of God’s holy law and in being the great promised Messiah to lead God’s people forever.

But he isn’t limited to the middle east. He’s your saviour: “He is a light to reveal God to the nations” (or, “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” – CSB). Christianity isn’t a religion you can choose or leave on a menu of world religions (including atheism). This is the reality of how the universe is set up.

  • There’s one God and creator of us all.
  • You have offended him by your deliberate lawlessness.
  • Your rejection of him will be confirmed by his rejection of you into hell, when you’ve finished up here.
  • But he loves you enough to provide you with a refuge: Jesus, who was sinless, deserving no punishment, but willing to die to take yours.
  • And Jesus is for Jew and Gentile – all humanity.

It’s not easy for everyone to grasp that reality. You have to think about yourself and about Jesus Christ in a new way. 

Tough news for Mary

Mary had to: Read Simeon’s words in Luke 2:33-35.

  • Mary sees her child, and might well wonder what will become of him.
  • She didn’t know it at the time, but he entered the world to die for you and me.
  • Mary was going to ‘lose’ her son, her baby. 
    • She’d lose him to his ministry when he began it.
    • She’d lose him in his death on a cross.
  • It’s a sword that would pierce her heart and break it.
  • And yet, in losing a son she gains a Saviour
    • She gains a Saviour in his ministry.
    • She gains a Saviour in his death.

As she would take a fresh look at Jesus, she sees herself afresh too. Just as you need to.

  • We tend to see ourselves with Instagram filters applied.
  • You need to see yourself as Christ sees you, and then turn to him for salvation.
  • He is a “light to reveal God” to you. 

And this is the revelation: God loves you enough to send his Son into the world to save you, though you don’t deserve it. God always planned to do so, and promised Jesus throughout the Old Testament.

Jesus is the fulfilment of God’s law and promises. And that means that instead of chasing false hopes and dreams in a world that promises so much but can’t fail to fail, you can come to Jesus and find true fulfilment only in him.

He is good news. He is life to the full. You don’t deserve him. But he died to save you because he loves you. Which means the only way you can die in contentment is to know him.