Download the Worship Folder & Announcements for Jan. 16-17
Fill out a card to record your family’s online worship attendance
For supporting the ministry of the Gospel at Salem
Worship Series: Joining Jesus
Worship Theme: Behind Enemy Lines
- CW 85 O God from God, O Light from Light
- Salem Preschool: Jesus Loves Me
- CW 78 O Light of Gentile Nations
- Solo: How Low Was Our Redeemer Brought
Message: Joining Jesus - Behind Enemy Lines
Pastor Jon Enter
In the days leading up to Christ’s birth some two thousand years ago, Mary and Joseph made the long and painful-for-Mary journey to Bethlehem. They had the frantic search for a place for Mary to give birth. They had the challenge and chaos of delivering a baby in a barn with both of them being first time parents. They had the unexpected visit of the stranger shepherds telling the miraculous account of angels’ announcing Jesus’ birth. Mary and Joseph had a busy, busy Christmas season. But in the weeks after Christ’s birth, life was pretty quiet. Mary was recovering and getting into her new role as a new mom. Joseph took care of his responsibilities for the census which is the reason they traveled to Bethlehem in the first place. And, undoubtedly, Joseph searched for work as a carpenter to feed his family. All in all, the weeks after the first Christmas were pretty quiet besides the cries and coos of newborn Jesus.
But right about now, Mary and Joseph were busy making plans for yet another trip. “Joseph and Mary took [Jesus] to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord’) and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons.’” There were two reasons for this trip. Exactly forty days after giving birth, all Jewish mothers were to present an offering to the Lord on behalf of themselves. This offering, commanded in Leviticus 12, spiritually purified mothers after giving birth as they became ceremonially unclean through the birthing process. The second reason they went to the temple was to present Jesus to the Lord. In Exodus 13, God commanded all firstborn males be consecrated into the Lord’s service. If a family was not going to pledge their child’s life into service for the Lord, they could redeem him with an additional sacrificial offering. (Read Leviticus 13 and Numbers 3:46-47 for more on this Old Testament command.)
Our sermon text carefully notes that Joseph and Mary only brought to the temple the sacrifice for Mary’s purification. They didn’t redeem Jesus. They were at the temple with Jesus to present Him before the Lord, to dedicate His life in service to the Lord. They knew exactly who Jesus was. They knew He was the miracle Child of a miracle birth come to bring the miracle of forgiveness to the world! Joseph and Mary didn’t come to the temple to redeem Jesus. Jesus came to redeem them and us all!
How special they must have felt to carry the Christ Child into His Father’s house—the temple—and to present Him for His life’s purpose and mission! And no one knew. Joseph and Mary must have marveled at how oblivious everyone was to the fact that God was in the flesh right next to them. How many people turned a disgusted eye at the young, poor couple and right there in her arms was the Savior? How many people pushed and shoved their way around this young couple trying to get a better spot in line for the sacrifices only to cut off their Redeemer? How many temple merchants tried to price gauge Joseph as he purchased the two pigeons for Mary’s sacrifice and all the while they were being dirty cheats to Jesus? No one knew! No one had a clue that the fulfiller of the Old Testament, the fulfiller of all righteousness was passing right by them. No one knew.
Well, one did. Simeon. Luke described Simeon as “righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Simeon was old. He was waiting to die and go to the heaven he longed to live in forever. But the good Lord revealed to him—before he departed this earth—he would see with his own eyes the One who would redeem the earth.
Led by the Spirit, Simeon entered the temple courts with the purpose of meeting his Savior face to face. Pockets of people were everywhere. How would he find the Christ? But Simeon was drawn to the most unlikely source of salvation—a baby, born to a poor family, born to an unwed mother. Simeon didn’t care about those externals. Simeon cared about Christ. With as much speed as his creaking, cracking old body could muster; Simeon shuffled his way directly to Jesus. He scooped the newborn baby out of Mary’s arms and shouted his famous words of praise! “Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You now dismiss Your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel.”
Now, if you are Mary, doesn’t this freak you out…at least just a little? Everyone is oblivious to what it is going on. And then suddenly, an old dude—whom she probably never met—baby snatches Jesus right out of her arms. Joseph was probably ready to deck him in the jaw. Mary was probably ready to pounce on him like a growling grizzly bear protecting her cubs. But then they saw tears in his eyes, heard joy in his voice and listened to the words of his mouth. He knew. Simeon knew Jesus was the Savior.
This is the second proclamation of the Savior’s birth. And this was the second time God announced the humble birth of the humble Savior in a humble way. The first was the announcement by the angels to the lowly shepherds. And the world at that time had no idea what had happened. Now the announcement came to an old man, Simeon, and an old woman, Anna. Both of them in the twilight of their lives. Again, the world at that time, even the people in the temple around them, had no idea what had happened.
But the devil knew. The devil took notice. The devil heard these announcements that God took on human flesh to save the world from his damning grip. The devil took notice that Christ had come to destroy his ultimate power of death and hell. The world knew nothing of Jesus’ birth but the devil knew he was in trouble.
I’m certain the devil immediately gathered together his leadership team of the most famously foul, the most dastardly demonic, the most vehemently vile, the most cunningly crafty group of cohorts he could find and they plotted and planned to stop Jesus from taking away their precious power. They sneered, “Let’s use evil King Herod to kill Him!” And the devil thought it was a good idea. But before Herod’s men arrive, God sent an angel warning Joseph to flee to Egypt. The devil didn’t know it but his failed attack actually helped fulfill the prophecy of Hosea 11:1, “Out of Egypt I will call My Son.” “Think harder!” The devil growled. “We have to stop Him!” “We could have His parents forget Him in Jerusalem. Surely, He would get scared and sin.” But Jesus stayed in the temple with His Father in heaven. “Come on! You must do better.” The devil barked. “We have to stop Him!” “We could send you, O master, O devil, to tempt Him when He is weak since the Bible says He has to be tempted like every human being!” “Brilliant!” The devil cheered! “I will tempt Him three times.” But the devil failed. “Come on! You must do better. Jesus was prepared and He thwarted my every attack with God’s Word.” “We could send His own brothers to denounce Him and have His hometown family and friends turn on Him to kill Him.” But Jesus simply walked through the angry crowd. “We could have Judas betray Him and use Pilate to kill Him.” “Ah, now that’s a good plan!” And devil went to his work. He stirred greed into Judas, hatred into the Pharisees, fear into Pilate, and rage into the crowd who shouted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” And it worked. The devil killed Jesus. God Himself died on the cross. As Christ was dying, there was the party of parties in hell! “Well done, boys!” The devil smirked in satisfaction. “We got Him! We stopped Him!”
But after Jesus died, the earth shook. The curtain in the temple tore in two. The party in hell stopped. “What was that?” They cried. Trying to save moral, the devil answered. “I’m sure it was nothing.” But it was everything. The devil didn’t know it—oh, he realized it three days later when Christ rose from the dead—but the devil had orchestrated his own defeat. When he killed Jesus, he killed his own power! Jesus’ death paid for the sins of the world and Jesus’ resurrection destroyed the power of death forever!
After the resurrection on Easter Sunday, as the disciples cheered Jesus in the upper room, the demons in hell jeered their loss. They were defeated, dejected and demoralized. Then the devil stood tall among them. Glared at them with his piercing evil eyes and yelled. “You fools! You wimps! You cowards! Yes, God defeated us again. Yes, walked right into God’s trap when we killed Jesus…that was His plan all along to die for the sins of the people. Pick up your heads! We’re not done yet! Don’t you remember the prophecy that Simeon spoke when Jesus was presented in the temple? Simeon said, ‘This Child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” Stop whining and be winners! Jesus will cause the falling and rising of many. Jesus’ forgiveness only counts in someone’s life if they have faith. We aren’t done yet, men! Fight! Fight to destroy faith! Fight to get people mad at God! Fight to cause people to turn their backs on Jesus! Fight to take away people’s trust in Christ! When they turn from God, they’ll turn towards hell!”
Friends, the devil is after you. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Misery loves company”? The devil is miserable in hell and he wants your company. The only way the devil can still win is if you concede your heart to him. That’s what happened to Judas Iscariot. He was on the winning team! He was walking—quite literally—with Jesus every day. But when times got tough, he looked for the easy way out. Judas sold his heart and soul to the devil for thirty pieces of silver.
The devil is looking for your weakness. The devil is looking for the way he can get you to sell your heart, your soul, and abandon God’s winning team. Do not be ignorant the devil’s attacks. Do not let your guard down against his lies and his schemes to destroy your soul. He will never stop, never relent, never quit tempting you. Be ready. Be on your guard.
Do you know how to defeat the devil at his own game? Soon it will be Super Bowl LV (55). This means there have been 49 super bowls played. Do you know who won each of them? The team that marched the ball down the field more often and scored. It’s just that simple! They won by getting themselves into their own end zone more often.
How do you defeat the devil? By being on God’s team! You march yourself more often than you are right now to church, to your team’s end zone. You win by following God’s playbook (the Bible) and you win because you’ve got a superstar teammate who has already destroyed the enemy. You win because of Christ. Rather than receiving a gaudy super bowl ring, you will be given the crown of life in heaven where you will do a victory dance of celebration with Simeon and Anna and Mary and Joseph and all believers for all of eternity! Thanks be to God for giving us the eternal victory over the devil! Amen.