Have you ever left a gift unopened that had your name on it? What would cause you to do such a thing? We are considering the reality that this is exactly what happens every time this year with the greatest gift ever given to humankind—the gift of Emmanuel (“God with us”). For many, Jesus is a gift unwrapped; a relationship unexplored.
Rewind to Luke 2:21-25 for a study in contrasts between one who believes and one who does not. At first glance it may appear that Simeon is the priest on duty when the young family arrives to present Jesus in the redemption of the first-born ceremony. But Simeon is not a priest. Luke identifies him simply as “a man in Jerusalem who was righteous and devout.” He lived in prayerful expectancy of help for Israel. He was an “Adventist in waiting.”
Like Simeon, Adventists in waiting today (regardless of denominational label) have the privilege of looking for “that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13) All is well for Adventists in waiting because “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” Rom. 10:11
But where is the priest in the story? He is not mentioned. Why? Because in contrast to Simeon who recognized the Gift of God, the priest of God did not. To this worker in the house of God, Mary and Joseph were just another poor couple coming to do their temple duty. There was nothing in their appearance, or that of the baby, that attracted attention.
What made Jesus different? He looked like all the other children. Isa. 53:2 says, “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” What made Jesus different was in who His Father was. He was the anointed of God. Little did that priest think, that the babe in his arms, was the Majesty of heaven, the King of glory.
The priest was holding his own Heavenly High Priest to which every ritual and ceremony he performed pointed. But he didn’t see it. And there are people who hold the Bible in their hands and quote from it, yet don’t recognize the Jesus in it.
This, then is the main point of the message: You will never believe what you don’t want to believe, regardless of the evidence. Rewind to John 7:1-5, 16-18.
Despite seeing and knowing of Jesus’ miracles, his own brothers did not believe in Him. Clearly, you won’t believe what you don’t want to believe—even with all the evidence in the world. If you choose to believe a lie, no amount of truth will change your mind.
Belief does not consist purely of evidence, as Paul points out in Romans 1:19-20: “What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
So what is the key to belief? Look closely at John 7:16, 18. All is well for those who choose to do God’s will. Choosing to do God’s will over your own is the key to finding and knowing the truth. When you refuse to do the will of God, you will ultimately “exchange the truth of God for a lie.” See Rom 1:25. The Jewish leaders didn’t want to believe Jesus was the Messiah and they ended up vowing allegiance to Caesar and choosing Barabbas as their Messiah.
But God had witnesses that day at the temple. Though the priest left the Gift unwrapped, Simeon saw the glory in that bundle and received His heart’s desire. Rewind to Luke 2:26-32. What made the difference between what the priest saw and what Simeon saw? One was performing a ceremony; one was pursing the Christ. One held an office; the other was held and led by the Holy Spirit; One saw what so many today see—nothing special; nothing out of the ordinary; the other saw the salvation of all humankind
The Gift of God proves that “He will spare nothing, however dear, which is necessary to the completion of His work. No truth essential to our salvation is withheld, no miracle of mercy is neglected, no divine agency is left unemployed. Favor is heaped upon favor, gift upon gift. The whole treasury of heaven is open to those He seeks to save. Having collected the riches of the universe, and laid open the resources of infinite power, He gives them all into the hands of Christ, and says, All these are for man. Use these gifts to convince him that there is no love greater than Mine in earth or heaven. His greatest happiness will be found in loving Me. (Desire of Ages, p. 57)
You and I have received an unimaginable gift. Isn’t it time to unwrap it? As you do, you’ll discover the truth that Simeon and every Adventist since him to the present day knows: All is well for those who believe.
Pastor Randy Maxwell