Candlemas (The Purification of St. Mary & the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
February 2, 2014
Central Passage
Luke 2:22-32

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

There are two doctrines of the Scriptures, two teachings: the Law and the Gospel. The art of the Christian and especially of pastors and teachers, is to properly distinguish between the two as St. Paul says, to rightly handle the word of truth. So it is incumbent upon us never to confuse the Law and make it into the Gospel whereby people are saved, or to make the Gospel into the Law whereby people earn salvation by their faith or some other work. To distinguish the Law and the Gospel is the chief, perhaps the only task of preacher.

Moreover, it taught that it is the job of the Law to condemn sinners and the job of the Gospel to comfort them with the sweet news that Jesus died for our sins and was raised for our justification, that by His stripes we are healed.

But like all things, it can be oversimplified. And oversimplification in anything leads to misunderstanding and misappropriation. So, for example, though it is taught rightly that the Law condemns sinners, it would be a misunderstanding of the Law to call it bad or evil. The Law is good. The Law is able to make one wise. In fact, the Law promises life: do this, and you will live. (Luke 10:28) So St. Paul says, “Did that which [promised life] produce death? Of course not!” (Romans 7:7-13) Sin produced death in us. We can’t do the “this” of the Law. We can’t love God or neighbor as we ought, so we cannot keep the Law, which is summed up with these words, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself.” Do this, and you will live. Since we have not done it, cannot do it, we die, for the wages of sin is death.

Sin is transgression of the Law, which is rebellion against God. We know this. But it might be beneficial to point out that the Law itself does not kill. Sin kills. Sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the Law, springs to life and we die. Because of this, I think we sometimes become afraid of the Law. We don’t like what we call “law preaching”. And we shouldn’t if by “law preaching” we mean the preacher tells us we can please God and get in His good graces by what we do. That’s a lie. The Law condemns us because of our sin, not because the Law is by its nature condemnatory. But we shouldn’t not want to hear the Law. It is the word of God; it is the will of God. And it is good.

And it is for us men.

Thanks be to God, then, that the Man, the one Man who is fully human keeps the Law. For by His keeping of the Law, we are freed from the condemnation of the Law. That doesn’t mean we are free from the edicts of the Law, as if murder is no longer murder and slander is no longer slander. Rather, it means that since we are in Christ Jesus who has kept the Law on our behalf, we are counted as righteous. We remain in Christ by faith, believing not simply in God or that Jesus exists, or even that He rose from the dead. Check the gospel according to St. Matthew, the Pharisees knew that Jesus had risen from the dead. Our faith is not merely in historical facts, though they are not excluded from faith, but our faith is that Jesus is our substitute in life and in death. He is our scapegoat so that our transgression and sin, our uncleanliness is given to Him so that His life and righteousness are given to us.

When this infant Child of Mary of presented in the temple before the Lord, He satisfied the Law. Not because He did anything, but because the Law said that the firstborn male shall be called holy to the Lord. Jesus is the firstborn of all creation, St. Paul writes. (Colossians 1:15) And He is holy. Not because He is morally good, but because He has always and only belonged to God.

We have belonged to another. We have belonged to sin and shame. We have belonged to the devil, slaves to sin, the Scriptures say. We are not holy. But Jesus, who is born of woman but begotten of God, is holy. He has always and only belongs to God. The Law has found the Holy One presented in the temple and the Law is satisfied. The Law has found the One who loves God with all His heart, with all His soul, with all His mind, and with all His body, and His neighbor as Himself. And the Law is satisfied. Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness. (Romans 10:4) The Law found the obedient One on the cross and the Law is satisfied.

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because the Law is satisfied. And we who were dead in our trespasses and sins have become alive in Christ Jesus. For we have been united to Him in a death like His, buried with Him through Baptism and raised with Him in the newness of life.

+ In Nomine Iesu +