Gospel: Luke 2:25-40
Epistle: Colossians 3:12-17
Lesson: Isaiah 45:22-25
Psalm: Psalm 111
CLB Pastors Network – Dr. Richard Erickson
The well-known stories of Simeon and Anna and their reception of the infant Jesus in the temple astonish us when we see them in their context.
In context of the world behind the text, Jerusalem of 6-4 BC, when Jesus was born, people like Simeon and Anna longed for “the consolation of Israel” (v. 25) and “the redemption of Jerusalem” (v. 38). We may think “forgiveness of sins,” as Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, says in the Benedictus (1:77). Likely Zechariah (or Luke) was not thinking of individuals’ personal sins, but of Israel’s national sins, which led to Babylonian exile and to continued exile even now, under Rome. Thus for Zechariah, Simeon and Anna, salvation and consolation entailed rescue from “the hands of our enemies” (1:71, 73) and required the advent of “the Lord’s Messiah” (2:26). Peter agreed (9:18-20).
Luke presents this consolation afresh in the context of the world within the text. This pericope belongs to a two-chapter braiding of the stories of John and Jesus (compare 1:80 and 2:40!). The Magnificat and the Benedictus give Luke’s Spirit- inspired “spin” on the significance of Jesus’ advent. We cannot read 2:25-40 responsibly apart from this context. What Simeon means by “the falling and rising of many in Israel” (2:34) echoes Mary’s anticipations in 1:51-53. It concerns social justice, without which God’s people cannot be a light for revelation to the nations (2:32; 28:19-20). Salvation is God’s putting everything right again, redeeming all of creation. Since Abraham, God’s people (Simeon’s “Israel”) have been God’s elect instrument in bringing it about. But this cannot happen without God’s people being forgiven of their great corporate sin. The Messiah leads the way: he will be a “sign that will be opposed, so that the thoughts of many” will be exposed (vv. 34-35). And it will be painful, piercing Mary’s own soul.
Out here, in the many worlds in front of the text, we know that the Messiah not only leads the way, but accomplishes the task. Yet he brings us along with him in it, filling us with his Glory. How does that Glory, the outworking of his salvation, look in our own communities? How does his presence among us create the kind of People of God Mary envisioned? What does Paul mean in Phil 2:1-13?
Why are we still here?
People’s Bible Commentary – Luke
“‘Simeon had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. When Mary and Joseph come into the courts of the temple, the Spirit directs Simeon to do the same. Seeing the child Jesus, he takes the infant in his arms and praises God…
Simeon is not really making a request of the Lord—he is making a statement of fact: ‘You now dismiss your servant in peace.’ Simeon’s service in the temple as a watchman waiting for the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises is at an end. The watch is over; the servant can retire in peace. With the eyes of faith, Simeon sees more than a babe in arms; he sees a Savior dying on the cross; he sees salvation for all people, both Israelite and Gentile.
Joseph and Mary marveled at the words spoken by Simeon. But the old man is not finished. He shows insight that could come only by special revelation of the Spirit concerning the destiny of this child. Israel would be divided over Jesus—he would cause some to fall and some to rise. For some, Jesus would be a rock of offense over which they would stumble; for others, he would be the living stone of salvation . Mary would herself witness his suffering on the cross; her own soul would be pierced with the sword.”
Prange, V.H., People’s Bible Commentary – Luke. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1992.
Interpretation of Saint Luke’s Gospel
“Simeon is speaking to Mary of what she shall herself witness, hence he says ‘of many in Israel’ and speaks only of her people and of what she shall see many do. But when he adds: ‘for a sign spoken against’ again and again as the present participle indicates, we see that he intends to tell Mary in advance that whereas some shall, indeed, accept her son as the Messiah, the bulk of the nation will only speak against him and completely reject this their Messiah. Simeon calls Jesus a ‘sign,’ for his person and his work shall signify salvation for Israel as, indeed, also for all men (v.32). Israel shall see this ‘sign’ and all it signifies for them but shall raise only objection to it. This is dreadful and inexplicable but a fact nonetheless. Unbelief is the height of irrationality, and no reasonable explanation can be given for an unreasonable act. Men fall solely by their own guilt (Acts 7:51, 52; 28:25- 27); men rise up solely by grace (Eph. 2:4-9).”
Lenski, C.H., Interpretation of Saint Matthew’s Gospel. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1946.