SALVATION FOR ALL
Week of December 31,
Bible Passages:† Luke 2:25-38.
Biblical Truth: Godís gift of salvation is available to all
Salvation: Luke 2:25-32.
And there was a man in Jerusalem
whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the
consolation of Israel;
and the Holy Spirit was upon him. † And it had been revealed to him by the
Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
† And he came in the Spirit into the
temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him
the custom of the Law, † then he took
Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,  "Now Lord, You are
releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,†
According to Your word; † For
my eyes have seen Your salvation, †
Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,  A LIGHT OF
REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Your people Israel."† [NASU]
is presented as a simple man, a layman, not a priest, who dwells in Jerusalem. Simeon was a
common name meaning ďGod has heard.Ē What is revealed about Simeon is neither
his vocation nor his age, but his spiritual condition. He was a devout believer
in God. The description of Simeon as righteous and devout points out his devotion to God. The
term devout refers to the
spiritually sensitive God-fearer, the faithful law-abider. Clearly Simeon is
seen in a favorable light. Simeon lives in the hope that Godís promise will
come to pass; he is awaiting the consolation of Israel. Israelís consolation was a key
element in many strands of Old Testament and Jewish eschatology, referring to
the hope of deliverance for the nation [Isa. 40:1; 49:13; 51:3; 57:18; 61:2].
Later, the rabbis would refer to Messiah as Comforter because they saw him as
the one who would bring this consolation. In the Old Testament, various agents
brought Godís consolation, but a primary agent in eschatological contexts was
the Servant of God. Interestingly, while Luke associated consolation with
Messiah, John will associate it with the Spirit [John 14-16]. Simeon was not
only pious and expectant, he was blessed, having
received a special work of the Holy Spirit. This last note prepares the reader
for the revelation that Simeon receives in 2:26 as well as for his prophetic
statements in 2:29-32, 34-35.
prophecy is described further as Godís promise to Simeon by the Holy Spirit. The association between Godís Spirit and
prophecy is strong, as Judaism looked to an active Spirit in the new age
accompanying Godís act of deliverance. In this case, Simeon received a promise
that God would not let him die without seeing Messiah. The remark ties together
the messianic idea [2:26] with the idea of Israelís consolation [2:25]. Only
when this is fulfilled is the prophet ready to die [2:29-30].
prophecyís specific setting involves Simeon going to the temple by the divine
leading of the Spirit. In the Spirit
indicates that Simeon was directed to the temple on that particular day by God.
In the context of this event, Simeon is located either in the Court of the
Gentiles or in the Court of Women, since Mary could be present only at these
two locales. The parents were proceeding into the temple to dedicate the firstborn
according to the law, when Simeon stopped them. This fulfilling of the law
serves once again to point out the pious obedience of Jesusí parents. But the
basic idea of the verse centers not on the parents but on a revelation about
Messiah that is given in the temple. While Jesus is brought to God for
dedication, God testifies to Jesus the Messiah through the prophet. For
pietistic Jews, there could hardly be a more solemn locale for the testimony.
Simeon takes the child and expresses his gratitude to
God for sharing in this special moment. What follows is a hymn of prophetic
praise to God for the joy of seeing the Messiah in fulfillment of Godís word.
Simeonís reception of Jesus is intended to picture the arrival of messianic
hope for Israel.
The third hymn of the infancy section is known as the Nunc
Dimittis, a name that comes from the hymnís
opening phrase in the Latin version. The hymn is composed of three pairs of
lines [29a-b, 30-31, 32a-b]. In the narrative the hymn
completes a promise-fulfillment-praise chain, where the promise of seeing
Messiah is made in 2:26, while the fulfillment comes in holding the child in
2:28. The hymn is a joyful response of praise for the fulfillment of Godís
promise, a pattern that is related to the function of each of the hymns in Luke
1-2. Thus, the hymn says that God acts according
to Your word. Here Godís word is the promise that
death would not come until Messiah was seen. Simeon declares that he can now
rest, because in seeing Jesus he has seen Godís salvation. Simeon is like the
watcher who can leave an assigned post because the anticipated event has come.
The reference to God releasing Your bond-servant in the present tense serves to express
the readiness of Simeon to die now that he has received the promise. When
Simeon describes himself as a bond-servant,
he uses common Old Testament imagery for a faithful and righteous servant. The
reference to God as Lord points to a
recognition of Godís sovereignty. Depart
in peace refers to the comfort of knowing that Godís work comes to
fulfillment. Simeonís life can come to an end with him at peace in this
knowledge. God again has brought His word to pass, a source of encouragement
and assurance not only to Simeon but also to Lukeís readers.
interesting feature of this verse is that seeing Godís salvation is linked
directly to seeing Jesus, so that a strong tie exists between salvation and the
one who personifies it. This connection in turn relates to the idea of Israelís
consolation in 2:25. Fulfillment has come in Jesus, and so Simeon can die in
peace. The idea that the person of Jesus is at the center of soteriology is a
keystone of Lukeís Christology. It is clear that for Luke salvation comes and
God comes because Jesus the Messiah has come. The idea of one seeing Godís
salvation has Old Testament echoes [Isa. 52:10; Psalm 98:2; Luke 3:6]. The
association of joy with seeing Godís salvation appears again in Luke 10:23-24.
The mood of joy in this text dominates the rest of the passage.
turns to describe the divinely promised salvation. Which refers back to the salvation
mentioned in 2:30. It is a salvation that God prepares. You have prepared points to Godís
design of salvation in history, a design that included a deliverer coming
The idea of the preparation of salvation is unique, and in the light of what
follows, this must mean the providential preparation of salvation through Israelís
history, according to prophecy and promise, until the time of fulfillment which
is now recognized. This salvation should not catch people by surprise, since it
was expected. The salvation was not only designed, it was prepared before a
vast throng. God intends to extend to all the salvation that comes in Jesus.
describes the salvation in further detail. Light suggests the coming of
illumination into a place of darkness. It is a frequent New Testament image of
Jesus and His task. Light as illumination means this light is revelation for
the Gentiles. Godís revelation dwells in a person, an idea that implies some of
what John says explicitly when he calls Jesus the Word. Jesus as light brings
salvation to all humankind, illuminating them into Godís way. If Jesus is
revelation for the Gentiles, He is more than that for Israel. He is its glory. As Isaiah
60:1-3 shows, the nationís hope was that, with the coming of salvific light to Israel, the attention of all people would be
drawn to Israel.
At the heart of what makes the nation special is that salvation comes through
it. Simeon is a picture of redemptionís joy in that he senses the significance
of who Jesus is and rests in that knowledge. The hymn as a whole repeats basic
themes of all the hymns in the infancy narrative. God is acting for His people Israel.
He is saving them according to His plan and promise. That salvation is found in
Jesus. But Simeonís hymn adds to these themes. Jesus is now directly associated
for the first time with the ďServantĒ hope of Isaiah 40-66. However, it is not
the suffering elements of this figure that are brought to the fore, as in other
New Testament uses of this theme; rather it is the note of victory, vindication,
Grasp the Impact
of Godís Salvation: Luke 2:33-35.
And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were
being said about Him. † And Simeon
blessed them and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is appointed
for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed ó† †
and a sword will pierce even your own soul ó to the end that thoughts from
many hearts may be revealed."†
records the parentsí response to Simeonís words. The description of Jesusí
universal task produces amazement. The wonder may be explained by two factors.
First, the note of universality was a new point to make about Jesusí ministry.
Second, the parentsí response was natural since revelation about Jesus just
gives a blessing to the parents and then gives a special word to Mary. It is
not entirely encouraging. His topic is Jesus, division, and Israel. Jesusí ministry is
summarized in two images. He is the One who is set for the falling and rising
of many in Israel,
and He is a sign. The first image is drawn from passages in Isaiah, where God
is portrayed as setting up a stone of stumbling over which some fall [Isa.
8:14-15], a precious cornerstone that will not disappoint those who trust in it
[Isa. 28:13-16]. The fall and rise of
many appears to refer to two groups: those who reject Jesus headed for a
fall, while those who accept Him in faith are headed for vindication. The
qualification in Israel shows the nationalistic
and Jewish perspective of the account. Jesus will divide the nation. The
emphasis on opposition continues in the reference that Jesus will be a sign of
contesting. Humans will resist Jesus. For them, Jesus will not be a hope of
promise fulfilled, but a figure who is to be opposed.
The sign is characterized best as one of contention, not only rejection,
because the point of the context is division. The incident in 4:28-29
illustrates this situation. Simeon knows that although Jesus is Godís hope, not
everyone will respond positively to Him. The raising of this aspect of Jesusí
fate is Lukeís first indication that all will not go smoothly for Godís
 Simeon turns
from the effect of Jesus on the nation to the effect that Jesus will have on
Mary. It is best to take the remark about the sword in 35a as being a
parenthetical statement meant only for Mary. Simeon tells Mary that the child
shall cause a sword to pass through her own soul, a figure that is made more
graphic because the term chosen for sword designates a very large, broad,
two-edged sword. The figure points to Jesus bringing extreme emotional pain to
His mother. After this brief personal remark, Simeon returns to the broad
picture. By taking 35a as parenthetical, the saying in 35b is then seen as
being connected to the falling and rising of verse 34 and not to the sword in
35a. The purpose of Jesus having a ministry that divides is so that the thoughts
of the hearts might be made manifest. Jesusí ministry shows where hearts really
are before God. Jesus will expose those who do not believe. He is a litmus test
for the individual Jewish responses to the fulfillment of their promise. Do
they believe it or not? The reference to the heart points to the deepest seat
of thought. The revealing of these thoughts alludes to judicial exposure by
Jesus. How humans respond to Godís promise is made evident by how they respond
to Jesus, whose presence reveals their true colors. Simeon focuses on the
exposure of those who will not respond to God, as the mention of hostile
thoughts makes clear. Jesus comes; humans choose. Some oppose Him and fall.
Luke is honest about the tension and Godís response. When Simeonís prophecy is
viewed as a whole, one sees a prophet at peace because he knows that Godís
salvation has come. Salvationís light has come in Messiah; Simeon rejoices. But
the picture is not entirely rosy. For the Promised One
is variously perceived, and many in Israel will reject Him. In the path
the child takes, His mother will feel pain; but His ministry will expose who is
hostile to God. The messianic Son will be a light to the world, but His shining
will bring division as He shines forth. Many will be raised to the Light, but
tragically others will fall in judgment, having missed the promise.
Show Gratitude for
Godís Salvation: Luke 2:36-38.
And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years
and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, † and then as a widow
to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day
with fastings and prayers. † At that
very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak
of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.† [NASU]
Luke turns to the testimony of a pious woman. Anna is the Greek spelling for a
Semitic name that means ďgrace,Ē but Luke makes nothing of her name. What he
does tell us is that she is a prophetess. Anna is a vessel for revelation from
God. Anna was very old and a widow. Annaís daily activity reflects piety. She
is at the temple daily, fasting and offering prayers all day. Annaís activity
pictures a person totally focused on serving God. In Luke 2, all types of
people testify to Jesus: the simple folk of the field, the devout men of the
city, and pious women of the city.
Simeon who addresses the childís parents, Anna approaches the parents and then
turns to offer thanksgiving to God. Along with her praise, Anna addressed the
crowd concerning Israelís
redemption. Redemption of Jerusalem
refers to the redemption of Israel,
since the capital stands for the nation. Equivalent to the phrase consolation of Israel [2:25], it has Old
Testament background in that it refers to Godís decisive salvific act for His
people [Isa. 40:9; 52:9; 63:4]. The focus is on the Redeemer and the time He
brings. Simeon and Anna show that before Messiah came, Godís people lived an
unfulfilled life. In addition, they reflect the twofold testimony to the truth
of an event. Jesus fulfills the expectations of pious saints and prophets.
Annaís message hints at a remnant concept, since she addresses her remarks only
to those who await the consummation of Godís plan. For those ready to hear,
fulfillment has come.
Questions for Discussion:
1.††††† Luke is the
only Gospel writer who tells us about Simeon and Anna. Why do you think Luke
considered these two events as important enough to be included in his Gospel
account? What new things does Luke tell us about Jesus through Simeon and Anna?
2.††††† ďLookingĒ ties
these two accounts together. Simeon was looking
for the consolation of Israel
and Anna spoke to all those who were
looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
What does it mean to ďlookĒ for something? Why would Luke connect consolation and redemption [see Isaiah 52:7-10]? What are you looking for this Christmas season?
Luke, Darrell Bock, Baker Books.
Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, Norval Geldenhuys, Eerdmans.
Gospel According to Luke, William
Hendriksen, Baker Books.