29 December 2010

Luke 2:22-35

"For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelatino to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." (vv. 30-32)


This is Luke's account of the purification of Mary and presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple. Luke is concerned to show that Jesus is brought up according to the laws of Judaism, which would require sacrifices to ensure both Mary's purification after childbirth (Leviticus 12) and the redemption of a firstborn son (Exodus 13:11-16). 

But at the Temple they meet a "righteous and devout" man Simeon (verse 25) who is longing for the "consolation of Israel", that is the promise of the messianic age to come. "Guided by the Spirit" (verse 27) Simeon takes the infant Jesus in his arms and offers the much-loved benediction which Christians now know as the Nunc Dimittis. (This title is taken from the Latin translation of its opening line, "Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace" (verse 29).) 

Simeon's long wait is fulfilled in Jesus, but his hopes are not restricted to the Jewish nation alone. His words echo the prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 40:542:649:652:10), as he speaks of how Jesus' coming is "a light for revelation to the Gentiles [non Jews] and for glory to your people Israel". 

However, Simeon's words also contain a warning, particularly for his mother Mary. Not everyone will accept Jesus. "This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel" (verse 34) and "a sword will pierce your own soul too" (verse 35), a pointer perhaps to Mary's future experience of desolation by the Cross. 

To Ponder

Simeon has been longing and waiting for the consolation of Israel. What role do we allow for 'waiting on God' in our faith?

Simeon's hope is not for Israel alone but for all nations. How far do our hopes and aspirations include others?

Simeon's word to Mary includes both comfort and challenge. How far is that also true of God's word to us?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Stephen Wigley

Stephen Wigley is a Methodist minister currently serving as chair of the Wales Synod. He is married to Jenny, a priest in the Church in Wales, and they have two teenage sons, David and Andrew.