2 February 2013

Luke 2:22-32

“for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples” (vv. 30-31)


The story of Simeon's encounter with the infant Jesus is found only in Luke's Gospel, and describes how the hopes of a "righteous and devout" Jew (v. 25) were fulfilled in the young Messiah. Following the story, Luke also narrates how Jesus was recognised by the widow and prophet Anna (Luke 2:36-38).

The passage begins by describing Joseph and Mary coming to the temple of Jerusalem at the time of their purification. This rite marked the end of the mother's ceremonial impurity following a child's birth (Leviticus 12), and takes place alongside the presentation of Jesus as the firstborn son (Exodus 13). Joseph and Mary offer a sacrifice, and so fulfil the requirements of the Jewish law.

A righteous Jew named Simeon was also in the temple, and Luke's Gospel explains he was anticipating the "consolation of Israel" (v. 25), God's promised deliverance. The Spirit "rested on him", and - seeing Jesus - Simeon knew that the promise had been fulfilled.

Simeon responds by bursting out in praise, with his 'song' now known as the Nunc Dimittis (Latin for 'now you are dismissing'). Simeon begins with an acknowledgement that he can die "in peace" (v. 29), since he has been privileged to see the Messiah. Jesus is the "salvation" of God, as he will bring the redemption of Israel. Simeon recognises, however, that Jesus is not just the Saviour of Israel, but of "all peoples". Citing Isaiah 52:10, Simenon sees Jesus as a "light for revelation to the Gentiles" (v. 32) - one whose grace will overflow the boundaries of Israel while also blessing it.

Such a theme sits well in Luke's Gospel, which stresses that Jesus brings salvation for the entire world, and especially for those on the margins.

To Ponder

  • Why do you think it is important that Jesus fulfilled the Jewish Law?
  • How does your church reflect that God's salvation is for "all peoples"?

Bible notes author

Ed Mackenzie

Dr Ed Mackenzie is the discipleship development officer for the Methodist Church, a role that involves developing and promoting a range of resources to help Christians grow as followers of Jesus. His previous experience includes working as evangelism, spirituality and discipleship officer at Methodist Church House, lecturing in New Testament Studies at Birmingham Christian College, and working as associate leader of B1, a 'fresh expression' of church in Birmingham.