Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.
Luke 2:29-32 ESV
After being visited by the shepherds, Luke goes on to tell us that Joseph and Mary had Jesus circumcised after eight days and officially named Him. The Evangelist then takes us thirty-three days forward as Jesus was taken to the temple in Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord, as was required for all firstborn males. While in the temple, the fourth nativity song of Luke’s Gospel (the Nunc dimittis) is sung. Here is how Luke introduces it:
Now there was a certain man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting 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 do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said…vv. 25-28
The entirety of Simeon’s life was spent waiting, praying, and hoping for Israel’s consolation, for the Christ who would restore the kingdom of Israel and reverse sin’s curse upon the world. Yet unlike many who similarly waited before him, Simeon was given by God the unique promise that his eyes would see the Christ before he died. As the forty-day-old Jesus was brought into the temple, that word of God was fulfilled. Through the guidance of the Spirit, Simeon knew exactly who Jesus was. Taking Jesus into his arms, Simeon not only saw but held God’s salvation for all the world in his hands.
It should not surprise us, then, that this aged and faithful servant of God was ready to die in peace. The apostle essentially told the Philippians the same thing whenever he wrote, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (1:21). Beholding Jesus is the highest grace found within this life, for it is a glimpse of the life to come. After all, Jesus Himself taught us through His prayer to the Father: “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Eternal life is knowing our triune Creator through Jesus Christ. Simeon looked upon and held eternal life in his hands, Salvation Himself.
Though he would die in peace, he also rejoiced in what Jesus would accomplish for future generations. Unlike Hezekiah, who did not lament God’s promise of exile because it would befall future generations, Simeon knew that he would likely die long before Jesus ever reached adulthood and fulfilled His role as the Christ. Nevertheless, Simeon rejoiced for the glory that Jesus would be to Israel and for the light that He would be to the Gentiles. In other words, though Israel was the least among Rome’s dominated territories, Simeon believed that Jesus would be God’s promised salvation for all the nations, not the Jews alone.
May we, like Simeon, hunger and thirst to behold Christ through His Word, and may we pray to the Lord of the harvest to hasten the day when all nations, tribes, and tongues will know the light and glory of Jesus Christ.