Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord: A Devotional Commentary

Luke 2:22-32 And when the days of their purification according to the Torah of Moses had been fulfilled, they brought Him up to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord, as it stands written in the Torah of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb will be called holy to the Lord,” and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Torah of the Lord, “A yoke of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” And look, there was a man in Jerusalem by the name of Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him; and it was 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 as the parents were bringing in the child Jesus in order to do concerning Him according to the custom of the Torah, also he received Him in his arms and blessed God and said, "Now, set free Your slave, Master, according to what You said in peace, because my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light for revelation to the gentiles, and glory for Your people Israel."

In the Old Testament, God's glory dwelt in the temple. Just before the first temple was destroyed, Ezekiel saw God's glory leave the temple. The temple was rebuilt but all who had seen the first temple were filled with a combination of both joy and sadness. They knew that the glory of the second temple did not match the glory of the first temple. But God promised to one day fill the temple with an even greater glory than the first temple. In an unexpected way, the infant Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise. According to Jesus own words in the Gospel of John chapter 2, Jesus is the temple.

Thirty-three days after His circumcision, the Lord Jesus comes to fulfill the Torah for us and is brought into His true home. Jesus' parents offer a sacrifice of two turtledoves or two pigeons--the sacrifice mandated by the Torah for those who could not afford a lamb to sacrifice. This shows us the humble estate that our savior was born into. God's earthly family could not even afford a lamb. More importantly, it also shows us that no lamb was necessary because Jesus is the Lamb.

In walks Simeon. Simeon is filled with the Holy Spirit and led by the Holy Spirit to the temple. The Holy Spirit reveals to Simeon that this baby in front of him is the promised Messiah. Without the Holy Spirit there is no way that Simeon could have known this. Anyone else walking into the temple would have just assumed that Jesus was some random baby of little importance. Simeon had received a promise from God that he would not die until he saw the Messiah. Simeon had been waiting, expecting, and longing for the consolation of Israel. He was yearning for the inauguration of the Messianic age and the Messiah was right in front of him.

Simeon takes the Christ-child in his arms and blesses God. Then he sings a song directly to the child. He says, "Now set free Your slave, Master, according to what You said." He knows that this baby in his arms is God. He knows that the promise that He would not die until He saw the Messiah was given to Him by this baby. He calls this baby Master and says, "Set free Your slave." Simeon is a slave of Christ. Jesus is Simeon's Master. Simeon says that he is ready to die now. Simeon says, "Set me free." Simeon is ready to die in peace. Simeon is ready to die in peace because unlike almost everyone else, his eyes had been opened to see his salvation. His salvation is not an abstract theological concept. He is holding his salvation in his hands. His salvation is Jesus. Jesus is the light. Jesus is the light that is more glorious than the glory that filled the temple. Jesus is not only the light to the Jews but the Gentiles as well. Jesus is the light for all people.

We are adults who nurse at the breast of the church and receive God's Word and Sacraments but we are constantly breaking God's law. Jesus kept God's law for us when He was forty days old and nursing at the breast of His mother. Just like Simeon, we take Jesus in our hands. We take Jesus in our hands when we are given His body in communion. We take His blood upon our lips--the same blood that was shed at His circumcision for us, the same blood that He shed on the cross for us. Just like Simeon, the Holy Spirit works faith in us to believe that this is Jesus that we receive. We receive Jesus in the Gospel preached. The Holy Spirit gives us faith to believe that these are the Words of eternal life.

But too often, we only take Jesus when He is convenient for us. We don't want to hear the words of Christ when they condemn us for our sins--we don't really want to give up those sins and so we close our eyes and our ears and throw Jesus away as far as we can. But Jesus shed His blood for these sins too. So after we take Jesus in our hands and on our lips and receive Him in our ears, we too can die in peace. Because we have heard, seen, felt, touched, and tasted salvation. We have heard, seen, felt, touched, and tasted Jesus. As Psalm 34:8 says, "O taste and see that the Lord is delicious!"


Friar Tuck said...

The last paragraph is elegant. Thanks. So tell me, how did you get to review books for Paraclete and Fortress?

I found your blog by linking from booksneeze.

Chuck Wiese said...

I emailed Paraclete Press because I was interested in one of their products in particular and explained my blog and posted a link to it. Augsburg/Fortress has a form at their site that you fill out.