The Blessing of Christ’s First Incarnation

This morning I was glancing at a TV show about a zoo as I prepared my coffee, fed the dog, and ate my cereal. I’m not usually interested in reptiles, but one clip caught my attention—a shot of a infant snake emerging from its egg. Given my general disinterest in snakes—unless they are near me—I never thought about how snakes mate and have babies. They are hatched in eggs, what a revelation to me. There are some things in life that we neglect or take for granted. The same thing can happen when we read the “Christmas” passages from Scripture, particularity Luke 1-2 every year, being unaffected much by the revelation of Christ’s incarnation as an infant. I’m glad our pastors chose John 1 for our consideration this year, to help us meditate more actively on the wonder of Christ’s coming in the flesh. But there is one passage in Luke 2 that draws me back every year—the account of Simeon and Anna at the temple when Jesus was brought for his circumcision, at the age of eight days. Perhaps these two individuals have captured my attention because I am of Jewish descent. Simeon and Anna were God-fearing Jewish believers who rejoiced in Christ’s incarnation while he was still yet an infant, with amazing faith. I pray that we will also rejoice in Christ’s first coming in the flesh. They praised God with relief that they were finally witnessing the promised salvation of Jews and Gentiles now. We look back on Christ’s perfect life as the God-Man who was willing to humble himself for the salvation of believers, past, present, and future, coming as an infant from his heavenly abode. Shall we not wonder in awe and joy, praising him?

Simeon’s Faith and Relief

“Now there was a 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, ‘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 2:25-32) “That same Spirit that had revealed unto [Simeon] that he should not die till he saw the Messiah with his bodily eyes…made known unto him that that child which Joseph and Mary then brought into the temple to present to the Lord, was the Messiah; wherefore, in a rapture of joy, he took him out of their arms into his own, embracing him with all affection and respect imaginable…and blessed God; praised him, and gave glory to him, for his great goodness, in sending the promised Messiah, and long wished for Saviour; for his grace and favour, in indulging him with a sight of him; and for his truth and faithfulness in making good his promise to him…[And] what he requests of the Lord is that he might depart in peace; signifying his hearty desire to die, and with what cheerfulness he should meet death, having obtained all that he could wish for and desire, in seeing and embracing the Saviour…but now being come, he could take his leave of the world, and his entrance into eternity, with the greatest calmness and tranquillity of mind, having nothing to disturb him, nor more to desire…For mine eyes have seen thy salvation…a sight which many kings and prophets had desired, but were not favoured with; and also with the eyes of his understanding, with the spiritual eye of faith, as his Saviour and Redeemer…fills the soul with love to Christ, and a high esteem of him, and with joy unspeakable, and full of glory; it transforms a soul, and makes it like to Christ; gives it inexpressible pleasure and satisfaction…as the Creator of mankind, he is that light which lightens every man with the light of nature and reason; and as the Messiah, he is come a light into the world: the light of the Gospel, in the clear shine of it, is from him…he is also of the light of glory and happiness, in the world to come.” (1) “As Simeon saw the Christ-child, he burst into song under the influence of the Holy Spirit, singing one of the earliest of all Christian hymns: Do you see what is behind the song? ‘O Lord, I don’t have to watch this child grow up, I don’t have to watch him talk with the doctors in the temple as a lad of twelve years old; I don’t have to watch him multiply the fishes and the loaves to feed five thousand people to be convinced. I don’t have to watch him walk on the water or turn the water into wine. I don’t have to be on the Mount of Transfiguration. I don’t have to be an eye-witness of the resurrection, or his ascension into heaven. I have seen all I need to see. Now, let me die in peace.’ One glimpse of the Christ-child, and Simeon was ready to go home to God.” (2) This God-fearing Jewish believer rejoiced in Christ’s incarnation while he was still yet an infant, with faith and relief that he was witnessing the salvation of Jews and Gentiles. Let’s join him in wonder with adoration this Christmas.

Rejoicing in God’s Authority and timing

“There’s another little detail in this song that is unusual. In the opening line, the word for ‘Lord’ is not the one usually used in the New Testament (kyrios). Instead it is a very unusual word, one used only infrequently for God: despoteis. This is the word from which we get the English word despot. It means one who has absolute power over someone. The word has a very negative connotation to us in the English language: a despot is one who rules by brute force and who exercises tyranny over people. That’s not the point here in the New Testament. God is seen as having absolute authority over his servant, Simeon, and Simeon addresses God as his despoteis, indicating his total allegiance and total submission to the authority of God.” (3) Anna also enjoyed God’s timing and sovereign plan as she came into the temple “at that very hour,” into the area where Mary and Joseph presented Jesus. She had lived to an old age, at least eighty-four years, if not longer. “And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:36-38) “Just as Simeon was embracing him in his arms, and blessing God for him, and saying the things concerning him he had done; and who also came at that juncture, as he did, under the impulse, and by the direction of the Spirit of God; gave thanks likewise unto the Lord: praised him, as he had done, that he had sent the promised, and long looked for Messiah and Saviour; and that she had lived to see his blessed face, and this happy day; and that she should be directed to come in at this instant, and be favoured with this singular mercy of seeing the new born Saviour, and his honoured parents.” (4)

Two God-fearing Jewish believers rejoiced in Christ’s incarnation while he was still yet an infant, with faith and relief that they were witnessing the salvation of Jews and Gentiles. If they believed at the sight of the eight-day-old Christ child, how can we doubt him after his 33 years of sin-free, miracle-working living? How can we not wonder at his authoritative teaching and timing? Snakes emerging from eggs is an act of nature; Christ becoming flesh to live and die for our salvation is a supernatural act of God. “In [Christ] there is what is always matter and ground of consolation…being the mighty God, and so able to save to the uttermost; in his blood, which speaks peace and pardon, and cleanses from all sin; in his righteousness, which is pure and perfect, and justifies from all iniquity; in his sacrifice, which expiates all the transgressions of his people; in his fulness, which is sufficient to supply all their wants; and in his power, by which he is able to keep them from falling, and to present them faultless before God.” (5) “Let the example of the venerable saints, Simeon and Anna, give courage to those whose hoary heads are, like theirs, a crown of glory, being found in the way of righteousness. The lips soon to be silent in the grave, should be showing forth the praises of the Redeemer.” (6) “Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.” (Isaiah 49:13)

Related Scripture: Genesis 49:18; Psalm 98:2-4; Isaiah 25:9; 42:6; 49:6; 57:8; 60:3; 61:1-4; Matthew 21:44; Mark 15:43; Luke 1:5-6, 68, 78-79; 3:5-6; 19:9-10; 23:50-51; 24:45-47; John 1:4-5; 8:12; 9:39; Acts 13:47; 2 Corinthians 2:16; 1 Timothy 5:4-5; 1 Peter 2:8-9.

Notes:

1. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Luke 2:25-32, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/luke-2.html

2. Sproul, R. C., A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke’s Gospel, Luke 2:29-35, Electronic Book, 2016.

3. Sproul, Ibid.

4. Gill, Ibid, Luke 2:36-38.

5. Gill, Ibid, Luke 2:25-35.

6. Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Luke 2:36-40, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mhn/luke-2.html

December 15, 2022

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