Gordon-Conwell Blog

Advent Devotional Day 15: The Universal Messiah

December 17, 2017

 
2017 Gordon-Conwell Advent Devotional

Day 15 | The Universal Messiah
 

Luke 2:25-32

 

At the time of the birth of Jesus, many Jews were looking for solace. The Roman Empire was quite powerful and imposed an oppressive burden on the Jewish community. Life in the first century was hard for other reasons—lack of clean water, disease, high maternal mortality, and a host of other physical challenges. In this bleak context, we encounter a righteous person anticipating some relief. 

Moved by the Spirit, Simeon was in the right place at the right time. He was a watcher, but he was also a seer. In Rembrandt’s painting Simeon with the Christ Child in the Temple, the seer has his eyes closed. He was waiting, because the Holy Spirit had revealed to him through divine revelation that “he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah,” (v 25-26). As he lifted the Christ child, Simeon understood that what he was witnessing was the universal embrace of a Jewish messiah. Salvation would come not only for the Jews but for the Gentiles as well. In Judaism, this idea later became known as tikkun olam—God repairing the whole world through his people. This concept is now a regular part of the Jewish prayer service. But for Simeon, his encounter with Jesus was powerful enough to mark his passing from this life into the next.

One thing that would be easy to miss from this passage is how we are encouraged to follow Simeon. There is some irony in the fact that Simeon, with his eyes closed, could see farther than we do today with global cable news and the internet. How are we watching today for God’s purposes for the nations? Are we in the right place at the right time by the leading of the Spirit? Commenting on Simeon, Church Father Origen urged fellow believers, “If you wish to hold Jesus, and to embrace him with your hands, and to be made worthy of leaving prison, you too must struggle with every effort to possess the guiding Spirit.” When we encounter people today from other countries, are we quick to dismiss them, or do we embrace them as Simeon did? Let us pray that as followers of the universal Messiah we can discern God’s plan for all nations today.

 


 

 

 

     Dr. Todd M. Johnson
     Director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity;

     Associate Professor of Global Christianity

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