My eyes have seen your salvation

Published 4:48 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2019

By Charles Qualls

What do you most want to see — or do — before you die? That might not be the kind of thing you walk around thinking about, although I occasionally get the chance to talk with people about that very subject.

The 2008 buddy-comedy film “The Bucket List” explored this notion, and ever since then some people have described hopes or wishes as bucket-list items. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman’s characters meet in a hospital, forced into being roommates. Both of them are terminally ill, but one of them is quite wealthy. The other has begun compiling a bucket list. You know, the things he wants to do before he kicks the bucket as the saying goes.

Off they go, on this raucous adventure, financed by the wealthier of the two. They set out to see how much they can accomplish among their unfinished dreams before it’s too late. Fact is, our own mortality looms for every one of us. For many, it’s a completely healthy and understandable thing to explore a list of hopes and dreams to see if any of them might actually come true.

You might have your own list. It might go beyond touristy things or accomplishments. Maybe it’s the resolution of some family or business hardship. Some matter that has your attention almost day and night. Or, the achievement of some accomplishment by a family member.

For some, there is literally a place or an object they dream of seeing before they die. But, for most it’s a thought that is avoided rather than mused on. For still others, it’s a range of things from vindication to validation.

At our church, because of a special new painting on display, we have been having a three-week sermon series titled “Christmas in August.” This day, in the story of Simeon’s encounter with the baby Jesus at the Temple. It takes place in Luke 2: 25-38. In that episode we see the powerful resolution of hope that an aged man has been awaiting, with faith that God would one day deliver.

Well, what happened that led up to this scene? Mary and Joseph started off parenting Jesus in the way they knew. They were faithful to take Him to the temple now and do things rightly. Nothing better, nor worse.

They had been told about his special nature; still we need to let them be who they were. They were young; they did what they knew; the way they knew. They were fully Hebrew, and practiced their faith. Jesus would do likewise as we follow Him through the Gospels.

Their faith in following through on God’s instructions for them had to have been confirmed in this Temple episode, even if they didn’t yet have very many of the blanks filled in at all. Meanwhile, Simeon and Anna were also practicing the beliefs faithfully. Which led them to intersect with the holy family on that day at the temple.

Simeon had been looking for the consolation of Israel. This means the fulfillment of Jewish messianic hopes. A pre-Christian term had been coined, “The Lord’s Christ”, distinguishing Jesus from others who had been falsely identified before Him. Including even John the Baptist. Verse 26 tells us that the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. This child was the answer, the consolation!

Moved by the Spirit, Simeon was there to see as the child came into the Temple. Eight days old and in His parent’s arms, Jesus was taken up by Simeon. But, this child was different. So apparent was this fulfillment that he said, “Lord, now let me depart, for my eyes have seen your salvation.”

The lessons are myriad. Let’s note at least a couple. First, Simeon and Anna were in position to encounter the holy family because they showed up. They practiced their belief faithfully, which put them at the temple in the first place. Because of that, our text shows Simeon taking up the baby Jesus and staring into the eyes of his long-awaited hope.

Also, they recognized this child for who He was. We could attribute that to the movement of the Holy Spirit. But, hearing, seeing and recognizing the presence of God demands consistent and faithful practice of our belief. That was true for them, and is true for us. God’s revelation through the Holy Spirit continues today with engaged and involved people of faith. Simeon and Anna showed up and were ready. Surely, we should do similarly.

THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is the pastor of Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.