This is my last writing for 2017. And it focuses on a text near the beginning of the Gospel according to Luke (2:22-40). And in this text, Jesus is only forty days old.
It is with a strong contrast that the speech which goes along with this account appears near the end of the Divine Service. The Nunc Dimittis (In The Lutheran Hymnal, it starts “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word.”) is a hymn that fits with the beginning of Jesus’ life, but it deals with a very important subject—death.
You know a man is significant when the beginning of his life has ramifications for the end of many others. After receiving the Lord’s Supper, we are basically saying that it is okay to die.
Jesus’ life takes precedence over ours; his life, death, and resurrection are infinitely more significant than ours. Jesus’ life gently takes over ours.
The language of Simeon at the very beginning of his speech betrays the huge importance of his God and his promises. A literal translation could be something like the following: “Now you are releasing your slave, O Despot.”
The title he uses seems a bit extreme. But the word has received some negative connotations in the last few years. A despot is essentially the lord of the house. God is called that by Abraham in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, right after Yahweh comes to him and gives a wonderful promise (Genesis 15:1ff).
The word appears at a critical spot within the book of Acts—although there are many such critical spots. Peter and John, after being arrested, were released. The enemies of Jesus saw confidence in them, but they did not harm them. After going back to ‘their own’ (a deliberately ambiguous title), they then say a prayer, asking to speak Jesus’ words with confidence; and their prayer is granted. And this prayer begins with the same title for God.
You are not your own; you were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). It takes a while for those words to sink in.