Based on Luke 2:22-52
Because we heard the account of Jesus, twelve years old in the temple, just a few weeks ago in Sunday worship, we have not included that passage here. Rather, we are focusing today on Jesus and Simeon in the temple.
Our reading for today includes the Nunc Dimittis, traditionally known for the first words of the hymn in Latin, translated, “Now, Lord, you dismiss…” Simeon, in the temple, is waiting for the fulfillment of the revelation, by the Holy Spirit, that he would not see death, would not depart this world, until he had seen “the Lord’s Christ.” Now that Simeon has seen Jesus, held him in his arms and blessed God, he is ready to “depart in peace.”
This canticle from Scripture has been used in Christian worship in general and in Lutheranism in particular for centuries. It is sung on the festival of the Presentation (Candlemas, Feb. 2), as we remember Jesus’ “presentation” in the temple and Simeon’s song at that time. It is chanted during Compline, or Night Prayer, as a fitting way to close the day, going to sleep in peace. It is also sung, chanted or spoken during the Burial of the Dead, as the casket or urn is carried from the church, as the deceased departs in peace. Most familiar in Lutheran churches, however, is the singing of the Nunc Dimittis, “Lord, now you let your servant depart…” at the end of the Holy Communion service. Although sometimes replaced by the LBW “Thank the Lord,” the Nunc Dimittis is biblical and traditional, acknowledging that as we have been in the “temple,” we too have seen the Lord, in Word and Sacrament, and we may now depart in peace. It is a wonderful embodiment of the experience of Simeon and Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem!
Prayer: Lord God, I have seen Jesus and know Him. I have held Him in my arms and hands, in your Word and in the Lord’s Supper. Let me live and die in peace. Amen.
Lenten response: Make the first line of Simeon’s canticle your prayer today, as you leave your home, your office, or go to your bed at night. “Lord, let your servant go in peace…”
This year’s devotional was prepared by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, NALC assistant to the bishop for ministry and ecumenism. To learn more about A Lenten Walk Through the Word, visit thenalc.org/lent.
Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
4:6 “In that day,” says the Lord, “I will gather the lame,
and assemble the outcasts whom I injured.
7I will transform the lame into the nucleus of a new nation,
and those far off into a mighty nation.
The Lord will reign over them on Mount Zion,
from that day forward and forevermore.”
8As for you, watchtower for the flock,
fortress of Daughter Zion –
your former dominion will be restored,
the sovereignty that belongs to Daughter Jerusalem.
9Jerusalem, why are you now shouting so loudly?
Has your king disappeared?
Has your wise leader been destroyed?
Is this why pain grips you as if you were a woman in labor?
10Twist and strain, Daughter Zion, as if you were in labor!
For you will leave the city
and live in the open field.
You will go to Babylon,
but there you will be rescued.
There the Lord will deliver you
from the power of your enemies.
11Many nations have now assembled against you.
They say, “Jerusalem must be desecrated,
so we can gloat over Zion!”
12But they do not know what the Lord is planning;
they do not understand his strategy.
He has gathered them like stalks of grain to be threshed at the threshing floor.
13 “Get up and thresh, Daughter Zion!
For I will give you iron horns;
I will give you bronze hooves,
and you will crush many nations.”
You will devote to the Lord the spoils you take from them,
and dedicate their wealth to the sovereign Ruler of the whole earth.(NET Bible)
64:1 For the music director; a psalm of David.
Listen to me, O God, as I offer my lament!
Protect my life from the enemy’s terrifying attacks.
2Hide me from the plots of evil men,
from the crowd of evildoers.
3They sharpen their tongues like a sword;
they aim their arrow, a slanderous charge,
4in order to shoot down the innocent in secluded places.
They shoot at him suddenly and are unafraid of retaliation.
5They encourage one another to carry out their evil deed.
They plan how to hide snares,
and boast, “Who will see them?”
6They devise unjust schemes;
they disguise a well-conceived plot.
Man’s inner thoughts cannot be discovered.
7But God will shoot at them;
suddenly they will be wounded by an arrow.
8Their slander will bring about their demise.
All who see them will shudder,
9and all people will fear.
They will proclaim what God has done,
and reflect on his deeds.
10The godly will rejoice in the Lord
and take shelter in him.
All the morally upright will boast.(NET Bible)
2:22 Now when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, Joseph and Mary brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male will be set apart to the Lord” ), 24and to offer a sacrifice according to what is specified in the law of the Lord, a pair of doves or two young pigeons.
25Now there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon who was righteous and devout, looking for the restoration of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27So Simeon, directed by the Spirit, came into the temple courts, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what was customary according to the law, 28Simeon took him in his arms and blessed God, saying,
29 “Now, according to your word, Sovereign Lord, permit your servant to depart in peace.
30For my eyes have seen your salvation
31that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples:
for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
33So the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “Listen carefully: This child is destined to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be rejected. 35Indeed, as a result of him the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul as well!”
36There was also a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old, having been married to her husband for seven years until his death. 37She had lived as a widow since then for eighty-four years. She never left the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38At that moment, she came up to them and began to give thanks to God and to speak about the child to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
39So when Joseph and Mary had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him.
41Now Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem every year for the Feast of the Passover. 42When he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43But when the feast was over, as they were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44but (because they assumed that he was in their group of travelers) they went a day’s journey. Then they began to look for him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47And all who heard Jesus were astonished at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him, they were overwhelmed. His mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” 49But he replied, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50Yet his parents did not understand the remark he made to them. 51Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. But his mother kept all these things in her heart.
52And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and with people.(NET Bible)
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.
Let me mention at least a few testimonies from the year 1520. In June, Luther wrote to the same Dungersheim, “We wish to be judged by Scripture; you wish to judge it … If the Fathers are to be read without selection and judgment, the Scripture is taken away.” (17–18)
–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures
This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.