THEOPHYL; The infancy of the Savior was impressed upon us, both by frequent heraldings of Angels and testimonies of Evangelists, that we might be the more deeply penetrated in our hearts by what has been done for us. And we may observe, that the sign given us of the newborn Savior was, that He would be found not clothed in Tyrian purple, but wrapped in poor swaddling clothes, not laying on gilded couches, but in a manger.
MAXIMUS; But if perhaps the swaddling clothes are mean in your eyes, admire the Angels singing praises together If you despises” tile manger, raise your eyes a little, and behold the new star in heaven proclaiming to the world the Lord’s nativity. If you believe the mean things, believe also the mighty. If you dispute about those which betoken His lowliness, look with reverence on what is high and heavenly.
GREG. It was in a mystery that the angel appeared to the shepherds while they were watching, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, implying that they are thought worthy above the rest to see sublime things who take a watchful care of their faithful flocks; and while they themselves are piously watching over them, the Divine grace shines widely round about them.
THEOPHYL; For in a mystery, those shepherds, and their flocks, signify all teachers and guides of faithful souls. The night in which they were keeping watch over their flocks, indicates the dangerous temptations from which they never cease to keep themselves, and those placed under their care. Well also at the birth of our Lord do shepherds watch over their flocks; for He was born who says, I am the good Shepherd: but the time also was at hand in which the same Shepherd was to recall His scattered sheep to the pastures of life.
ORIGEN; But if we would rise to a more hidden meaning, I should say, that there were certain shepherd angels, who direct the affairs of men, and while each one of them was keeping his watch, an angel came at the birth of the Lord, and announced to the shepherds that the true Shepherd had arisen. For Angels before the coming of the Savior could bring little help to those entrusted to them, for scarcely did one single Gentile believe in God. But now whole nations come to the faith of Jesus.
8.And there were shepherds It would have been to no purpose that Christ was born in Bethlehem, if it had not been made known to the world. But the method of doing so, which is described by Luke, appears to the view of men very unsuitable. First, Christ is revealed but to a few witnesses, and that too amidst the darkness of night. Again, though God had, at his command, many honorable and distinguished witnesses, he passed by them, and chose shepherds, persons of humble rank, and of no account among men. Here the reason and wisdom of the flesh must prove to be foolishness; and we must acknowledge, that “the foolishness of God” (1Co_1:25 ) excels all the wisdom that exists, or appears to exist, in the world. But this too was a part of the “emptying of himself,” (Phi_2:6 ) not that any part of Christ’s glory should be taken away by it, but that it should lie in concealment for a time. Again, as Paul reminds us, that the gospel is mean according to the flesh, “that our faith should stand” in the power of the Spirit, not in the “lofty words of human wisdom,” or in any worldly splendor, (1Co_2:4;) so this inestimable “treasure” has been deposited by God, from the beginning, “in earthen vessels,” (2Co_4:7,) that he might more fully try the obedience of our faith. If then we desire to come to Christ, let us not be ashamed to follow those whom the Lord, in order to cast down the pride of the world, has taken, from among the dung of cattle, to be our instructors.
There were – shepherds abiding in the field – There is no intimation here that these shepherds were exposed to the open air. They dwelt in the fields where they had their sheep penned up; but they undoubtedly had tents or booths under which they dwelt.
Keeping watch – by night – Or, as in the margin, keeping the watches of the night, i.e. each one keeping a watch (which ordinarily consisted of three hours) in his turn. The reason why they watched them in the field appears to have been, either to preserve the sheep from beasts of prey, such as wolves, foxes, etc., or from freebooting banditti, with which all the land of Judea was at that time much infested. It was a custom among the Jews to send out their sheep to the deserts, about the passover, and bring them home at the commencement of the first rain: during the time they were out, the shepherds watched them night and day. As the passover occurred in the spring, and the first rain began early in the month of Marchesvan, which answers to part of our October and November, we find that the sheep were kept out in the open country during the whole of the summer. And as these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is a presumptive argument that October had not yet commenced, and that, consequently, our Lord was not born on the 25th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields; nor could he have been born later than September, as the flocks were still in the fields by night. On this very ground the nativity in December should be given up. The feeding of the flocks by night in the fields is a chronological fact, which casts considerable light upon this disputed point. See the quotations from the Talmudists in Lightfoot.
The time in which Christ was born has been considered a subject of great importance among Christians. However, the matter has been considered of no moment by Him who inspired the evangelists; as not one hint is dropped on the subject, by which it might be possible even to guess nearly to the time, except the chronological fact mentioned above. A late writer makes the following remark: “The first Christians placed the baptism of Christ about the beginning of the fifteenth year of Tiberius; and thence reckoning back thirty years, they placed his birth in the forty-third year of the Julian period, the forty-second of Augustus, and the twenty-eighth after the victory at Actium. This opinion obtained till a.d. 527, when Dionysius Exiguus invented the vulgar account. Learned and pious men have trifled egregiously on this subject, making that of importance which the Holy Spirit, by his silence, has plainly informed them is of none. Fabricius gives a catalogue of no less than 136 different opinions concerning the Year of Christ’s birth: and as to his birth Day, that has been placed by Christian sects and learned men in every month in the year. The Egyptians placed it in January – Wagenseil, in February – Bochart, in March – some, mentioned by Clemens Alexandrinus, in April – others, in May – Epiphanius speaks of some who placed it in June – and of others who supposed it to have been in July – Wagenseil, who was not sure of February, fixed it probably in August – Lightfoot, on the 15th of September – Scaliger, Casaubon, and Calvisius, in October – others, in November – but the Latin Church, supreme in power, and infallible in judgment, placed it on the 25th of December, the very day on which the ancient Romans celebrated the feast of their goddess Bruma.” See more in Robinson’s Notes on Claude’s Essay, vol. i. p. 275, etc. Pope Julius I. was the person who made this alteration, and it appears to have been done for this reason: the sun now began his return towards the northern tropic, ending the winter, lengthening the short days, and introducing the spring. All this was probably deemed emblematical of the rising of the Sun of righteousness on the darkness of this world, and causing the day-spring from on high to visit mankind.
The same country – Round about Bethlehem.
Shepherds – Men who tended flocks of sheep.
Abiding in the field – Remaining out of doors, under the open sky, with their flocks. This was commonly done. The climate was mild, and, to keep their flocks from straying, they spent the night with them. It is also a fact that the Jews sent out their flocks into the mountainous and desert regions during the summer months, and took them up in the latter part of October or the first of November, when the cold weather commenced. While away in these deserts and mountainous regions, it was proper that there should be someone to attend them to keep them from straying, and from the ravages of wolves and other wild beasts. It is probable from this that our Saviour was born before the 25th of December, or before what we call “Christmas.” At that time it is cold, and especially in the high and mountainous regions about Bethlehem. But the exact time of his birth is unknown; there is no way to ascertain it. By different learned men it has been fixed at each month in the year. Nor is it of consequence to “know” the time; if it were, God would have preserved the record of it. Matters of moment are clearly revealed; those which “he” regards as of no importance are concealed.
Keeping watch … – More literally, “tending their flocks “by turns” through the night watches.”
9.And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon themHe says, that the glory of the Lord shone aroundthe shepherds, by which they perceived him to be an angel. For it would have been of little avail to be told by an angel what is related by Luke, if God had not testified, by some outward sign, that what they heard proceeded from Him. The angel appeared, not in an ordinary form, or without majesty, but surrounded with the brightness of heavenly glory, to affect powerfully the minds of the shepherds, that they might receive the discourse which was addressed to them, as coming from the mouth of God himself. Hence the fear, of which Luke shortly afterwards speaks, by which God usually humbles the hearts of men, (as I have formerly explained,) and disposes them to receive his word with reverence.
The angel of the Lord came upon them – Or, stood over them, επεστη. It is likely that the angel appeared in the air at some little distance above them, and that from him the rays of the glory of the Lord shone round about them, as the rays of light are projected from the sun.
They were sore afraid – Terrified with the appearance of so glorious a being, and probably fearing that he was a messenger of justice, coming to denounce Divine judgments, or punish them immediately, for sins with which their consciences would not fail, on such an occasion, to reproach them.
The glory of the Lord – This is the same as a “great” glory – that is, a splendid appearance or “light.” The word “glory” is often the same as light, 1Co_15:41; Luk_9:31; Act_22:11. The words “Lord” and “God” are often used to denote “greatness” or “intensity.” Thus, “trees of God” mean great trees; “hills of God,” high or lofty hills, etc. So “the glory of the Lord” here means an exceedingly great or bright luminous appearance perhaps not unlike what Paul saw on the way to Damascus.
10.Fear not The design of this exhortation is to alleviate their fear. For, though it is profitable for the minds of men to be struck with awe, that they may learn to “give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name,” (Psa_29:2;) yet they have need, at the same time, of consolation, that they may not be altogether overwhelmed. For the majesty of God could not but swallow up the whole world, if there were not some mildness to mitigate the terror which it brings. And so the reprobate fall down lifeless at the sight of God, because he appears to them in no other character than that of a judge. But to revive the minds of the shepherds, the angel declares that he was sent to them for a different purpose, to announce to them the mercy of God. When men hear this single word, that God is reconciled to them, it not only raises up those who are fallen down, but restores those who were ruined, and recalls them from death to life.
The angel opens his discourse by saying, that he announces great joy; and next assigns the ground or matter of joy, that a Savior is born. These words show us, first, that, until men have peace with God, and are reconciled to him through the grace of Christ, all the joy that they experience is deceitful, and of short duration. Ungodly men frequently indulge in frantic and intoxicating mirth; but if there be none to make peace between them and God, the hidden stings of conscience must produce fearful torment. Besides, to whatever extent they may flatter themselves in luxurious indulgence, their own lusts are so many tormentors. The commencement of solid joy is, to perceive the fatherly love of God toward us, which alone gives tranquility to our minds. And this “joy,” in which, Paul tells us, “the kingdom of God” consists, is “in the Holy Spirit,” (Rom_14:17.) By calling it great joy, he shows us, not only that we ought, above all things, to rejoice in the salvation brought us by Christ, but that this blessing is so great and boundless, as fully to compensate for all the pains, distresses, and anxieties of the present life. Let us learn to be so delighted with Christ alone, that the perception of his grace may overcome, and at length remove from us, all the distresses of the flesh.
Which shall be to all the people. Though the angel addresses the shepherds alone, yet he plainly states, that the message of salvation which he brings is of wider extent, so that not only they, in their private capacity, may hear it, but that others may also hear. Now let it be understood, that this joy was common to all people, because, it was indiscriminately offered to all. For God had promised Christ, not to one person or to another, but to the whole seed of Abraham. If the Jews were deprived, for the most part, of the joy that was offered to them, it arose from their unbelief; just as, at the present day, God invites all indiscriminately to salvation through the Gospel, but the ingratitude of the world is the reason why this grace, which is equally offered to all, is enjoyed by few. Although this joy is confined to a few persons, yet, with respect to God, it is said to be common. When the angel says that this joy shall be to all the people, he speaks of the chosen people only; but now that, the middle wall of partition” (Eph_2:14 ) has been thrown down, the same message has reference to the whole human race. For Christ proclaims peace, not only, to them that are nigh, “but to them that are, far off,” (Eph_2:17,) to “strangers” (Eph_2:12 ) equally with citizens. But as the peculiar covenant with the Jews lasted till the resurrection of Christ, so the angel separates them from the rest of the nations.
Behold, I bring you good tidings – I am not come to declare the judgments of the Lord, but his merciful loving-kindness, the subject being a matter of great joy. He then declares his message. Unto you – to the Jews first, and then to the human race. Some modern MSS. with the utmost impropriety read ἡμιν, us, as if angels were included in this glorious work of redemption; but St. Paul says, he took not upon him the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham, i.e. the nature of Abraham and his posterity, the human nature; therefore the good news is to you, – and not to yourselves exclusively, for it is to all people, to all the inhabitants of this land, and to the inhabitants of the whole earth.
I bring you good tidings of great joy (euaggelizomai humin charan megalen). Wycliff, “I evangelize to you a great joy.” The active verb euaggelizo occurs only in late Greek writers, lxx, a few papyri examples, and the N.T. The middle (deponent) appears from Aristophanes on. Luke and Paul employ both substantive euaggelion and verb euaggelizo very frequently. It is to Paul’s influence that we owe their frequency and popularity in the language of Christendom (George Milligan, The Epistles to the Thessalonians, p. 143). The other Gospels do not have the verb save Mat_11:5 and that in a quotation (Isa_61:1).
11.This day is born to you Here, as we lately hinted, the angel expresses the cause of the joy. This day is born the Redeemer long ago promised, who was to restore the Church of God to its proper condition. The angel does not speak of it as a thing altogether unknown. He opens his embassy by referring to the Law and the Prophets; for had he been addressing heathens or irreligious persons, it would have been of no use to employ this mode of speaking: this day is born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord For the same reason, he mentions that he was born in the city of David, which could serve no purpose, but to recall the remembrance of those promises which were universally known among the Jews. Lastly, the angel adapted his discourse to hearers who were not altogether unacquainted with the promised redemption. With the doctrine of the Law and the Prophets he joined the Gospel, as emanating from the same source. Now, since the Greek word Greek, as Cicero assures us, has a more extensive meaning than the Latin word Servator, and as there is no Latin noun that corresponds to it, I thought it better to employ a barbarous term, than to take anything away from the power of Christ. And I have no doubt, that the author of the Vulgate, and the ancient doctors of the Church, had the same intention. Christ is called Savior, because he bestows a complete salvation. The pronoun to you is very emphatic; for it would have given no great delight to hear that the Author of salvation was born, unless each person believed that for himself he was born. In the same manner Isaiah says, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given,” (Isa_9:6;) and Zechariah, “Behold, thy King cometh unto thee lowly,” (Zec_9:9.)
A Savior, which is Christ the Lord – A Savior, σωτηρ, the same as Jesus from σωζειν, to make safe, to deliver, preserve, to make alive, thus used by the Septuagint for החיה hecheiah, to cause to escape; used by the same for פלט to confide in, to hope. See the extensive acceptations of the verb in Mintert, who adds under Σωτηρ: “The word properly denotes such a Savior as perfectly frees us from all evil and danger, and is the author of perpetual salvation.” On the word Jesus, see Joh_1:29 (note).
Which is Christ. Χριστος, the anointed, from χριω to anoint, the same as משיה Messiah, from משח mashach. This name points out the Savior of the world in his prophetic, regal, and sacerdotal offices: as in ancient times, prophets, kings, and priests were anointed with oil, when installed into their respective offices. Anointing was the same with them as consecration is with us. Oil is still used in the consecration of kings.
It appears from Isa_61:1, that anointing with oil, in consecrating a person to any important office, whether civil or religious, was considered as an emblem of the communication of the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit. This ceremony was used on three occasions, viz. the installation of prophets, priests, and kings, into their respective offices. But why should such an anointing be deemed necessary? Because the common sense of men taught them that all good, whether spiritual or secular, must come from God, its origin and cause. Hence it was taken for granted,
1. That no man could foretell events, unless inspired by the Spirit of God. And therefore the prophet was anointed, to signify the communication of the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge.
2. That no person could offer an acceptable sacrifice to God for the sins of men, or profitably minister in holy things, unless enlightened, influenced, and directed by the Spirit of grace and holiness. Hence the priest was anointed, to signify his being divinely qualified for the due performance of his sacred functions.
3. That no man could enact just and equitable laws which should have the prosperity of the community and the welfare of the individual continually in view, or could use the power confided to him only for the suppression of vice and the encouragement of virtue, but that man who was ever under the inspiration of the Almighty.
Hence kings were inaugurated by anointing with oil. Two of these offices only exist in all civilized nations, the sacerdotal and regal; and in some countries the priest and king are still consecrated by anointing. In the Hebrew language, משח mashach signifies to anoint; and המשיח ha-mashiach, the anointed person. But as no man was ever dignified by holding the three offices, so no person ever had the title ha-mashiach, the anointed one, but Jesus the Christ. He alone is King of kings, and Lord of lords: the king who governs the universe, and rules in the hearts of his followers; the prophet to instruct men in the way wherein they should go; and the great high priest, to make atonement for their sins.
Hence he is called the Messias, a corruption of the word המשיח ha-mashiach, The anointed One, in Hebrew; which gave birth to ο Χριστος, ho Christos, which has precisely the same signification in Greek. Of him, Melchizedek, Abraham, Aaron, David, and others, were illustrious types; but none of these had the title of The Messiah, or the Anointed of God: This does, and ever will, belong exclusively to Jesus the Christ.
The Lord. Κυριος, the supreme, eternal Being, the ruler of the heavens and the earth. The Septuagint generally translate יהוה Yehovah by Κυριος. This Hebrew word, from היה hayah, he was, properly points out the eternity and self-existence of the Supreme Being; and if we may rely on the authority of Hesychius, which no scholar will call in question, Κυριος is a proper translation of יהוה Yehovah, as it comes from κυρω, – τυγχανω, I am, I exist. Others derive it from κυρος, authority, legislative power. It is certain that the lordship of Christ must be considered in a mere spiritual sense, as he never set up any secular government upon earth, nor commanded any to be established in his name; and there is certainly no spiritual government but that of God: and indeed the word Lord, in the text, appears to be properly understood, when applied to the deity of Christ. Jesus is a prophet, to reveal the will of God, and instruct men in it. He is a priest, to offer up sacrifice, and make atonement for the sin of the world. He is Lord, to rule over and rule in the souls of the children of men: in a word, he is Jesus the Savior, to deliver from the power, guilt, and pollution of sin; to enlarge and vivify, by the influence of his Spirit; to preserve in the possession of the salvation which he has communicated; to seal those who believe, heirs of glory; and at last to receive them into the fullness of beatitude in his eternal joy.
Is born (etechthe). First aorist passive indicative from tikto. Was born.
Saviour (soter). This great word is common in Luke and Paul and seldom elsewhere in the N.T. (Bruce). The people under Rome’s rule came to call the emperor “Saviour” and Christians took the word and used it of Christ. See inscriptions (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, p. 344).
Christ the Lord (Christos Kurios). This combination occurs nowhere else in the N.T. and it is not clear what it really means. Luke is very fond of Kurios (Lord) where the other Gospels have Jesus. It may mean “Christ the Lord,” “Anointed Lord,” “Messiah, Lord,” “The Messiah, the Lord,” “An Anointed One, a Lord,” or “Lord Messiah.” It occurs once in the lxx (Lamentations 4:20) and is in Ps. of Sol. 17:36. Ragg suggests that our phrase “the Lord Jesus Christ” is really involved in “A Saviour (Jesus) which is Christ the Lord.” See note on Mat_1:1 for Christ and note on Mat_21:3 for Lord.
Luk 2:12 On the eastern side of the town of Bethlehem, say St. Justin, St. Jerome, &c. there was a cave cut in the side of a rock, in which was a manger used by the people of those environs; so that these shepherds easily understood the angel, who told them they should find him laid in a manger. Sts. Jerome, Gregory of Nazianzus, Cyril, say that they found the child between an ox and an ass, according to the version of the Septuagint. Habacuc iii. 2.: You shall find him laid between two beasts. In the place where this crib was, St. Helen built a magnificent church in honour of the blessed Virgin Mary. Ven. Bede says that she built another in honour of the three shepherds; whence St. Bernard concludes, that there were only three shepherds that came to adore the divine infant in the manger. (Tirinus)
12.And this shall be a sign to you The angel meets the prejudice which might naturally hinder the faith of the shepherds; for what a mockery is it, that he, whom God has sent to be the King, and the only Savior, is seen lying in a manger! That the mean and despicable condition in which Christ was might not deter the shepherds from believing in Christ, the angel tells them beforehand what they would see. This method of proceeding, which might appear, to the view of men, absurd and almost ridiculous, the Lord pursues toward us every day. Sending down to us from heaven the word of the Gospel, he enjoins us to embrace Christ crucified, and holds out to us signs in earthly and fading elements, which raise us to the glory of a blessed immortality. Having promised to us spiritual righteousness, he places before our eyes a little water: by a small portion of bread and wine, he seals, the eternal life of the soul. But if the stable gave no offense whatever to the shepherds, so as to prevent them from going to Christ to obtain salvation, or from yielding to his authority, while he was yet a child; no sign, however mean in itself, ought to hide his glory from our view, or prevent us from offering to him lowly adoration, now that he has ascended to heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father.
THEOPHYL; Lest the authority of a single Angel should appear small, as soon as one had revealed the sacrament of the new birth, straightway there was present a multitude of the heavenly host. Rightly has the attending Chorus of Angels received the name of heavenly host, seeing they both humbly bring their aid to that Leader mighty in battle, Who has appeared to put down the powers of the air, and also themselves by their celestial arms bravely vanquish those opposing powers lest they should prevail as they wish in tempting men. But because He is both God and man, rightly do they sing Peace to men and Glory to God.
As it follows, Praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest. As soon as one Angel, one messenger, had brought the good tidings that God was born in the flesh, the multitude of the heavenly host broke forth in the praise of the Creator, in order both to fix their devotion on Christ, and to instruct us by their example, that as often as any of the brethren shall sound forth the word of sacred learning, or we ourselves shall have brought these holy things home to our minds, we should with our whole heart, our mouths and hands, return praise to God.CHRYS. Of old, indeed, Angels were sent to punish, as, for instance to the Israelites, to David, to the men of Sodom, to the valley of weeping. Now on the other hand they sing the song of thanksgiving to God: because He has revealed to them His coming down to men.
GREG. At the same time they also give praises because their voices of gladness accord well with our redemption, and while they behold our acceptance, they rejoice also that their number is completed.
THEOPHYL; They wish also peace to men, as they add, On earth peace to men, because those whom they had before despised as weak and abject, now that our Lord has come in the flesh they esteem as friends.
CYRIL; This peace has been made through Christ, for He has reconciled us by Himself to God and our Father, having taken away our guilt, which was the ground of offense also. He has united two nations in one man, and has joined the heavenly and the earthly in one flock.
THEOPHYL; For whom they ask peace is explained in the words, Of good will. For them, namely, who receive the new born Christ. For there is no peace to the ungodly, but much peace to them that love the name of God.
ORIGEN; But the attentive reader will ask, How then does the Savior say, I came not to send peace on the earth, whereas now the Angels’ song of His birth is, On earth peace to men? It is answered, that peace is said to be to men of goodwill. For the peace which the Lord does not give on the earth is not the peace of good will.
AUG. For righteousness belongs to good will.
CHRYS. Behold the wonderful fill working of God. He first brings Angels down to men, and then brings men up to heaven. The heaven became earth, when it was about to receive earthly things.
13.And suddenly there was present with the angel a multitude An exhibition of divine splendor had been already made in the person of a single angel. But God determined to adorn his own Son in a still more illustrious manner, This was done to confirm our faith as truly as that of the shepherds. Among men, the testimony of “two or three witnesses” (Mat_18:16 ) is sufficient to remove all doubt. But here is a heavenly host, with one consent and one voice bearing testimony to the Son of God. What then would be our obstinacy, if we refused to join with the choir of angels, in singing the praises of our salvation, which is in Christ? Hence we infer, how abominable in the sight of God must unbelief be, which disturbs this delightful harmony between heaven and earth. Again, we are convicted of more than brutal stupidity, if our faith and our zeal to praise God are not inflamed by the song which the angels, with the view of supplying us with the matter of our praise, sang in full harmony. Still farther, by this example of heavenly melody, the Lord intended to recommend to us the unity of faith, and to exhort us to join with one consent in singing his praises on earth.
Glory to God – Praise be to God, or honor be to God. That is, the praise of redeeming man is due to God. The plan of redemption will bring glory to God, and is designed to express his glory. This it does by evincing his love to people, his mercy, his condescension, and his regard to the honor of his law and the stability of his own government. It is the highest expression of his love and mercy. Nowhere, so far as we can see, could his glory be more strikingly exhibited than in giving his only-begotten Son to die for people.
In the highest – This is capable of several meanings:
1. In the highest “strains,” or in the highest possible manner.
2. “Among” the highest that is, among the angels of God; indicating that “they” felt a deep interest in this work, and were called on to praise God for the redemption of man.
3. In the highest heavens – indicating that the praise of redemption should not be confined to the “earth,” but should spread throughout the universe.
4. The words “God in the highest” may be equivalent to “the Most High God,” and be the same as saying, “Let the most high God be praised for his love and mercy to people.”
Which of these meanings is the true one it is difficult to determine; but in this they all agree, that high praise is to be given to God for his love in redeeming people. O that not only “angels,” but “men,” would join universally in this song of praise!
On earth peace – That is, the gospel will bring peace. The Saviour was predicted as the Prince of peace, Isa_9:6. The world is at war with God; sinners are at enmity against their Maker and against each other. There is no peace to the wicked. But Jesus came to make peace; and this he did,
1. By reconciling the world to God by His atonement.
2. By bringing the sinner to a state of peace with his Maker; inducing him to lay down the weapons of rebellion and to submit his soul to God, thus giving him the peace which passeth all understanding.
3. By diffusing in the heart universal good-will to people – “disposing,” people to lay aside their differences, to love one another, to seek each other’s welfare, and to banish envy, malice, pride, lust, passion, and covetousness – in all ages the most fruitful causes of difference among people. And,
4. By diffusing the principles of universal peace among nations. If the gospel of Jesus should universally prevail, there would be an end of war. In the days of the millennium there will be universal peace; all the causes of war will have ceased; people will love each other and do justly; all nations will be brought under the influence of the gospel. O how should each one toil and pray that the great object of the gospel should be universally accomplished, and the world be filled with peace!
Good will toward men – The gift of the Saviour is an expression of good-will or love to people, and therefore God is to be praised. The work of redemption is uniformly represented as the fruit of the love of God, Joh_3:16; Eph_5:2; 1Jo_4:10; Rev_1:5. No words can express the greatness of that love. It can only be measured by the “misery, helplessness,” and “danger” of man; by the extent of his sufferings here and in the world of woe if he had not been saved; by the condescension, sufferings, and death of Jesus; and by the eternal honor and happiness to which he will raise his people. All these are beyond our full comprehension. Yet how little does man feel it! and how many turn away from the highest love of God, and treat the expression of that love with contempt! Surely, if God so loved us “first,” we ought also to love him, 1Jo_4:19.
15.After that the angels departed Here is described to us the obedience of the shepherds. The Lord had made them the witnesses of his Son to the whole world. What he had spoken to them by his angels was efficacious, and was not suffered to pass away. They were not plainly and expressly commanded to come to Bethlehem; but, being sufficiently aware that such was the design of God, they hasten to see Christ. In the same manner, we know that Christ is held out to us, in order that our hearts may approach him by faith; and our delay in coming admits of no excuse.
But again, Luke informs us, that the shepherds resolved to set out, immediately after the angels had departed. This conveys an important lesson. Instead of allowing the word of God, as many do, to pass away with the sound, we must take care that it strike its roots deep in us, and manifest its power, as soon as the sound has died away upon our ears. It deserves our attention, also, that the shepherds exhort one another: for it is not enough that each of us is attentive to his own duty, if we do not give mutual exhortations. Their obedience is still farther commended by the statement of Luke, that they hastened, (ver. 16;) for we are required to show the readiness of faith.
Which the Lord hath revealed to us They had only heard it from the angel; but they intentionally and correctly say, that the Lord had revealed it to them; for they consider the messenger of God to possess the same authority as if the Lord himself had addressed them. For this reason, the Lord directs our attention to himself; that we may not fix our view on men, and undervalue the authority of his Word. We see also that they reckon themselves under obligation, not to neglect the treasure which the Lord had pointed out to them; for they conclude that, immediately after receiving this intelligence, they must go to Bethlehem to see it. In the same manner, every one of us, according to the measure of his faith and understanding, ought to be prepared to follow wheresoever God calls.
AMBROSE; Well is he called righteous who sought not his own good, but the good of his nation, as it follows, Waiting for the consolation of Israel.
GREG. NYSS. It was not surely worldly happiness that the prudent Simeon was waiting for as the consolation of Israel, but a real happiness, that is, a passing over to the beauty of truth from the shadow of the law. For he had learnt from the sacred oracles that he would see the Lord’s Christ before he should depart out of this present life. Hence it follows, And the Holy Spirit was in him, (by which indeed he was justified,) and he received an answer from the Holy Spirit.
AMBROSE; He desired indeed to be loosed from the chains of bodily infirmity, but he wails to see the promise, for he knew, Happy are those eyes which shall see it.
GREG. Hereby also we learn with what desire the holy men of Israel desired to see the mystery of His incarnation.
THEOPHYL; To see death means to undergo it, and happy will he be to see the death of the flesh who has first been enabled to see with the eyes of his heart the Lord Christ, having his conversation in the heavenly Jerusalem, and frequently entering the doors of God’s temple, that is, following the examples of the saints in whom God dwells as in His temple. By the same grace of the Spirit whereby he foreknew Christ would come, he now acknowledges Him come, as it follows, And he came by the Spirit into the temple.
ORIGEN; If you will touch Jesus and grasp Him in your hands, strive with all your strength to have the Spirit for your guide, and come to the temple of God. For it follows, And when his parents brought in the child Jesus, (i.e. Mary His mother, and Joseph His reputed father,) to do for him after the custom of the law, then took he him up in his arms.
THEOPHYL; Now the righteous man, according to the law, received the Child Jesus in his arms, that he might signify that the legal righteousness of works under the figure of the hands and arms was to be changed for the lowly indeed but saving grace of Gospel faith The old man received the infant Christ, to convey thereby that this world, now worn out as it were with old age, should return to the childlike innocence of the Christian life.
25.And, lo, there was a man in Jerusalem The design of this narrative is to inform us that, though nearly the whole nation was profane and irreligious, and despised God, yet that a few worshippers of God remained, and that Christ was known to such persons from his earliest infancy. These were “the remnant” of whom Paul says, that they were preserved “according to the election of grace,” (Rom_11:5.) Within this small band lay the Church of God; though the priests and scribes, with as much pride as falsehood, claimed for themselves the title of the Church. The Evangelist mentions no more than two, who recognised Christ at Jerusalem, when he was brought into the temple. These were Simeon and Anna. We must speak first of Simeon.
As to his condition in life we are not informed: he may have been a person of humble rank and of no reputation. Luke bestows on him the commendation of being just and devout; and adds, that he had the gift of prophecy: for the Holy Spirit was upon him. Devotion and Righteousness related to the two tables of the law, and are the two parts of which an upright life consists. It was a proof of his being a devout man, that he waited for the consolation of Israel: for no true worship of God can exist without the hope of salvation, which depends on the faith of his promises, and particularly on the restoration promised through Christ. Now, since an expectation of this sort is commended in Simeon as an uncommon attainment, we may conclude, that there were few in that age, who actually cherished in their hearts the hope of redemption. All had on their lips the name of the Messiah, and of prosperity under the reign of David: but hardly any one was to be found, who patiently endured present afflictions, relying on the consolatory assurance, that the redemption of the Church was at hand. As the eminence of Simeon’s piety was manifested by its supporting his mind in the hope of the promised salvation, so those who wish to prove themselves the children of God, will breathe out unceasing prayers for the promised redemption. For we, “have need of patience” (Heb_10:36 ) till the last coming of Christ.
And the Holy Spirit was upon him The Evangelist does not speak of “the Spirit of adoptions” (Rom_8:15,) which is common to all the children of God, though not in an equal degree, but of the peculiar gift of prophecy. This appears more clearly from the next verse and the following one, in which it is said, that he received a revelation from the Holy Spirit, and that, by the guidance of the same Spirit, he came into the temple Though Simeon had no distinction of public office, he was adorned with eminent gifts, — with piety, with a blameless life, with faith and prophecy. Nor can it be doubted, that this divine intimation, which he received in his individual and private capacity, was intended generally for the confirmation of all the godly. Jesus is called the Lord’s Christ, because he was anointed by the Father, and, at the same time that he received the Spirit, received also the title, of King and Priest. Simeon is said to have come into the temple by the Spirit; that is, by a secret movement and undoubted revelation, that he might meet Christ.
Luk 2:25 And behold there was a man in Jerusalem,…. Not in Nazareth, or Bethlehem, but in Jerusalem, the metropolis of the nation: one that lived there, was an inhabitant of that city, and a person of fame and note. So Joseph ben Jochanan is called (z) איש ירושלם a man of Jerusalem, an inhabitant of that place:
whose name was Simeon;
and the same man was just and devout; he was a holy good man in his life and conversation; he was one that feared God, and avoided evil; he was righteous before men, and devout towards God, and exercised a conscience void, of offence to both:
waiting for the consolation of Israel; that is, the Messiah; for this was one of his names with the Jews, who sometimes style him, מנחם, “the comforter”: for so they report (e) that “there are some that say his name is Menachen the comforter; as it is said, “because the comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me”. Lam_1:16.
And again (f), It is observed, that “the name of the Messiah is Menachem, the comforter; and Menachem, by “gematry”, or numerically, is the same with Tzemach, the branch, Zec_3:8.
And so they often call him by the name of the “consolation”: אראה בגחמה, which Dr. Lightfoot renders, “so let me see the consolation”, but should be rendered, “may I never see the consolation”, was a common form of swearing among them; and used much by R. Simeon ben Shetach, who lived before the times of Christ, of which there are several instances (g):
“says R. Juda ben Tabai, אראה בנחמה “may I never see the consolation”, if I have not slain a false witness. Says R. Simeon ben Shetach, to him, “may I never see the consolation”, if thou hast not shed innocent blood.
The gloss (h) on it is,
“it is a light word, (the form) of an oath, in short language; as if it was said, may I never see the consolations of Zion, if he has not done this.
“says R. Simeon Ben Shetach, אראה בנחמה “may I never see the consolation”, if I did not see one run after his companion, into a desolate place, &c.
Now they might easily collect this name of the Messiah, from several passages of Scripture, which speak of God’s comforting his people, at the time of redemption by the Messiah; and particularly, from its being part of his work and office, to comfort them that mourn, for which he was anointed by the Spirit of the Lord, Isa_61:1. And when he is called here, “the consolation of Israel”, it is not to be understood of the whole Jewish nation; for he was so far from being a comfort to them, as such, that through their corruption and wickedness, he came not to send peace, but a sword; and to set at variance the nearest relations and friends among themselves; and through their unbelief and rejection of him, wrath came upon them to the uttermost: but of the true and spiritual Israel of God, whom he has chosen, redeemed, and calls, whether of Jews or Gentiles; his own special and peculiar people, the heirs of promise; and who are often mourners in Zion, and being frequently disconsolate on account of sin, the temptations of Satan, and the hidings of God’s face, stand in need of consolation from him: and in him there is what is always matter and ground of consolation; as in his person, he 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. And he does often comfort them by his Spirit, by his word, and ordinances, by the promises of his Gospel, by the discoveries of pardoning grace, through his blood, and by his gracious presence: nor are his consolations small, but large and abundant, strong, solid, and everlasting. Now for the Messiah under this character, Simeon was waiting, hoping in a little time to see him; since he knew, both by the prophecies of the Old Testament, particularly by Daniel’s weeks, and, by divine revelation, that the time was just at hand for his coming,
and the Holy Ghost was upon him; not in a common and ordinary way, as he is upon all that are called by grace, as a Spirit of regeneration and sanctification: and as he was upon many others, who at this time were waiting and looking for the Messiah, as well as he; but in an extraordinary way, as a spirit of prophecy: for though prophecy had ceased among the Jews, from the times of Malachi, yet upon the conception and birth of Christ, it now returned; as to Zacharias, Elisabeth, and the virgin Mary, and here to Simeon, as is clear from what follows,
(z) Pirke Abot. sect 4. 5. (a) Pirke Abot, sect. 2. T. Bab. Yoma, fol, 69. 1. T. Hieros. Yoma, 3. & 43. 3. (b) Ganz. Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 25. 1. (c) Ib. par. 2. fol. 14. (d) Juchasin, fol. 66. 2. (e) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 98. 2. Echa Rabbati, fol. 50. 1. T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 5. 1. (f) Kimchi in Zech. iii. 8. (g) T. Bab. Chagiga, fol. 16. 2. & Maccot, fol. 5. 2. (h) Tosaphot in Chagiga ib. (i) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 37. 2. & Shebout, fol. 34. 1. Vid. & Cetubot, fol. 67. 1. & Echa Rabbati, fol. 49. 2.
Whose name was Simeon – Some have supposed that this Simeon was a son of the famous “Hillel,” a distinguished teacher in Jerusalem, and president of the Sanhedrin; but nothing is certainly known of him but what is here related. He was an aged man, of distinguished piety and reputation, and was anxiously expecting the coming of the Messiah. Such an “old age” is especially honorable. No spectacle is more sublime than an old man of piety and high character looking for the appearing of the Lord, and patiently waiting for the time to come when he may be blessed with the sight of his Redeemer.
Just – Righteous before God and man; approved by God as a righteous man, and discharging faithfully his duty to man.
Devout – This word means “a religious man,” or a “pious” man. The original expresses the idea of “good reputation, well received,” or of high standing among the people.
Waiting for the consolation of Israel – That is, waiting for the “Messiah,” who is called “the consolation of Israel” because he would give comfort to them by his appearing. This term was often applied to the Messiah before he actually appeared. It was common to swear, also, by “the consolation of Israel” – that is, by the Messiah about to come. See Lightfoot on this place.
The Holy Ghost … – He was a holy man, and was “divinely inspired” respecting the Messiah about to appear.
Devout (eulabes). Used only by Luke (Act_2:5; Act_8:2; Act_22:12) in the N.T. Common in ancient Greek from Plato on. It means taking hold well or carefully (eu and labein) and so reverently, circumspectly.
Looking for the consolation of Israel (prosdechomenos paraklesin tou Israel). Old Greek verb to admit to one’s presence (Luk_15:2) and then to expect as here and of Anna in Luk_2:38. Paraklesin here means the Messianic hope (Isa_11:10; Isa_40:1), calling to one’s side for cheer.
Upon him (ep’ auton). This is the explanation of his lively Messianic hope. It was due to the Holy Spirit. Simeon and Anna are representatives of real piety in this time of spiritual dearth and deadness.
It was revealed unto him – He was divinely informed, κεχρηματισμενον – he had an express communication from God concerning the subject. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him. The soul of a righteous and devout man is a proper habitation for the Holy Spirit.
He should not see death – They that seek shall find: it is impossible that a man who is earnestly seeking the salvation of God, should be permitted to die without finding it.
The Lord’s Christ – Rather, the Lord’s anointed. That prophet, priest, and king, who was typified by so many anointed persons under the old covenant; and who was appointed to come in the fullness of time, to accomplish all that was written in the law, in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning him. See the note on Luk_2:11.
He came by the Spirit into the temple – Probably he had in view the prophecy of Malachi, Mal_3:1, The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple. In this messenger of the covenant, the soul of Simeon delighted. Now the prophecy was just going to be fulfilled; and the Holy Spirit, who dwelt in the soul of this righteous man, directed him to go and see its accomplishment. Those who come, under the influence of God’s Spirit, to places of public worship, will undoubtedly meet with him who is the comfort and salvation of Israel.
After the custom of the law – To present him to the Lord, and then redeem him by paying five shekels, Num_18:15, Num_18:16, and to offer those sacrifices appointed by the law. See Luk_2:24.
GREEK EX. Simeon blessed God also, because the promises made to him had received their true fulfillment. For He was reckoned worthy to see with his eyes, and to carry in his arms the consolation of Israel. And therefore he says, According to your word, i.e. since I have obtained the completion of your promises. And now that I have seen with my eyes what was my desire to see, now let you your servant depart, neither dismayed at the taste of death, nor harassed with doubting thoughts: as he adds, in peace.
ATHAN. That is to say, the salvation wrought by Christ for the whole world. How then was it said above that he was watching for the consolation of Israel, but because he truly perceived in the spirit that consolation would be to Israel at that time when salvation was prepared for all people.
29.Thou now sendest thy servant away From this song it is sufficiently evident, that Simeon looked at the Son of God with different eyes from the eyes of flesh. For the outward beholding of Christ could have produced no feeling but contempt, or, at least, would never have imparted such satisfaction to the mind of the holy man, as to make him joyful and desirous to die, from having reached the summit of his wishes. The Spirit of God enlightened his eyes by faith, to perceive, under a mean and poor dress, the glory of the Son of God. He says, that he would be sent away in peace; which means, that he would die with composure of mind, having obtained all that he desired.
But here a question arises. If he chose rather to depart from life, was it amidst distress of mind and murmuring, as is usually the case with those who die unwillingly, that Simeon was hurried away? I answer: we must attend to the circumstance which is added, according to thy word God had promised that Simeon would behold his Son. He had good reason for continuing in a state of suspense, and must have lived in some anxiety, till he obtained his expectation. This ought to be carefully observed; for there are many who falsely and improperly plead the example of Simeon, and boast that they would willingly die, if this or the other thing were previously granted to them; while they allow themselves to entertain rash wishes at their own pleasure, or to form vain expectations without the authority of the Word of God. If Simeon had said exactly, “Now I shall die with a composed and easy mind, because I have seen the Son of God,” this expression would have indicated the weakness of his faith; but, as he had the word, he might have refused to die until the coming of Christ.
Now lettest thou (nun apolueis). Present active indicative, Thou art letting. The Nunc Dimittis, adoration and praise. It is full of rapture and vivid intensity (Plummer) like the best of the Psalms. The verb apoluo was common for the manumission of slaves and Simeon here calls himself “thy slave (doulon sou), Lord (Despota, our despot).” See 2Pe_2:1.
30.For my eyes have seen This mode of expression is very common in Scripture; but Simeon appears to denote expressly the bodily appearance of Christ, as if he had said, that he now has the Son of God present in the flesh, on whom the eyes of his mind had been previously fixed. By saving I understand the matter of salvation: for in Christ are hid all the parts of salvation and of a happy life. Now if the sight of Christ, while he was yet a child, had so powerful an effect on Simeon, that he approached death with cheerfulness and composure; how much more abundant materials of lasting peace are now furnished to us, who have the opportunity of beholding our salvation altogether completed in Christ? True, Christ no longer dwells on earth, nor do we carry him in our arms: but his divine majesty shines openly and brightly in the gospel, and there do “we all,” as Paul says, “behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord,” — not as formerly amidst the weakness of flesh, but in the glorious power of the Spirit, which he displayed in his miracles, in the sacrifice of his death, and in his resurrection. In a word, his absence from us in body is of such a nature, that we are permitted to behold him sitting at the right hand of the Father. If such a sight does not bring peace to our minds, and make us go cheerfully to death, we are highly ungrateful to God, and hold the honor, which he has bestowed upon us, in little estimation.
31.Which thou hast prepared By these words Simeon intimates, that Christ had been divinely appointed, that all nations might enjoy his grace; and that he would shortly afterwards be placed in an elevated situation, and would draw upon him the eyes of all. Under this term he includes all the predictions which relate: to the spread of Christ’s kingdom. But if Simeon, when holding a little child in his arms, could stretch his mind to the utmost boundaries of the world, and acknowledge the power of Christ to be everywhere present, how much more magnificent ought our conceptions regarding him to be now that he has been set up as a, “standard to the people,” (Isa_49:22,) and has revealed himself to the whole world.
Which thou hast prepared – Ο ητοιμασας, which thou hast Made Ready before the face, in the presence, of all people. Here salvation is represented under the notion of a feast, which God himself has provided for the whole world; and to partake of which he has invited all the nations of the earth. There seems a direct allusion here to Isa_25:6, etc. “In this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things,” etc. Salvation is properly the food of the soul, by which it is nourished unto eternal life; he that receiveth not this, must perish for ever.
Of all the peoples (panton ton laon). Not merely Jews. Another illustration of the universality of Luke’s Gospel seen already in Luk_1:70 in the hymn of Zacharias. The second strophe of the song according to Plummer showing what the Messiah will be to the world after having shown what the Messiah is to Simeon.
32.A light for the revelation of the Gentiles Simeon now points out the purpose for which Christ was to be exhibited by the Father before all nations. It was that he might enlighten the Gentiles, who had been formerly in darkness, and might be the glory of his people Israel There is propriety in the distinction here made between the people Israel and the Gentiles: for by the right of adoption the children of Abraham “were nigh” (Eph_2:17 ) to God, while the Gentiles, with whom God had made no “covenants of promise,” were “strangers” to the Church, (Eph_2:12.) For this reason, Israel is called, in other passages, not only the son of God, but his first-born,(Jer_31:9;) and Paul informs us, that “Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers” (Rom_15:8.) The preference given to Israel above the Gentiles is, that all without distinction may obtain salvation in Christ.
A light for revelation means for enlightening the Gentiles Hence we infer, that men are by nature destitute of light, till Christ, “the Sun of Righteousness,” (Mal_4:2,) shine upon them. With regard to Israel, though God had bestowed upon him distinguished honor, yet all his glory rests on this single article, that a Redeemer had been promised to him.
A light to lighten the Gentiles – Φως εις αποκαλυψιν εθνων – A light of the Gentiles, for revelation. By Moses and the prophets, a light of revelation was given to the Jews, in the blessedness of which the Gentiles did not partake. By Christ and his apostles, a luminous revelation is about to be given unto the Gentiles, from the blessedness of which the Jews in general, by their obstinacy and unbelief, shall be long excluded. But to all true Israelites it shall be a glory, an evident fulfillment of all the predictions of the prophets, relative to the salvation of a lost world; and the first offers of it shall be made to the Jewish people, who may see in it the truth of their own Scriptures indisputably evinced.
A light to lighten the Gentiles – This is in accordance with the prophecies in the Old Testament, Isa. 49; Isa_9:6-7; Psa_98:3; Mal_4:2. The Gentiles are represented as sitting in darkness that is, in ignorance and sin. Christ is a “light” to them, as by him they will be made acquainted with the character of the true God, his law, and the plan of redemption. As the darkness rolls away when the sun arises, so ignorance and error flee away when Jesus gives light to the mind. Nations shall come to his light, and kings to the brightness of his rising, Isa_60:3.
And the glory … – The first offer of salvation was made to the Jews, Joh_4:22; Luk_24:47. Jesus was born among the Jews; to them had been given the prophecies respecting him, and his first ministry was among them. Hence, he was their glory, their honor, their light. But it is a subject of special gratitude to us that the Saviour was given also for the Gentiles; for:
1. We are Gentiles, and if he had not come we should have been shut out from the blessings of redemption.
2. It is he only that now.
“Can make our dying bed.
Feel soft as downy pillows are,
While on his breast we lean our head,
And breathe our life out sweetly there.”
Thus our departure may be like that of Simeon. Thus we may die in peace. Thus it will be a blessing to die. But,
3. In order to do this, our life must be like that of Simeon. We must wait for the consolation of Israel. We must look for his coming. We must be holy, harmless, undefiled, “loving” the Saviour. Then death to us, like death to Simeon, will have no terror; we shall depart in peace, and in heaven see the salvation of God, 2Pe_3:11-12. But,
4. Children, as well as the hoary-headed Simeon, may look for the coming of Christ. They too must die; and “their” death will be happy only as they depend on the Lord Jesus, and are prepared to meet him.
A light (φως)
The light itself as distinguished from λύχνος, a lamp, which the A. V. often unfortunately renders light. See on Mar_14:54.
To lighten (εις αποκάλυψιν)
Wrong. Rev., correctly, for revelation. Wyc., to the shewing. It may be rendered the unveiling of the Gentiles.
Assigned to the same root as έθω, to be accustomed, and hence of a people bound together by like habits or customs. According to biblical usage the term is understood of people who are not of Israel, and who therefore occupy a different position with reference to the plan of salvation. Hence the extension of the gospel salvation to them is treated as a remarkable fact. See Mat_12:18, Mat_12:21; Mat_24:14; Mat_28:19; Act_10:45; Act_11:18; Act_18:6. Paul is called distinctively an apostle and teacher of the Gentiles, and a chosen vessel to bear Christ’s name among them. In Act_15:9; Eph_2:11, Eph_2:18; Eph_3:6, we see this difference annihilated, and the expression at last is merely historical designation of the non-Israelitish nations which, as such, were formerly without God and salvation. See Act_15:23; Rom_16:4; Eph_3:1. Sometimes the word is used in a purely moral sense, to denote the heathen in opposition to Christians. See 1Co_5:1; 1Co_10:20; 1Pe_2:12. Light is promised here to the Gentiles and glory to Israel. The Gentiles are regarded as in darkness and ignorance. Some render the words εις αποκάλυψιν, above, for the unveiling of the Gentiles, instead of for revelation. Compare Isa_25:7. Israel, however, has already received light by the revelation of God through the law and the prophets, and that light will expand into glory through Christ. Through the Messiah, Israel will attain its true and highest glory.
Catena Aurea Luk 2:33-35
ORIGEN; They who explain this simply, may say that He came for the fall of unbelievers, and the rising again of believers.
CHRYS. As the light though it may annoy weak eyes, is still light; in like manner the Savior endures, though many fall away, for His office is not to destroy; but their way is madness. Wherefore not only by the salvation of the good but by the scattering of the wicked, is His power shown. For the sun the brighter it shines, is the more trying to the weak sight.
AMBROSE; That is, to distinguish the merits of the just and the unjust, and according to the quality of our deeds, as a true and just Judge, to decree punishment or rewards.
BASIL; The sign which is spoken against is called in Scripture, the cross. For Moses, it says, made a brazen serpent, and placed it for a sign.
GREG. NYSS. He has joined together honor and dishonor. For to us Christians this sign is a token of honor, but it is a sign of contradiction, inasmuch by some indeed it is received as absurd and monstrous, by others with the greatest veneration. Or perhaps Christ Himself is termed a sign, as having a supernatural existence, and as the author of signs.
AUG. Or by this is signified that Mary also, through whom was performed the mystery of the incarnation, looked with doubt and astonishment at the death of her Lord, seeing the Son of God so humbled as to come down even to death. And as a sword passing close by a man causes fear, though it does not strike him; so doubt also causes sorrow, yet does not kill; for it is not fastened to the mind, but passes through it as through a shadow.
THEOPHYL; But now even down to the close of the present time, the sword of the severest tribulation ceases not to go through the soul of the Church, when with bitter sorrow she experiences the evil speaking against the sign of faith, when hearing the word of God that many are raised with Christ, she finds still more falling from the faith, when at the revealing of the thoughts of many hearts, in which the good seed of the Gospel has been sown, she beholds the tares of vice overshooting it, spreading beyond it, or growing alone.
33.And his father and mother were wondering Luke does not say, that they were astonished at it as a new thing, but that they contemplated with reverence, and embraced with becoming admiration, this prediction of the Spirit uttered by the lips of Simeon, so that they continued to make progress in the knowledge of Christ. We learn from this example that, when we have once come to possess a right faith, we ought to collect, on every hand, whatever may aid in giving to it additional strength. That man has made great proficiency in the word of God, who does not fail to admire whatever he reads or hears every day, that contributes to his unceasing progress in faith.
His father and his mother (ho pater autou kai he meter). Luke had already used “parents” in Luk_2:27. He by no means intends to deny the Virgin Birth of Jesus so plainly stated in Luk_1:34-38. He merely employs here the language of ordinary custom. The late MSS. wrongly read “and Joseph” instead of “his father.”
Were marvelling (en thaumazontes). The masculine gender includes the feminine when both are referred to. But en is singular, not esan, the normal imperfect plural in this periphrastic imperfect. This is due to the wide space between copula and participle. The copula en agrees in number with ho pater while the participle coming last agrees with both ho pater kai he meter (cf. Mat_17:3; Mat_22:40). If one wonders why they marvelled at Simeon’s words after what they had heard from Gabriel, Elisabeth, and the Shepherds, he should bear in mind that every parent is astonished and pleased at the fine things others see in the child. It is a mark of unusual insight for others to see so much that is obvious to the parent. Simeon’s prophecy had gone beyond the angel’s outline and it was surprising that he should know anything about the child’s destiny.
34.And Simeon blessed them If you confine this to Joseph and Mary, there will be no difficulty. But, as Luke appears to include Christ at the same time, it might be asked, What right had Simeon to take upon him the office of blessing Christ? “Without all contradiction,” says Paul, “the less is blessed of the greater,” (Heb_7:7.) Besides, it has the appearance of absurdity, that any mortal man should offer prayers in behalf of the Son of God. I answer: The Apostle does not speak there of every kind of blessing, but only of the priestly blessing: for, in other respects, it is highly proper in men to pray for each other. Now, it is more probable that Simeon blessed them, as a private man and as one of the people, than that he did so in a public character: for, as we have already said, we nowhere read that he was a priest. But there would be no absurdity in saying, that he prayed for the prosperity and advancement of Christ’s kingdom: for in the book of Psalms the Spirit prescribes such a εὐλογία,—a blessingof this nature to all the godly.
“Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; we have blessed you in the name of the Lords” (Psa_118:26.)
Lo, this has been set This discourse was, no doubt, directly addressed by Simeon to Mary; but it has a general reference to all the godly. The holy virgin needed this admonition, that she might not (as usually happens) be lifted up by prosperous beginnings, so as to be less prepared for enduring afflictive events. But she needed it on another account, that she might not expect Christ to be received by the people with universal applause, but that her mind, on the contrary, might be fortified by unshaken courage against all hostile attacks. It was the design, at the same time, of the Spirit of God, to lay down a general instruction for all the godly. When they see the world opposing Christ with wicked obstinacy, they must be prepared to meet that opposition, and to contend against it undismayed. The unbelief of the world is—we know it—a great and serious hinderance; but it must be conquered, if we wish to believe in Christ. There never was a state of human society so happily constituted, that the greater part followed Christ. Those who will enlist in the cause of Christ must learn this as one of their earliest lessons, and must “put on” this “armor,” (Eph_6:11,) that they may be steadfast in believing on him.
It was by far the heaviest temptation, that Christ was not acknowledged by his own countrymen, and was even ignominiously rejected by that nation, which boasted that it was the Church of God; and, particularly, that the priests and scribes, who held in their hands the government of the Church, were his most determined enemies. For who would have thought, that he was the King of those, who not only rejected him, but treated him with such contempt and outrage?
We see, then, that a good purpose was served by Simeon’s prediction, that Christ was set for the ruin of many in Israel The meaning is, that he was divinely appointed to cast down and destroy many. But it must be observed, that the ruin of unbelievers results from their striking against him. This is immediately afterwards expressed, when Simeon says that Christ is a sign, which is spoken against Because unbelievers are rebels against Christ, they clash themselves against him, and hence comes their ruin This metaphor is taken from a mark shot at by archers, as if Simeon had said, Hence we perceive the malice of men, and even the depravity of the whole human race, that all, as if they had made a conspiracy, rise in murmurs and rebellion against the Son of God. The world would not display such harmony in opposing the Gospel, if there were not a natural enmity between the Son of God and those men. The ambition or fury of the enemies of the Gospel carries them in various directions, faction splits them into various sects, and a wide variety of superstitions distinguishes idolaters from each other. But while they thus differ among themselves, they all agree in this, to oppose the Son of God. It has been justly observed, that the opposition everywhere made to Christ is too plain an evidence of human depravity. That the world should thus rise against its Creator is a monstrous sight. But Scripture predicted that this would happen, and the reason is very apparent, that men who have once been alienated from God by sin, always fly from him. Instances of this kind, therefore, ought not to take us by surprise; but, on the contrary, our faith, provided with this armor, ought to be prepared to fight with the contradiction of the world.
As God has now gathered an Israel to himself from the whole world, and there is no longer a distinction between the Jew and the Greek, the same thing must now happen as, we learn, happened before. Isaiah had said of his own age, “The Lord will be for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offense, to both the houses of Israel,” (Isa_8:14.)
From that time, the Jews hardly ever ceased to dash themselves against God, but the rudest shock was against Christ. The same madness is now imitated by those who call themselves Christians; and even those, who lay haughty claims to the first rank in the Church, frequently employ all the power which they possess in oppressing Christ. But let us remember, all that they gain is, to be at length crushed and “broken in pieces,” (Isa_8:9.)
Under the word ruin the Spirit denounces the punishment of unbelievers, and thus warns us to keep at the greatest possible distance from them; lest, by associating with them, we become involved in the same destruction. And Christ is not the less worthy of esteem, because, when he appears, many are ruined: for the “savor” of the Gospel is not less “sweet” and delightful to God, (2Co_2:15,) though it is destructive to the ungodly world. Does any one inquire, how Christ occasions the ruinof unbelievers, who without him were already lost? The reply is easy. Those who voluntarily deprive themselves of the salvation which God has offered to them, perish twice. Ruin implies the double punishment which awaits all unbelievers, after that they have knowingly and wilfully opposed the Son of God.
And for the resurrection This consolation is presented as a contrast with the former clause, to make it less painful to our feelings: for, if nothing else were added, it would be melancholy to hear, that Christ is “a stone of stumbling,” which will break and crush, by its hardness, a great part of men. Scripture therefore reminds us of his office, which is entirely different: for the salvation of men, which is founded on it, is secure; as Isaiah also says, “Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread; and he shall be for a sanctuary,” or fortress of defense, (Isa_8:13.) And Peter speaks more clearly: “To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house. Wherefore also it is contained in Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion the head-stone of the corner, elect, precious, and he that believeth in him shall not be confounded. Unto you, therefore, which believe, he is precious: but unto them who are disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,” (1Pe_2:4; Isa_28:16.)
That we may not be terrified by the designation bestowed on Christ, “a stone of stumbling,” let it be instantly recollected, on the other hand, that he is likewise called the “corner-stone,” on which rests the salvation of all the godly. Let it be also taken into account, that the former is accidental, while the latter is properly and strictly his office. Besides, it deserves our notice, that Christ is not only called the support, but the resurrection of the godly: for the condition of men is not one in which it is safe for them to remain. They must rise from death, before they begin to live.
This child is set for the fall – This seems an allusion to Isa_8:14, Isa_8:15 : Jehovah, God of hosts, shall be – for a stone of stumbling and rock of offense to both houses of Israel; and many among them shall stumble and fall, etc. As Christ did not come as a temporal deliverer, in which character alone the Jews expected him, the consequence should be, they would reject him, and so fall by the Romans. See Rom_11:11, Rom_11:12, and Matthew 24. But in the fullness of time there shall be a rising again of many in Israel. See Rom_11:26.
And for a sign – A mark or butt to shoot at – a metaphor taken from archers. Or perhaps Simeon refers to Isa_11:10-12. There shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an Ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: – intimating that the Jews would reject it, while the Gentiles should flock to it as their ensign of honor, under which they were to enjoy a glorious rest.
That the thoughts (or reasonings) of many hearts may be revealed – I have transposed this clause to the place to which I believe it belongs. The meaning appears to me to be this: The rejection of the Messiah by the Jewish rulers will sufficiently prove that they sought the honor which comes from the world, and not that honor which comes from God: because they rejected Jesus, merely for the reason that he did not bring them a temporal deliverance. So the very Pharisees, who were loud in their professions of sanctity and devotedness to God, rejected Jesus, and got him crucified, because his kingdom was not of this world. Thus the reasonings of many hearts were revealed.
Simeon blessed them – Joseph and Mary. On them he sought the blessing of God.
Is set – Is appointed or constituted for that, or such will be the effect of his coming.
The fall – The word “fall” here denotes “misery, suffering, disappointment,” or “ruin.” There is a plain reference to the passage where it is said that he should be “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence,” Isa_8:14-15. Many expected a temporal prince, and in this they were disappointed. They loved darkness rather than light, and rejected him, and fell unto destruction. Many that were proud were brought low by his preaching. They fell from the vain and giddy height of their own self-righteousness, and were humbled before God, and then, through him, rose again to a better righteousness and to better hopes. The nation also rejected him and put him to death, and, as a judgment, “fell” into the hands of the Romans. Thousands were led into captivity, and thousands perished. The nation rushed into ruin, the temple was destroyed, and the people were scattered into all the nations. See Rom_9:32-33; 1Pe_2:8; 1Co_1:23-24.
And rising again – The word “again” is not expressed in the Greek. It seems to be supposed, in our translation, that the “same persons would fall and rise again; but this is not the meaning of the passage. It denotes that many would be ruined by his coming, and that many “others” would be made happy or be saved. Many of the poor and humble, that were willing to receive him, would obtain pardon of sin
and peace – would “rise” from their sins and sorrows here, and finally ascend to eternal life.
And for a sign … – The word “sign” here denotes a conspicuous or distinguished object, and the Lord Jesus was such an object of contempt and rejection by all the people. He was despised, and his religion has been the common “mark” or “sign” for all the wicked, the profligate, and the profane, to curse, and ridicule, and oppose. Compare Isa_8:18, and Act_28:22. Never was a prophecy more exactly fulfilled than this. Thousands have rejected the gospel and fallen into ruin; thousands are still falling of those who are ashamed of Jesus; thousands blaspheme him, deny him, speak all manner of evil against him, and would crucify him again if he were in their hands; but thousands also “by” him are renewed, justified, and raised up to life and peace.
Is set for the falling and the rising up of many in Israel (Keitai eis ptōsin kai anastasin pollōn en tōi Israēl). Present indicative of the old defective verb appearing only in present and imperfect in the N.T. Sometimes it is used as the passive of tithēmi as here. The falling of some and the rising up of others is what is meant. He will be a stumbling-block to some (Isa_8:14; Mat_21:42, Mat_21:44; Rom_9:33; 1Pe_2:16.) who love darkness rather than light (Joh_3:19), he will be the cause of rising for others (Rom_6:4, Rom_6:9; Eph_2:6). “Judas despairs, Peter repents: one robber blasphemes, the other confesses” (Plummer). Jesus is the magnet of the ages. He draws some, he repels others. This is true of all epoch-making men to some extent.
Spoken against (antilegomenon). Present passive participle, continuous action. It is going on today. Nietzsche regarded Jesus Christ as the curse of the race because he spared the weak.
35. But also a sword shall pierce thy own soul This warning must have contributed greatly to fortify the mind of the holy virgin, and to prevent her from being overwhelmed with grief, when she came to those distressing struggles, which she had to undergo. Though her faith was agitated and tormented by various temptations, yet her sorest battle was with the cross: for Christ might appear to be utterly destroyed. She was not overwhelmed with grief; but it would have required a heart of stone not to be deeply wounded: for the patience of the saints differs widely from stupidity.
That the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed There are some who connect this clause with a part of the former verse, that Christ is set for the ruin and for the resurrection of many in Israel; and who include in a parenthesis what we have just now explained about the sword: but it is better, I think, to refer it to the whole passage. The particle that, ὅπως ἄν, in this passage, does not strictly denote a cause, but merely a consequence. When the light of the Gospel arises, and persecutions immediately spring up, there is, at the same time, a disclosure of affections of the heart, which had been hitherto concealed: for the lurking-places of human dissimulation are so deep, that they easily remain hidden till Christ comes. ) But Christ, by his light, discloses every artifice, and unmasks hypocrisy; and to him is properly ascribed the office of laying open the secrets of the heart. But when the cross is added to doctrine it tries the hearts more to the quick. For those who have embraced Christ by outward profession, often shrink from bearing the cross, and, when they see the Church exposed to numerous calamities, easily desert their post.
Yea, a sword … – The sufferings and death of thy Son shall deeply afflict thy soul. And if Mary had not been thus forewarned and sustained by strong faith, she could not have borne the trials which came upon her Son; but God prepared her for it, and the holy mother of the dying Saviour was sustained.
That the thoughts … – This is connected with the preceding verse: “He shall be a sign, a conspicuous object to be spoken against, that the thoughts of many hearts may be made manifest – that is, that they “might show” how much they hated holiness. Nothing so “brings out” the feelings of sinners as to tell them of Jesus Christ. Many treat him with silent contempt; many are ready to gnash their teeth; many curse him; all show how much by nature the heart is opposed to religion, and thus are really, in spite of themselves, fulfilling the scriptures and the prophecies. So true it that “none can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost,” 1Co_12:3.
A sword (rhomphaia). A large sword, properly a long Thracian javelin. It occurs in the lxx of Goliath’s sword (1 Samuel 17:51). How little Mary understood the meaning of Simeon’s words that seemed so out of place in the midst of the glorious things already spoken, a sharp thorn in their roses, a veritable bitter-sweet. But one day Mary will stand by the Cross of Christ with this Thracian javelin clean through her soul, stabat Mater Dolorosa (Joh_19:25). It is only a parenthesis here, and a passing cloud perhaps passed over Mary’s heart already puzzled with rapture and ecstasy.
May be revealed (apokaluphthosin). Unveiled. First aorist passive subjunctive after hopos an and expresses God’s purpose in the mission of the Messiah. He is to test men’s thoughts (dialogismoi) and purposes. They will be compelled to take a stand for Christ or against him. That is true today.