Finally, in space and time, in Jerusalem, a real historical city, he went into the temple, as he did every day, and the parents brought in the child Jesus to do according to the custom of the law. There was nothing remarkable about this young couple; they modestly brought pair of pigeons to be sacrificed because they couldn’t afford a lamb. Yet Simeon knew this was no ordinary case, and he took up the child in his arms and blessed God and sang this song, “Now! Now, Lord, let your servant depart in peace. I’ve seen Him. I’ve looked into His face. This time when I came, and I saw that man and I saw that woman with a baby in their arms, I looked into the face of the child, and I said, ‘It’s Him. The Consolation of Israel. He’s here.'”

Anyone reading the story should have a question at this point. Jesus probably didn’t have the word MESSIAH stamped on His forehead. Just how did Simeon know that this particular baby at this particular time in this particular space was God incarnate?

Engraving of Jonathan Edwards by R. Babson and J. Andrews.
Engraving of Jonathan Edwards by R. Babson and J. Andrews.

Seven years before “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon entitled “A Divine and Supernatural Light, Immediately Imparted to the Soul by the Spirit of God, Shown to be Both Scriptural and Rational Doctrine.” (Authors in the 18th century trying to reach people obviously did not have to worry about character limits or SEO.) That sermon was an exposition of the Caesarea-Philippi convention of Peter recorded in Matthew 16, where the disciples were with Jesus in Caeserea-Philippi, and Jesus quizzed them, “All right, you’re out and about, mingling with these crowds of people that are following me all over the place. What are they saying about me? Who do they think I am?” And one of them goes, “Oh, they think you’re John the Baptist come back, or you’re Elijah or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said, “Fine. Who do you say that I am?” Simon answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered, “And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”

Jesus pronounced His supreme benediction on this disciple. Peter had been given the zenith of all divine revelation: the identity of Jesus Christ. He explained why Peter was blessed, because “flesh and blood did not reveal this to you. You didn’t just follow me along and attend the wedding feast of Canaan, see me turn dirty water into wine, and see me walk on water, heal paralytics, lepers and blind men, and somehow come to the logical conclusion that I must be God incarnate. You didn’t come to that place through simple deduction or mere intellectual contemplation or empirical observation. You’re blessed because you recognize me by divine revelation.” It’s what Edwards called “a divine and supernatural light.”

When Simeon looked into the child’s face, he did not recognize this baby as the Christ child because he beheld a transfigured countenance. The baby obviously did not speak it to him. He looked at this child in the arms of His parents, and by the divine and supernatural light of God, he knew he was looking into the face of Christ. That’s when Simeon said, “Now. I don’t have to wait around for Him to astound the experts of the law in the temple when He’s 12, I don’t need to see Him roam around Judea with a blaze of miracles his wake, I don’t have to watch Him suffer on the Cross or be raised from the dead. I’ve seen all I need to see. So let me go home. Let me depart in peace.”

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