The theological debate over how to understand the relationship between the Old Testament Law and the new covenant in Christ has raged for centuries. Many sixteenth- century reformers, eager to distance themselves from the Roman church (and its emphasis on self-righteousness), diminished the Law. Martin Luther, for example, exaggerated, “Moses knows nothing of Christ.”
Scripture testifies that Jesus Christ was not a Law-breaker but a Law-keeper. As we see in our reading today, Jesus’ parents were devout Jews and obeyed the requirements of the Law of Moses (v. 22; see Ex. 13:2; Lev. 12:6). Jesus grew up in a religiously faithful household. He was a religiously faithful Jew. His family regularly attended the three pilgrim feasts in Jerusalem, and at the age of twelve, when his parents lost track of him after the Passover feast, Jesus was found quizzing the religious leaders in the temple courts and audaciously calling the temple His Father’s house.
As a human being, Jesus had to fulfill the duty that Israel had failed. He had to obey the Law and restore the true worship of God. Though He was sinless and needed no redemption, He came to save humanity from the curse of sinfulness and death. Mary and Joseph had to bring two pigeons (or doves) as a sacrifice of atonement and a rite of purification forty days after Jesus’ birth. But Simeon anticipated the final penalty that Jesus would pay, and he warned Mary, “A sword will pierce your own soul too” (v. 35).
What is immensely good news for everyone—Zechariah and Elizabeth, the shepherds, Simeon and Anna—will require Jesus’ death in order to defeat death. He will sacrifice His life in order to make eternal life possible for all. Jesus, the Lamb of God, will take away the sins of the world.
Apply the Word
We can cherish the hope of knowing that God keeps His promises, even in dark seasons of despair. Verse 38 shows us what faith does in response to God’s promises: it looks forward to redemption. It hopes. It anticipates. It sets holy expectation. Can you do that today by faith, trusting God for your tomorrows?