Archive for December 27, 2010
As a pastor, I have had the weighty responsibility, but also the profound privilege, of counseling with many people who are near death. Over the course of these conversations, I have noticed some themes have emerged. Many of the terminally ill are scared of death, which, at least in my opinion, is completely understandable. Others are worried about organizing their affairs before they pass away. One theme that always emerges from these conversations is a wish for a peaceful death. “I hope I die in my sleep,” some say. “I hope I have friends and family with me,” others say. No one wants to die in fear or alone. People want to die peacefully.
This desire to die peacefully is nothing new. Indeed, in our reading from this past weekend from Luke 2, we are introduced to an old man named Simeon who himself is near death. Knowing this, Simeon gives thanks to the Lord that He is “letting His servant depart in peace” (Luke 2:29). Simeon believes, even as his prayer indicates, that his death will be a peaceful one. But why does Simeon believe such a thing? How does Simeon know whether his death will peaceful or agonizing?
Luke explains why Simeon believes he will die peacefully:
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation.” (Luke 2:25-30)
Simeon believes he will die peacefully because he has seen and held the One who is “the consolation of Israel” (verse 25) and “the Lord’s Christ” (verse 26). Because he has held the One who is peace (cf. Ephesians 2:14), Simeon believes that he will depart in peace.
Notably, when Simeon thanks the Lord for allowing him to depart “in peace,” the Greek word for the preposition “in” is en. This preposition is one of the most versatile in the Greek language. One Greek-English lexicon translates this single preposition as “in,” “at,” “near,” “before,” “for,” “with,” and “among,” among many others. In other words, this preposition is a catchall preposition. Indeed, Simeon’s words could nearly be translated, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart *INSERT PREPOSITION HERE* peace!”
This catchall preposition en reveals a profound truth of the peace that Christ gives us. For Christ’s peace makes us at peace with God (2 Peter 2:14), near God in faith (Hebrews 10:22), before God as His justified people (Luke 18:14), for God in love (1 John 5:3), with God unto eternity (Revelation 21:3), and among God as we serve His people (Matthew 25:40). There is no preposition that the peace of Christ cannot cover! And this makes Christ’s peace a profound peace.
What peace do you need? Do you need peace with your past? Do you need peace at work? Do you need peace for an upcoming decision? Then pray with Simeon, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart *INSERT PREPOSITION HERE* peace!” For the peace of Christ covers whatever preposition you might have in this life – or even in the next. What a precious peace is the peace of Christ! As Augustine says, “Peace shall be your gold. Peace shall be your silver. Peace shall be you lands. Peace shall be your life, your God Peace” (Augustine NPNF1 8:94)!
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