Austin in August. The thermometer read 102 today, and our AC unit is just as busted today as it was yesterday when it was 100 degrees. It’s hotter than a Baptist preacher’s Hell. We’re waiting for a new unit. Waiting.
Waiting is relative. When you long for someone or something, the time between now and the arrival seems interminable. You know time neither stops nor slows, yet a dozen glances at the clock tempt you to wonder. Pacing at the airport waiting for Stephanie (!), the vigil at the hospital waiting for word from the surgeon about Dad, the three eternities between when my baby son cries and the breastfeeding begins: the more I want the one or the thing the slower time moves.
What was it like for Simeon, righteous and devout, who waited for “the consolation of Israel”? Luke doesn’t tell us his age, but I assume Simeon welcomes his “dismissal” because he is old. How long did he wait? If Simeon were sixty years old at the time of Jesus’ birth, he would have been a child when Pompey conquered Israel for Rome. Essentially, Simeon waited his whole life for the consolation of Israel.
In the same setting, Luke tells us of Anna the prophetess who was “advanced in years,” 84 to be precise. Anna never left the temple, worshiped day and night and fasted and prayed, waiting. Waiting for what? The “redemption of Jerusalem.”
To live under the heel of the Roman legions, to pay a tax to the faraway Caesar beyond the tax to King Herod, via collectors who played Madoff to their fellow Jews, to endure the insults of pagan overlords whose presence mocked your Scriptures…how must Simeon and Anna have longed desperately for consolation and redemption.
They saw it, or Him. Jesus was the consolation of Israel and the redemption of Jerusalem.
If that’s true, why do we still wait like Simeon and Anna waited? Jesus died, and in fact he died at the hands of those who were the oppressors of Israel. If Jesus was the consolation and redemption, why did things look pretty much the same when He died and for decades after He died?
The author of Hebrews addresses our state of waiting. “Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus…” (Hebrews 2:8-9a)
The author tells us that everything (everything) was put under subjection to him. He further emphasizes this reality by adding that he left “nothing” outside of his control. Yet, and this strikes me as a giant contrast, the author of Hebrews says, “At present we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.” In one sentence, everything is under subjection. In the next sentence, we do not see everything in subjection.
This is another giant contrast. The author of Hebrews writes, “But we see him.” We don’t see everything subject to Him, but we see Him. We see Him. We see Him.
That’s who Simeon saw and that’s who Anna saw. They saw Jesus. Our faith is filled with mysteries and this is one of them. Simeon and Anna did see the consolation of Israel and the redemption of Jerusalem, even though Rome tormented the Jews for centuries more. We do not see everything subject to Him, either, as the news so amply testifies.
But we see Him. And so we wait.