Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

February 14, 2004

Encouragement (4)

Consider the word "consolation."

Henri Nouwen points out (in Bread for the Journey) that the English word, traced to its Latin origin, means, literally, to be with [con] the lonely one [solus].

What did Simeon say, after seeing the baby Jesus in the Temple: "I have seen the consolation of Israel." [Luke 2:25]

Rembrandt's Simeon with Christ Child in the Temple

Isn't that a beautiful thought? Israel was "lonely" for the Messiah. Remember that by this time God had not spoken in something like 500 years. Would He ever speak again? The Rabbis had said the Messiah would be the Consoler or Comforter. The One who brings hope. Simeon was "righteous and devout" (which means he revered God), and he had been looking for that hope, that consolation, all his life. He had not given up on God. He simply trusted the promise and waited for its fulfillment.

And when Mary and Joseph brought the boy to the Temple, he knew that his wait was over. Though this was just a helpless infant that he saw before him, he sensed (because the Holy Spirit was "upon" him) that this boy was the Christ and would one day enact the ultimate consolation.

It's important to note that the Holy Spirit gave Simeon this knowledge. That is very clear from the text. The Holy Spirit always directs people to Jesus. The Spirit was "upon" Simeon, and he saw then with more than ordinary human sight--he saw prophetically. He saw the Consolation of Israel, and what's even more remarkable, he also saw that this Consoler would be "a light to the Gentiles."

So the Messiah, Jesus, is called here the Consolation. I want to get back to the meaning of that word. I said that the literal meaning was "to be with the lonely one." The Greek word in the original Luke text is "paraklesis."

Now remember that the Holy Spirit is sometimes called the Paraklete. In other words, the Comforter. Alternatively, The Helper. The Consoler. The Encourager. The Advocate. [see John 14:16] Do you get it? Jesus is called, by Simeon, the consolation (or comfort). The Holy Spirit (who always magnifies Jesus) is called, by Jesus himself, the Comforter. So the comfort is Jesus. The comforter is the Holy Spirit. The encouragement (the grounds for hope) is Jesus. The encourager is the Holy Spirit.

Now I realize I'm kind of rambling here, and this may seem quite rudimentary to you, but I'm just working all this out in my own mind by writing about it. Take a moment to look down a few verses in Luke 2, down from the description of Simeon waiting for the Consolation of Israel, to the the words that Simeon speaks about Jesus. Simeon says, "for my eyes have seen your salvation." And this is really the equation I wanted to get to. The Consolation of Israel was the Salvation of Israel. My consolation, too, my comfort, my help, my hope, is my salvation. That is, my Savior.

This is ultimate comfort, isn't it? Not just temporary comfort, not just partial comfort. This is eternal stuff we're talking about. And keep this in mind, too: the ministry of consolation is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when we are truly walking in the Spirit, we are enacting the Spirit's ministry of consolation. We are ministering comfort to the lost. We are coming along side the lonely. We are offering the Word of Hope to a world darkened by sin. And the point is, we can only do this in the power of the Holy Spirit. When we "walk in the Spirit" (that is, in line with the Spirit's purposes) we are quite literally enacting the ministry of the Holy Spirit by pointing people to Jesus as their one and only ground of hope.

So just to sum up (because I know I've been rambling):

1) Jesus is our consolation
2) The Holy Spirit ministers this consolation
3) This consolation is our salvation
4) To offer this salvation to others is to offer ultimate, trustworthy, and everlasting hope
5) Therefore, if you really want to comfort (console, encourage, help) offer Christ
6) And that is, at least in part, what it means to "walk in the Spirit."


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