Author’s Note: Interested readers can find all previous volumes of this series here.
In the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke is the only book of the Bible that tells the story of what transpired when Simeon met Baby Jesus, along with mother Mary, and Joseph, his earthly father.
This Bible story is known as “The Presentation” – one of my favorites because of its complex, prophetic layers of tenderness, tragedy, and hope. The impact that Jesus would have on Israel and humankind is foretold by an elderly man waiting to die. We explore why his words have meaning for your life.
For readers who are unfamiliar with Simeon’s story, hopefully, my introduction piqued your interest. But for those who know the verses, here is a chance to revisit and perhaps gain new nuggets of knowledge and inspiration.
Now, let’s open the Word of God and study Luke 2:22-35.
When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him [Jesus] to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord” ), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons” (Luke 2:22-24).
By tradition, Jesus’ Jewish parents were following God’s command to Moses as recorded in the Book of Exodus:
The LORD said to Moses, “Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal” (Exodus 13:1-2).
We interrupt this Bible study for a true family story. When my Jewish mother, Gloria Cohen Kahn, was in her 80’s (and still in sound mind), I informed her that the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, was also a Jewish mother. And, how Mary’s name had been anglicized from “Myriam,” her Hebrew name. My mother was shocked and did not believe me because, from her perspective, Mary was a Catholic statue. Now back to our regular programming, where we are introduced to Simeon.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah (Luke 2:25-26).
What is meant by Simeon "waiting for the consolation of Israel”? Remember that during the time of Jesus, the Israelites were waiting and hoping for the Messiah — thought of as a conquering hero who would free them from Roman oppression. Moreover, to explain how the “Holy Spirit was on him,” my NIV Study Bible footnote says, “Simeon was given a special insight by the Spirit so that he would recognize the ‘Christ.’”
In modern terms, Simeon has been given special powers because he is ready to begin his mission from God that begins in verse 27: Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.
When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:28-32).
Simeon trusted in the Lord’s promise that he would see the Messiah before his death. Thus, when Simeon laid eyes on Baby Jesus, he immediately knew that the Divine promise had been fulfilled. It is important to note that Simeon was the first Israelite outside of the family to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Therefore, Simeon praised God for the Messiah who offers salvation for “Gentiles” and “all nations,” not just for “the glory of your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him (Luke 2:33). This verse could be interpreted as Mary and Joseph learning about the extent of Jesus’ true identity and purpose.
Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2: 34-35).
Simeon foretells the glory and trauma of Jesus’ earthly ministry to the Israelites. Note that in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus talked about his ministry, saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24).
Ultimately, Jesus’ power and growing popularity was a political and religious threat to the Jewish leaders. Subsequently, they managed to turn the people of Jerusalem against him — encouraging the crowd to cry out and demand his crucifixion on Friday — after Jesus had received a royal welcome as he entered Jerusalem the previous Sunday. (See Bible Study, Vol. 6: Palm Sunday).
With insight from God, Simeon sees the Baby Jesus as a “man” who will cause much division among his people by speaking truth to power. That is the power of the New Covenant with Jesus as the "sacrificial lamb" taking on your sins and the sins of the world — replacing animal sacrifice in the Temple. Such a consequential transformation required Christ’s death on the cross with Mary as a witness, prophesized by Simeon: “and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
From Simeon, we learn to seek and trust in Lord Jesus, the Messiah. Simeon also teaches us that by staying faithful to Him, when it is our time, we too can proudly say “dismiss your servant in peace” and spend eternity in His loving arms.
Finally, you can listen to the Song of Simeon - his magnificent prayer of praise.
Thanks for reading, and God Bless!
Myra Kahn Adams is a media producer and conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. She is also Executive Director of www.SignFromGod.org, a ministry dedicated to educating people about the Shroud of Turin. Contact: MyraAdams01@gmail.com or Twitter @MyraKAdams.