Thursday I was thinking about a particular subject, trying to prepare it for this morning’s message. After an hour or so, I got side-tracked onto this scripture, and something slightly different developed. I don’t know what the Holy Spirit has in store for us, but this might be the introduction to next week’s morning message. I won’t demand that you remember what I am going to share with you today. But you might have to hear a summary of this again next week.
Joseph and his little family stayed in Bethlehem for about a month and a half, before traveling down to Egypt and subsequently moving to Nazareth in Galilee. During that time, not only was Jesus’ life in danger by staying in Nazareth only six miles from Herod, but twice he was brought into Jerusalem – right under the shadow the king’s palace.
A few minutes ago I had Brother Fulton read our text and the context around it. We learned that on the eighth day of Jesus’ life, He was carried into the city to be circumcised. That ceremony was necessary to prove that Jesus was truly human and to illustrate that He was a Jew. Jesus’ parents were godly, and as devoutly obedient to the law, as any couple in Israel, and of course this was necessary for Jesus’ purpose – for the sake of our salvation. After the circumcision, they most likely returned to Bethlehem – out of convenience. Because thirty-three days later, Mary was to present herself to the priests, and Joseph was to present his first born son to God, giving Him to the Lord.
We learn of this requirement from Leviticus 12:1 – “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean SEVEN days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying THREE and THIRTY days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled. And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest: Who shall offer it before the LORD, and make an atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood.”
It might be argued that these sacrifices were not necessary, because in Mary’s case there was no sin. But both the circumcision and these sacrifices were necessary in order to for Christ to fully comply with the law. If He had transgressed the law in any way, He would have been disqualified as our Saviour. Furthermore, God had ordained that when Mary and Joseph returned on Jesus’ fortieth day, Simeon would be there to meet Him.
We also read that while Simeon was speaking and praising God, Anna came into the courtyard of the women. “And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to ALL them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” The scripture says that Anna was a prophetess, so I’m going to say she was lead of the Spirit to be there. And under the Lord’s leadership – like Simeon – she recognized the spiritual nature of this child. There was no halo around Jesus’ head, and He didn’t speak in tongues before His first birthday. Little birds didn’t flutter down to sit on His shoulders and there were no visible angels there that day. There were no injured people instantly healed when Mary or Joseph carried their son into the Temple. It was just that Simeon & Anna had the testimony of the Spirit within them that this baby was the Messiah. Then Anna eventually returned to her friends, telling them that redemption was now available – salvation had arrived in the person of Christ Jesus.
Let’s begin this morning by considering the details of Simeon’s meeting with Christ.
And first we need to ask – Who was this man? “Behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.” Let me emphasize the emphasis which the Bible places on this event – “And, behold, there was a man…” The word “behold” suggests that this meeting was a bit surprising – if not actually miraculous. This is the same word, & it carries the same intensity, as when at the conclusion of Satan’s temptation of Christ, “Behold angels came and ministered unto him.” It’s like the angel’s message to Mary, “Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.” In some cases the implied suggestion is – stand in awe, something spectacular is taking place here under the providence of the Almighty God.
Several commentators have tried to identify this Simeon, basing their comments on Jewish statements. Some have declared that this man was the father of Rabbi Gamaliel; others that he was the High Priest. Other guesses have been made trying, pointing to historical men named Simeon. But I’m not going there. First, because it is not important, and second, because the Bible doesn’t identify him any more than to give us his name. I think he is introduced in a general way, as if he had no particular fame in Jerusalem. Who he was – or what he had been – is not as important as what took place at this moment. But I will say this – he was not a product of Luke’s imagination – he was an actual individual. And one of these days, you, if you are a saint of God, will join Simeon in worshiping the Lord Jesus in His glorified, physical presence.
We are told that Simeon was an above average Jew; he was one whom we might call an Old Testament saint. “And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.” He was just – that is first of all – his outward life was holy in the sight of men. But it could also mean that he was just in the sight of God. This could mean that he had been “justified” by God; that he had been “declared righteous.” I don’t know if that was Luke’s meaning, but I am pretty sure that it was true in Simeon’s case. He was just, and he was devout. Here was a man who was holy according to the principles of godly religion. He was above average in the performance of his religious duties. He was in the temple that day because he loved that place, and he loved the God who was supposed to be glorified in that place. When the doors were unlocked he was there – with his sacrifices, with his tithes, with Psalms in his heart and with his heart in his hands.
And he was filled with the Holy Spirit. He was not just indwelt as any New Testament saint possesses the Comforter – the earnest of the Spirit. He was possessed BY the Holy Spirit in an extraordinary sort of way – or above measure. The Spirit could speak to him, and he could recognize God’s voice, because they knew each other well. “And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Simeon was convinced that God had given him a personal message – a revelation. He didn’t see a vision or a dream, as some Old Testament men had, and he wasn’t visited by an angel. In some cases God spoke with people with visions and dreams because of the weakness of their faith and spiritual lives – or because of the length or complexity of God’s message. In Simeon’s case, he heard God’s voice, because he was intimately acquainted with the Spirit of God.
“And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” In the past I have been as mistaken as others into thinking verse 26 says that Simeon was an old man. I used to picture him tottering into the temple with a crutch in his hand and nearly blind with age. Anna was elderly, there is no doubt about that because the Bible tells us, but it doesn’t say about Simeon. And the fact he later says, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,” doesn’t prove age either. I am not going to say absolutely that Simeon wasn’t 80 or 90 years old – he could have been – but the Bible doesn’t make that assertion. Any person of faith, no matter what the age, should be ready for death after meeting the Saviour. I’ll come back to this in a few minutes.
Was Simeon one of the priests, and did Joseph present his son to God through the ministration of Simeon. That is certainly possible. Simeon may have been the priest to whom Mary was supposed to present the offerings of her purification. But there is no word to that effect. So with a specific application in mind, I’m going to say this man was not one of the priests on duty that day.
I am going to say that it was at the precise moment when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus in to the temple that the Holy Spirit brought Simeon into the temple. And remember that the grounds around the temple were pretty good size. There was the temple building itself – which was not large – but then there were several courtyards surrounding it – some of which limited entrance to various people. Mary could not enter all the courts into which Simeon might have gone. And wherever this providential meeting took place, I’m sure there were a lot of people. But there was no special crowd around the Saviour that day; there was nothing to draw attention to this little family. And yet, in the midst of crowds of people in acres of courtyards, the Spirit led Simeon directly to Jesus. “And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law. Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.”
May I say that Joseph and Mary were as filled with the Spirit as Simeon? Prior to this day, did they know who this man was, or did they know what he was doing? Did they assume that presenting Jesus to God on his 40 day involved handing Him to Simeon? No, this was simply the way that Spirit of God lead them.
I can see Simeon with a holy smile as big as Texas, walking over to the couple with his arms outstretched. Even though this is their first baby, and these parents were probably as protective as pride of lions, they willingly offered him to this stranger. And the Greek says that Simeon laid Jesus in the curve of his arm. This would have brought the child up to his chest, next to his heart. I can see him rocking from side to side, as perhaps he had often done with his own children.
And then he began to “bless” or praise God. About what did he praise Him? Going back to verse 25 we might have the answer – Simeon had been “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” What does that mean? Literally “consolation” refers to “comfort” – the word is “paraklasis.” The “Comforter” is sometimes called the “paraclete.” But what kind of consolation was Simeon yearning? Over the next couple of verses we are told. “And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” What was the consolation and comfort for which Simeon yearned? It was “salvation” (verse 30) through “the Lord’s Christ” – the Messiah. It was the same thing for which Anna was looking. She was one of those in Jerusalem who was looking for “redemption.”
I am not going to lose any sleep worrying whether or not Simeon understood the cross. I don’t think Moses, David or even Isaiah fully understood the necessity of Christ’s crucifixion. Simeon may have been thinking primarily about the Millennium with the Messiah sitting on David’s throne. But if that was his thought, by faith it included this child, and Simeon was fully satisfied with what revelation God had given to him. He was surrendered to God’s will however it was developed. And he wasn’t going to call for the nation to anoint Jesus with coronation oil, as people had done with Josiah when he was only eight years old. In fact, Simeon was personally ready to forgo the Millennium. He was prepared to die even before this baby was old enough to rule and reign. He wasn’t looking for the reign of the Millennial Messiah as much as he was the person of the Messiah. It was enough for Simeon to see God’s salvation in the person of Jesus the Christ.
Apparently at about that time, Anna came into the midst of the little celebration. And with the blessing of the Holy Spirit she, too, was stirred about salvation through this Christ. “But MARY kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart” – Luke 2:19. It was shortly after this that Joseph heeded the warning of “the angel of the Lord who appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.”
This is a summary of the historical occasion.
Now I’d like you to think of this as an ILLUSTRATION of SALVATION.
Is there any way that Simeon knew Nicodemus of John 3? Perhaps not. There was a generation between them. But they do share some similarities. Weren’t they both just and devout to some degree? Were they both masters in Israel? Maybe / maybe not. Weren’t they both looking for the “consolation” and the “kingdom of God.” Whether or not there were other similarities, the fact remains that they both needed to be born again. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
To be highly religious, faithful to the rites and ceremonies of one’s religion…. To regularly attend the temple or the most scriptural church in town…. To be the child of a godly or religious family…. To be just and devout…. To know the Bible to some degree and to know the promises of God…. None of these things save the sinful soul or make a person a child of God. “Marvel not that I say unto thee, Ye must be born again.” And in order to be born again, one must see and receive the Saviour – the Son of God, the Christ. “But as many as RECEIVED him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
I believe that Simeon was chosen before the foundation of the world to be in the Temple on the day that Jesus was presented to God by his parents. I believe that the Holy Spirit led him to the very place where he met the Saviour. And similarly for ME, even though, at the time I may not have been aware of the Spirit’s leadership, I have no doubt I was led to the building and the gospel message through which my Saviour was presented to me.
“Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” How many people saw Mary, Joseph & Jesus before Simeon came up to them that day? Several dozen? How many people heard Simeon’s words of praise & saw Anna, glancing at Jesus? Several hundred? How many of those same people walked away to live their earthly lives, die in their sins & are now in Hell? There is a difference between seeing something and really seeing something. John will say in the first chapter of his gospel – “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and WE beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” Eventually, thousands saw Christ Jesus, but they didn’t recognize Him, and they died in their sins. Simeon was privileged by faith to see Christ’s glory in the face of this little child Jesus.
And then he put his hands on the head of the sacrifice so to speak. “Then took he him up in his arms.” If I may so say, Simeon brought the Person of “God’s salvation” right up to his heart. It reminds us that – to know who the Saviour is means nothing until we truly appropriate Him. Simeon could then say, “Lord, NOW lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” No one is ready for death until they have met the Saviour and put their trust in Him. Simeon is in Heaven today, and I am looking forward to talking with him about the meeting he had with Jesus and his parents so long ago. He is in Heaven not because he was just and devout, but because by faith he received the One is our Saviour.
The question is – Have you met the Saviour? Is Jesus nothing more to you than the baby who made Christmas possible? Is he only a teacher of morality, the founder of the Christian religion? Or has He saved your soul? Is He your Saviour and King?
Once you answer those questions, I’d like to make another brief application.
Along with an illustration of salvation, we have here a lesson on our upcoming TRANSLATION.
“And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”
I know that I have no right to preach about the rapture from this scripture, but I’m going to do it anyway. There is a man in Post Falls, Idaho, whose name is Oldfield. The same man is an unworthy saint of God, “justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” He has been “justified by faith,” and therefore he has “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, he shall be saved from WRATH through him.”
It is said of Simeon, “And the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation… And it was revealed unto him by the Word of God, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” For what, precisely, was Simeon looking? Consolation, comfort, conclusion. He was living under the thumb of a secular army and secular government – the Roman Empire. He was not much different from you and me – living in an ungodly world governed by ungodly people. Simeon was limited in the ways that he could worship and serve the Lord. The Jews still had their temple, and they could offer their sacrifices and teach their scriptures. But these “rights” could have been revoked at any time – and in fact they were – not many years later. Simeon was looking for “consolation” and the presence of the “Comforter.” He was looking for Christ’s kingdom on earth – he was looking for God’s King.
Isn’t that your desire this morning? You are a child of God – someone justified by faith – Aren’t you yearning to see the Saviour? And hasn’t the Holy Spirit revealed to you that Christ is coming soon? Hasn’t He laid it upon your heart that you shall not see death before you see the Lord’s Christ?
May I make the application that if you embrace the Saviour, clutching Him closely to your heart that you should also be able to say, “Lord I am ready to depart in peace, if that’s your will.” “Possessing your salvation, I can face Romans, persecution, anarchy – anything.” “Yes, Lord, I am anticipating and listening for the trump and the shout, and this anticipation fills my soul with such joy that I can face anything. I am awaiting the rapture, my translation from the language of this world into the language of Heaven. And I find that this expectation has prepared me for whatever lays between that day and today. I can face tomorrow – with its disease – and poverty – and destruction, because I am living in the expectation of seeing my Saviour – today.” “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” Even if we are not privileged to experience the translation of the saints, just to live in its expectation makes life a little easier to live and death not so worrisome.
I hope that you can say with Simeon, “I expect not to see death before I see with these eyes the return of the Son of God.”