A Prophet Meets Jesus (Luke 2:25-35)
Dean Farrar was a privileged personal friend of Queen Victoria, although he seldom mentioned it. But on the first anniversary of accession of Edward VII to the throne of England, during a service in Canterbury Cathedral, he told how the Queen, after hearing one of her chaplains preach at Windsor on the Second Coming of Christ, spoke to the Dean about it and said, “Oh, how I wish that the Lord would come during my lifetime.” “Why does your Majesty feel this very earnest desired?” asked the dean. With her queenly countenance lit up with deep emotion she replied, “Because I should so love to lay my crown at His feet.”
How wonderful it would be if we were living when the Lord Jesus returns! Would it not be wonderful to see the sky open and the Lord of all descend? Would it not be wonderful to see the graves of the dead in Christ to open, to see them given new bodies, and to see them meet the Lord in the air? Would it not be wonderful to have our bodies changed in the twinkling of an eye and to meet the Lord in the air? Would it not be wonderful to escape death and to witness–from beginning to end–the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Our text this evening is about a man who was privileged enough to escape death until the Lord came the first time. Simeon, about whom we know only what’s recorded here, met Jesus and His parents in the temple. Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple when it was time for Mary’s purification and Jesus’ presentation to God (Lk 2:22-24). Let’s not forget the Old Testament background to this text:
A male child was to be circumcised on the eighth day (Gen 17:12).
Mothers were unclean after the birth of their children. In the case of a male child, the mother was unclean for thirty-three days after the circumcision (Lev 12:4). At the conclusion of this period, the mother was to offer a sacrifice, either a lamb, of if she was poor, two doves or two young pigeons (Lev 12:6-8).
Also, the first son was to be presented to the Lord, and a sacrifice was given to buy him back from the Lord, so to speak (Num 18:15).
Thus, this special moment occurs when Mary comes to be purified and to present Jesus to the Lord. We want to explore this passage in order that we might learn more about Simeon and Jesus.
A Good Prophet, vv 25-26
Simeon was righteous and devout. The Greek term for “righteous” means to be well-behaved, to live as one ought to live; the Greek term “devout” means to be conscientious in matters of religion, to be cautious to do things the way God wants them done. Simeon was a good man. Don’t you think it’s only appropriate that we strive, like Simeon, to be righteous and devout? “I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:20). “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim 2:22).
The climax of the Declaration of Independence is reached in the closing words: “For the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” What if you were called upon to pledge your sacred Honor? Are you, like Simeon, such a good person that you could truly pledge your sacred Honor?
Simeon was looking forward to the consolation of Israel. The term “consolation” was used to refer to the time of the Messiah; God had promised that the Messiah would be a time of consolation–“Break forth into joy, sing together, You waste places of Jerusalem! For the LORD has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem” (Is 52:9). Simeon was greatly anticipating the coming of the Messiah; he could not wait until the Messiah came. Joseph of Arimathea is also an example of one waiting for Jesus: “Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus” (Mk 15:43).
Simeon and Joseph serve as good examples for us; just as they looked expectantly for that first coming of Jesus, we need to be looking expectantly for that Second Coming. “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Rom 8:23). When we’ve been on a trip and away from our loved ones, are we not filled with more and more anticipation as we get closer to home? Why not have great anticipation when we think of the Lord’s coming to take us to our heavenly home to live with the saints of all the ages?
Simeon was endowed with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit operated in Simeon’s life in a way He simply does not operate in our lives–the Spirit had revealed to him that he wouldn’t die until he saw Jesus, and the Spirit guided him to Jesus. Undoubtedly, the Spirit would not have rested upon Simeon had he not been a godly individual.
Simeon was blessed by God. The Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Christ; although Simeon was probably quite old, this statement does not require that Simeon be old. Because Simeon was such a good man, God blessed him.
God will bless us if we live obediently. “A faithful man will abound with blessings” (Prov 28:20). “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt 6:33). Luke 18:29-30. Is God blessing you? Is your faithfulness giving God a reason to bless you?
What we learn about Simeon from this passage is that he was a good, good man. Are you, like Simeon, a good, good person?
A Good Savior, vv 27-35
Simeon was guided by the Holy Spirit, he took Jesus in his arms, and he began to sing praise to God. In his praise to God, Simeon teaches us about Jesus. Let’s take a look at what we learn about Jesus:
He brings salvation for all peoples, vv 30-31.
Notice what Simeon says, “My eyes have seen Your salvation Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples.”
God accomplished His salvation in Christ. “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 15:11). “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom 5:9).
God has prepared His salvation in the presence of all peoples. This salvation is not just for some special group, but all people can be saved. “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom 10:13). God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). It matters not who we are, for “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” If we are the poorest of the poor, we can be saved; if we are the riches of the rich, we can be saved; if we are the blackest of the black or the whitest of the white, we can be saved. If we are the chief of sinners, we can be saved. I dare say we’ve each violated God’s holiness in ways that make us cringe, yet the blood of Jesus can cleanse us of all sin.
He brings a light for revelation to the Gentiles, v 33.
The Gentiles, unlike the Israelites, had little revelation from God. God had revealed Himself to the Gentiles in nature (Rom 1:19-20). Yet, nature reveals so little about God. Nature will tell us that God is wise, that He is orderly, that He is powerful, but not much else. Nature does not tell us how we ought to live. God also at times chose to reveal Himself directly to the Gentiles. Jonah, for example, was sent to Nineveh to urge the repentance of the Gentiles.
In Jesus, the Gentiles have been made to know about God and learn how to come to God. How grateful we ought to be that Jesus is a light to the Gentiles! I’m afraid that because we live so long after Jesus’ ministry we take the acceptance of Gentiles–us–for granted. Yet had Jesus not come as a light to the Gentiles, you and I would have been damned forever in hell. Precisely because Jesus is a “light for revelation to the Gentiles” can you and I be saved.
He brings glory for the people of Israel, v 32.
“Glory” here basically means “honor.” The Israelites were honored that the Savior of all mankind came through them. Jesus did not come through Irish blood or German blood or English blood or Native American blood. He came through Jewish blood–What a privilege the Jews had to give the world Jesus! Jesus’ bestowing honor on the Israelites was the fulfillment of a divine promise–to Abraham God had said, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3).
Daniel Webster was dining with a company of literary gentleman in Boston. A minister of considerable literary reputation sat opposite him at the table, and said, “Mr. Webster, can you comprehend how Jesus Christ can be both God and man?” Mr. Webster, with one of those looks with no man could imitate, fixed his eyes upon this gentleman and said emphatically: “No, sir, I cannot comprehend it. If I could comprehend it, He would be no greater than myself. I need a superhuman Savior.” Indeed, we need a superhuman Savior, a Savior who can remove all of our sin and guilt. Fortunately, in Jesus we have a great Savior, we, indeed, have a superhuman Savior.
In this passage, we see a good man and a good Savior–we find in Simeon a man worth imitating, and we find in Jesus a Savior worth worshiping.
Although we learn much about how we ought to live and much about the One who makes that lifestyle possible, this passage does not end on the highest note. “Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, ‘Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed'” (Lk 2:34-35).
Jesus would be destined for the rising and the falling of many in Israel. You know how true that is. Think of all those who rose because of Jesus: Mary Magdalene, who found the empty tomb; Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin who gave Jesus a proper burial; Peter, who rose in spite of his occasional gaffes to deliver the first gospel sermon. Think, on the other hand, of all those who fell because of Jesus: Judas, who committed suicide after betraying the Lord for 30 pieces of silver; Pilate, who cowered in the face of the crowd and had Jesus put to death; the rich young ruler, who after hearing his riches were a problem, chose to leave Jesus rather than to follow Him.
Jesus was a sign that was opposed. Think of all those schemes the scribes and Pharisees devised to trap Jesus and how they ultimately led to His death. Think of how many oppose Him still–from openly supporting what He taught was wrong to supporting legislation that is clearly anti-Christian.
Jesus would reveal the inner thoughts of many. The thought that God knows our inner thoughts should be a frightening concept. Jesus says, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts” (Lk 16:15). In Acts 15:8 God described as the One “who knows the heart” (Acts 15:8). God knows your heart quite well this evening. What is it He sees?
A sword would pierce Mary’s own heart. I dare say there’s not a one of us who can fathom the pain Mary must have felt as her Son was being killed by sinful men, while she knew that Jesus was bearing our sins as part of God’s scheme of redemption.
Jesus bore the sin of the world as part of God’s scheme of redemption, and He is, therefore, a good Savior. Is He your Savior this evening?