What Simeon Saw

40 days after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph took him with them to the Temple. An elderly man, Simeon, took him in his arms and said some things about him that sounded strange, as Luke 2:25–35 records. What did Simeon see, and what did Luke want you and all his readers to see?

Recognize that God has given you his salvation in Christ. You have seen the Lord’s Christ. Christ was subject to the law for you. At eight days Jesus was circumcised. He was identified with his covenant people to redeem them. This is part of the background for Paul’s statement in Galatians 4:4–5 that Christ was born of a woman, born under the law. He was presented in the temple following the offering brought by his poor parents–according to the law: Exodus 13:2,12; Leviticus 12:8. The offerings were required, not because of our humanness, but because of our sinfulness. He was involved in this humiliation for you. His first appearance in the temple is not as the object of worship, first of all, but as a truly human baby, identified with us as sinners. The Lord’s Christ is Christ the Lord. The Child whom Mary and Joseph presented was identified to Simeon by the Holy Spirit as the Lord’s Christ, whose coming he had awaited. The Baby is the anointed of the Lord, set apart for his messianic work. He, the Christ, is also the Lord, the sovereign God. Note how the angel identified him, Luke 2:11. Who he is and what he came to do can be distinguished, but never separated from each other. Christ may have been brought to the temple in obedience to the law, but Simeon recognizes that this is not just a baby, he is Simeon’s Lord. He is your Lord.

The Sovereign Lord has established a new era. Acknowledge him as your sovereign. Simeon uses a name that refers to God’s power. As a slave or bond servant, Simeon is now ready to be released from duty. He had been faithfully waiting for the coming of the Lord’s Christ. His waiting had been, not a passive interlude, but an anticipation which was active with prayer and service of the Lord. He gives expression, not just to his personal longing, but to the expectation of the covenant people, looking forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises. “Simeon’s words give powerful expression to the thought that Simeon, having beheld Christ in fulfilment of the divine word concerning his life, has fully performed his service. His watch is concluded with the arrival of the One for whom he was waiting.” As Simeon addresses Mary, “Here the cross is indeed virtually in view, and Mary is standing before it, sorrowing at what would befall her son.” (Ned B. Stonehouse, The Witness of Luke to Christ, pages 53 & 56). Simeon’s words call you to acknowledge God as your sovereign. He calls you to submit each area of your life to him. Recognize that the new age has replaced the old. That which God had prepared and promised had now arrived. It is appropriate that history is divided by this greatest of all events–the coming of God into a sin-cursed creation. The time of anticipation and shadow had been replaced by the reality of God’s presence. The child in Simeon’s arms is Immanuel! Luke’s record of Simeon’s actions and words shows that in this event God is active in human history. Simeon’s words mark the change of watch. The new era has been inaugurated. The coming of Christ is an accomplished reality. Yet there is still a future aspect to Christ’s coming. Avoid the unbiblical speculation and date setting. Like Simeon, you live a life of anticipation. Be sure that your daily life reflects the One for whose return you long and pray and work. Do your use of time, the job you have, the entertainment you seek, all reflect your status as a servant waiting for his Lord? A soldier on guard duty must not be found sleeping. Are you really awake?

Understand your relationship with Christ. The Child causes the rising and falling of many. He is light and glory. He is light to the Gentiles. This was good news to Theophilus. It is good news to you. It continues to be good news which must be carried to the ends of the earth. Luke’s two volume work will emphasize the universalism of Christ’s work. God’s intervention in human history cannot be confined to one nation, to one people. But even at this early point, long before the Great Commission, long before Pentecost, long before Paul’s missionary journeys, Luke prepares you to recognize that the good news must, by its very nature, spread throughout the world. He is the glory of the covenant people Israel. What had been there temporarily in the pillar of cloud and fire, what had briefly shaken Mt. Sinai, has now become a reality. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, John 1:14. You rise or fall in relation to Christ. You might expect him to be popular, but he brings division and conflict. The coming of Christ involves confrontation, but let it be the conflict of the kingdom of God, not personal abrasiveness. The division cuts right through Israel, v. 34. It is not enough to be outwardly part of the covenant people. God’s covenant demands wholehearted obedience, and the judgment of the covenant falls on those whose lives do not conform. Simeon’s prophecy asks you where you stand in relationship to the Christ Child. Do you trust him as your Savior, and serve him as your Lord? Since none can present perfect obedience to God, your relationship to his Christ is absolutely important in your standing before him. He is light and glory for you only as you trust in him. As you do trust in him, rejoice. The longing of Simeon is supplemented by the reference to Anna, an elderly widow, who virtually lived in the presence of God in the temple. Her response of thanksgiving also involves speaking about the Child. She has the Holy Spirit-given grace to recognize that the redemption of Jerusalem is to be accomplished, not by military might, but through this child, present in the temple that day. “Christ was indeed a ‘light to lighten the Gentiles.’ Without him they were sunk in gross darkness and superstition. They knew not the way of life. They worshipped the works of their own hands. Their wisest philosophers were utterly ignorant in spiritual things. ‘Professing themselves to be wise they became fools.’ (Rom. i.22.) The Gospel of Christ was like sun-rise to Greece and Rome, and the whole heathen world. The light which it let in on men’s minds on the subject of religion, was as great as the change from night to day.” (J. C. Ryle, , Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Vol. 2, p. 68).

Christ reveals the thoughts of your heart. Your innermost being is open to him (disturbing thought!). Don’t trust in externals. Christ knows the real you. Instead of trying to hide, turn to him today and daily. A sword will pierce Mary’s heart. Simeon is foretelling Christ’s suffering and death. Mary would watch as the nails were driven into his hands–and would feel each blow as if she were the recipient. She would wince at the mocking. She would weep at the torment he suffered. Through all of this her Son would become her Savior—and the Savior of all who trust him. But through the suffering and beyond it, lies the glory of the salvation which God has prepared for his people. Simeon can request permission to go off watch because the glory of the Lord has been revealed. At a point in time, roughly 2000 years ago, the glory of the Lord was revealed. And at some unpredictable point in the future, the glory of the Lord will be revealed in the coming of the Lord’s Christ. Your time belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever changes the future brings will be minor compared to the changing of the watch that Simeon witnessed—apart from the final realization of that change at the end of this age.

Because of what Simeon saw, live each day before the Lord’s Christ. Live as a servant of the Sovereign Lord in the new era which he has introduced.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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