By Timothy Lopez
Key Verse 2:25
“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 upon him.”
Last week we heard a wonderful message about the magi’s journey to meet and worship the baby Jesus. When someone doesn’t have much education, wealth or government authority, such as myself, sees the magi who looks like they have it all take this journey, I am greatly encouraged. They left everything and embarked on a long life-threatening journey to offer the Savior of the world their hearts. When they met him and saw that he was poverty stricken, they did not despise him but were filled with the joy and peace that only the Savior can give. You and I are all called to a similar journey. We are invited to abandon the worship of self and worldly things to worship our humble Lord Jesus who in turn satisfies the thirst of our hearts.
Now the baby Jesus was eight days old and it was time to circumcise him. In other words, it was time to present him to the Lord as the firstborn son, for God instructs us that the firstborn “is mine, you must dedicate him to me and to no other.” This presentation may seem to be a very small and insignificant thing in the world’s eyes. But actually, Joseph and Mary’s life and actions were the focal point of history at this time since they had the responsibility of bearing the Son of God to the world. So his presentation is no small thing at all. Two very important people shed light on the baby Jesus, his origins, his life and his future. Simeon and Anna were old and dying people. But they were forever alive and were shinning bright in the dark world of their day.
Read verse 21. “On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.” It was the eighth day since the Savior of the world was born. And it was time to present him to the Lord according to custom. Here we can see a contrast between the physical expectations and the spiritual expectations of Jesus’ dedication. For example, can you imagine what kind of reception a king’s son might be given at his birth— at his baptism— or his circumcision? We can only imagine the honor and the glory he might receive because he is a king’s son. Surely we can understand why the magi went to Herod’s palace thinking that he must be getting the best of treatment. But not so! Jesus was presented to God in a pathetic and ordinary way. Why? Jesus, eagerly desired to be like all the lowly ones of the earth in order to identify with them. The Bible tells us, “For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews2:17) Through his dedication, king Jesus identifies with human beings born in poverty, suffering and in helplessness.
Why did Jesus need to be circumcised in his dedication? Because circumcision is of utmost importance for the people of God. Circumcision is a removing of a part of the flesh for the sake of purification. But the act of circumcision itself is more than just a physical act in the eyes of our great God. Circumcision was to put a mark on his people— to make them different from all other people. It was intended to identify them as his very own people—people who had a covenant with the Creator God. Hence, the mark of the covenant was circumcision! And do you know what circumcision really stood for? It stood for repentance— for just as circumcision is to cut off a part of the body for purification, so also is repentance— it is to cut off a part of the heart for purification. For Jesus said that if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. The Bible calls this: “circumcision of the heart.” (Ro. 2:29)
Circumcision was a genuinely spiritual act of devotion before God— which made it far from just a ceremony. Every child of God was bound to their Heavenly Father through the covenant of circumcision because it was a matter of heart to circumcise the heart in the presence of God. In Deuteronomy there’s a promise that every covenant person wanted to be a part of— to come true for them and for their children. And so they circumcised their children. The promise of circumcision declares something that we should believe also, and hold on to and claim it for ourselves and loved ones. Deut. 30:6 says, “The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” For this reason, Jesus’ parents, who were covenant people, circumcised Jesus to present him as a covenant boy to the Lord. Joseph and Mary wanted to be a people of circumcised hearts to the Lord. And they circumcised the boy in dedication to God as the covenant boy. Let’s say one more thing about them that is out of the ordinary. They gave him the name Jesus which means, “the Savior of the world!” This is very courageous because to name him the Savior of the world seemed arrogant and went against tradition and human expectation. But they did it in obedience to the word of God. Why? Because they honored the word of God.
Look at verse 22. “When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.” Mary who had just given birth to the Holy Son of God was humble and obedient to the word of God! How easy it is for us to become proud or self-righteous when we are given a great mission from God. Our hearts harden and we are no longer as sensitive to the commandments of God. But Mary remained humble in her situation. In spite of her great mission, she continued to obey the word of God. Look at verses 23 and 24. The law required parents to consecrate their firstborn male child to the Lord. For the wealthy, the offering was an expensive lamb. But for the poor, the offering was only a pair of doves or two young pigeons. So Joseph and Mary had to present the poor people’s offering. Behind Joseph and Mary’s observances of the law was also a beautiful conviction of faith: “Lord this child is not ours but yours, and we promise to raise him up in the fear and knowledge of God to be a covenant man.” And they pledged him to a life of faith and holy mission. This every parent must do.
Now let’s think about the old man Simeon. The world was dark, and most people despaired even if they lived luxuriously. Despaired people cannot see God sitting on the throne of heaven ruling his creation. When despaired people do not see God, they only see chaos, confusion and meaninglessness. Their problems seem magnified a hundred-fold. So they plunge more and more into sinful pleasures which numb their suffering and leaves them in even more despair. This was what it was like during the times of Simeon— just like our own times. In Simeon’s time there were very few godly people. Simeon was one of them. One of his greatest virtues is that he was not a man of despair. He was a nobody. But because of this one fact— no despair— Simeon became a very influential person. While others’ existence— be they rich or poor, famous or infamous— made no difference in the world, one man of “no despair,” Simeon, became a leading figure and left a stamp on God’s history.
Simeon was also a man of faith. Read verse 25, “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 upon him.” Of all the people living in those time, the Bible mentions Simeon by name. Why? Because he was a man of personal faith in God. In this world, emotional feelings and human reasoning are the motivating forces of most people. But these things are often used by the devil to rule people’s heart. Cain was ruled by his emotions, and ended up killing his brother. But what about Simeon? How did he live? He neither follow his feelings nor his human reasoning. Rather he was a righteous man. He was a man of faith and lived by faith and made all his decisions by faith. He acted on faith and reasoned through faith. He saw the world with eyes of faith. He had a personal relationship with God. At the time there was hardly any faith in people’s hearts. Business and evil schemes and worldly affairs occupied their hearts. But in Simeon’s heart lived faith and so also lived God who fanned this old man’s Spirit of faith into a flame to pass it on to Jesus’ parents and to those around him.
There is something else about Simeon. He was also a “devout” man. He devoted himself completely to the Lord and his work. “Devotion” is a virtue. Devoted people usually can see God where no one else can. These are the kind of people that when they see a need somewhere, they make the effort to supply that need. When they see a problem, they try to fix it because their devoted conscience is bound to God’s heart. Simeon was such a person. He was devout in all that he did. What if you are looking for an employee to hire, and you have to choose between two people. One is emotional and comes and leaves whenever he/she feels like, but the other comes on time and takes responsibility to see the job is done properly. Which employee would you trust? Simeon didn’t live for himself but for God. His life was not self-centered. He was God-centered. In other words, Simeon didn’t live like an ordinary old man with retirement plans. He didn’t think about himself but about others. He loved others and took care of them as God would. He weeded out despair from their hearts and planted the seed of God’s word and kingdom. A person like Simeon never say of someone that, “He is no good!” He would see him or her as someone suffering from despair. He would see them as a lovely person who just needs to come to know God and have joy instead.” When he saw someone in pain, he thought: “He only needs the word of God’s healing to recover and I must help him.” Simeon’s devotion was not superficial, going to church on Sunday and later on enjoying cultural idols. He lived before God and honored God with his life— through faith in action. This was his faith. This was his devotion. This was Simeon, an essential man to the work of God.
Simeon was also a “waiting” man. Everyone is waiting for something. But from God’s perspective we must wait on God with great hope in our hearts. Read verse 25b. “He was waiting for the consolation of Israel…” He wasn’t waiting for vacation time, nor for his pay check to come. Simeon lived in times of oppression where people’s hopes could not extend beyond a possibly better tomorrow or “food for survival”. These people, young and old had no spirit left, and a dark cloud of hopelessness always hovered over their hearts like many today. But even though Simeon’s human situation was no different from others, he never lost hope. Why? Because a person of faith and devotion is receptive to God and God never leaves us without hope. Faith and devotion to God do wonders to person’s heart. God changes their whole outlook on life. Thus Simeon became a “waiting man.”
What was Simeon waiting for? Simeon was waiting for God’s promise to come true. And God’s promise was to save his people from their sins. Was it easy for him to hope? Not at all. People were saying: “Where is God when we need him? He doesn’t love us any more.” But Simeon still hoped in God’s promise. It was the only hope worth living for. We too must have hope. Our hopes are also impossible yet beautiful. These days we hope that His kingdom will come. Today we hope that our young people open their eyes to see that their enemy is the video games and pornography which is robbing their hearts and minds of God and filling them instead with immorality and violence. Today we hope that our nation will turn back to God. Today we hope for our young people to be crowned with God’s truth so that they may be our spiritual ambassadors to the world. Today our hopes are as farfetched as Simeon’s hope. Yet they are our precious hopes. We hope also for God’s servants who have taken the back seat in mission and have resigned themselves to indifference and to laziness, to think as Paul thinks: “Woe to me if I don’t preach the gospel.” Today we hope that Jesus may be born in every heart and that courage and faith be born to every callused heart among us. Hope is vital! Without hope the people perish! So let’s hope together for God to be glorified among us this new year.
Simeon lived in hope that the Savior would come and be born to his people, changing them back to a priestly people. Because of his hope he was content and was a source of blessing to everyone. Old Simeon talked a lot, not complaining about others who did not take care of his old man’s needs. Instead he talked about the God who would surely send the Savior to the world according to his promise. Do you know how Simeon could maintain hope in his heart when the whole world was in despair? It’s not so simple, yet it is the simplest of all things. God has endowed each of us with a special privilege— we call it prayer. Those in Christ Jesus, have access to the throne of God’s grace— the privilege to pray— the honor to call on his name saying, “Abba Father, my loving Father who loves me and hears my prayers.” Simeon must have prayed. He prayed not to lose hope but to embrace it whatever the circumstances. He prayed! And what else can a person do to fill their heart with hope? Simeon also studied the Bible daily, went to his room to pray— and by God’s grace despair vanished. God’s word shone in his heart to dispel all darkness.
What happened when Simeon held onto the hope of God? Read verses 27 and 28. “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…” All Simeon’s waiting years were finally coming to an end. Now he held the promise of ages— the Savior child, in his own arms. God gave this old man the greatest privilege of seeing the Savior with his own eyes before he died. It was his reward for patience faith and hope. Look at verses 29-32. Simeon praised God with the baby Jesus in his arms. What did he teach about Jesus through?
He spoke of Jesus’ salvation. Read verse 29. “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.” Simeon saw himself as God’s servant whose duty was to pray and wait. He saw himself as Israel’s watchman. Finally he was ready to die in peace. So he said, “You dismiss your servant in peace.” How could Simeon have peace amidst the anxiety of the world? Read verse 30. “For my eyes have seen your salvation.” Simeon saw only a baby wrapped in baby clothes. To the ordinary person’s eye this baby was another victim of the cruelty and oppression of the world. Who on earth could see beyond this baby’s helplessness? But Simeon saw things not with human eyes but with spiritual eyes. He saw Jesus’ life and ministry. He foresaw Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. Through the baby Jesus, Simeon saw God’s salvation for all mankind. He also saw Jesus seated at the right hand of God, ruling the heavens and the earth as the Sovereign Lord. He mostly saw all the promises of God fulfilled in and through this baby. Peace is so hard to come by. But Simeon could be at peace because he saw Jesus and believed everything the Bible says about him.
Simeon spoke of Jesus the light for the Gentiles and glory to the people of Israel. God sent his Son Jesus to be the light to the Gentiles. Jesus called twelve disciples from among God’s lost people and restored faith and mission into their lives. Jesus hoped that through them the gospel of peace would go out to the ends of the earth. Jesus himself is the light even for the Gentiles, those who do not know God. But Simeon said that Jesus will be the cause of the falling and rising of mankind. Read verse 34b. “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel…” What does it mean? It means that Jesus is the one through whom God would judge all people. Many people do not relate the Lord Jesus with their future destiny. But how we respond to Jesus determines our destiny. Those who loved Jesus and put their faith in him will rise to be with God in paradise. On the other hand, those who ignore Jesus’ sacrifice and live in their own way will fall to face God’s judgment.
Simeon went on to say something to Mary. Look at verse 35b. “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” It was indeed glorious to be the mother of our Lord Jesus. But the grace of God in her life did not stop there. It went on much further. Mary, would not be able to live a normal life as a mother. She must surrender and give up her son to God and to his work. She will see him go from one place to another, sometimes with no food, sometimes cold, teaching the Bible and serving God’s people. And she should not prevent him from doing these things because he has been called to serve God’s purpose in his life. Rather, she should pray for him to serve the work of God ever so faithfully. Finally, Mary would see her beloved Jesus hung on a cross like a criminal, wounded and bleeding, and dying because the evil of the world was intense and because man’s eternal life depended on it. How much Mary suffers is beyond anyone’s imagination! It was costly grace to be the mother of Jesus. It is costly grace that God should call us as well to a life of servantship to the gospel. Sometimes we have to sacrifice much in the cause of the gospel. Sometimes we even lose loved ones in the process. Sometimes we suffer misunderstanding and rejection. But we must not lose hope. We must believe that while a sword pierces our hearts, God’s salvation is being proclaimed and fulfilled in and through our lives. May God raise mothers who like Mary dedicate their children to Jesus and the gospel. May God raise Simeon like young people who are ready to devote their lives to serve our generation. Amen.