Jim Duggan, Pastor
Bellevue Baptist Church, Macon
Research in the field of mental health indicates to us that Christmas is a difficult time for many people. Yet the angels proclaimed to the shepherds that the coming of Jesus is good news of great joy for all people. So then where is the disconnect?
The story of Simeon’s encounter with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph reminds us Jesus is the hope of the world. This hope is not just for the Christmas season, but for all time.
We have no other knowledge of Simeon other than what Luke recorded for us. He described Simeon with three characteristics. First, Simeon was righteous and devout. That he was righteous meant that he obeyed and kept the Law. That he was devout meant that he practiced religious discipline and devotion.
Even in desperate times, Simeon practiced his faith steadfastly. At times when we feel overwhelmed and discouraged, may we also be faithful to stay in God’s Word and prayer. In the most difficult times, may we make it a habit to live obediently toward God.
Second, Luke described Simeon as looking forward to the consolation of Israel. This phrase summarizes several of the Messianic prophecies found in Isaiah. These prophecies (Isa 40:1–2, 10–11; and 61:1–2) point to a time when the Lord would send His Messiah to restore Israel. Simeon never lost His faith in God’s promises.
When time and circumstances seem to indicate otherwise, may we instead trust what God has promised in His Word.
Third, Luke described Simeon as one who obviously demonstrated the presence of the Holy Spirit. Until the time of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit did not permanently indwell God people. The Holy Spirit would come upon a person for a particular purpose, then when the purpose was served He would depart. So, this description indicated that God worked through Simeon in miraculous ways.
As New Testament period believers we have the promise of the Holy Spirit’s permanent presence. When we yield to the Spirit, and allow Him to work through us, God can accomplish miraculous things through us. In these desperate times, more than ever, we need to submit to the Spirit’s working on our lives. God’s work through us will point others to Jesus.
The Holy Spirit led Simeon to the temple with the expectation that he would see the One the Lord had sent to be the Messiah. What if Simeon has decided he didn’t feel like praying that day? What would he have missed? Imagine if Simeon had thought this impossible and chose not to go to the temple that day? He would have missed the One for whom He had waited all his life.
In verse 24, Luke had already explained the meaning of the phrase “to perform for him what was customary under the law.” They were performing what any devout parents would do. But God allowed Simeon to encounter them at just the right time. The miraculous intersected with the customary. We can look for God to miraculous intervene in the every day details of our lives as we live faithfully and obediently for Him.
As Simeon asked Mary and Joseph if he could hold the child for a moment, he offered a powerful praise to God. His praise offers several important theological truths for us.
“Master, now…” – Simeon recognized God’s sovereignty in both position (Master) and time (now). Simeon recognized God as Sovereign ruler over the universe in general and Simeon’s life in particular. In the same manner, there are no coincidences or accidents in our lives. God is sovereign over the events and times of our lives.
“You have prepared…” God planned our redemption before He created us. The coming of Jesus came when and where it did according to God’s plan. We can trust Jesus because He is God’s Messiah, sent into the world “when time came to completion.” (Galatians 4:4)
“A light of revelation for the Gentiles…” – God always intended to redeem both Jews and non-Jews. As the “glory to your people Israel,” Jesus is the fulfillment of all that the Law pictures and the prophets promised. As “light of revelation for the Gentiles,” Jesus is the One in whom we must all believe to be saved. This echoes the message of the angels to the shepherd that this is good news of great joy for all the people.
Simeon warned Mary and Joseph that not everyone would be as joyful about Jesus as He was. He would be opposed and rejected. But even that would be part of God’s ultimate plan of redemption. For us, when things do not go as we expected, we can remain faithfully hopeful in the God who is working out His purpose.