What kind of person was Simeon? What was the work of the Spirit in his life? What did Simeon do when he saw Jesus? How had Mary and Joseph acted after the customs of the law? Why were they called the parents of Jesus? What did Simeon mean by verse 29? What did he say about salvation?
Verses 25–27: 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 [Spirit] was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost [Spirit], that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27And 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, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
Studying Bible personalities is interesting. In this lesson we encounter two remarkable people: Simeon and Anna. Their part in the events surrounding the birth of Jesus is not as familiar as other events, but it had great significance. This is the only place they are mentioned in the Bible. Simeon had a name that was often used in that time, but this Simeon had a unique experience. He and Anna were among the first to recognize Jesus for who He was. In the sequence of events around the birth of Jesus, they saw Jesus when He was about 41 days old.
Simeon was just and devout. Just ordinarily is rendered as “righteous” (NIV, HCSB). This same word was used to describe Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Joseph (Luke 1:6; Matt. 1:19). Simeon was committed to doing the right thing. Devout means to take one’s religious duties seriously—thus to be reverent and pious in the best sense of the words. A third word that characterized Simeon was “expectant.” He was waiting for the consolation of Israel. Waiting also means “expecting.” Waiting may not be strong enough to express the element of confident hope of the New Testament. He was “looking forward to Israel’s consolation” (HCSB). Simeon had a strong element of expectation. Consolation of Israel was the Jewish hope of the Messiah, the King in the line of David who would save His people. Here it refers to the time when the Messiah would bring comfort to His people. Many of the first-century Jews were hoping for a king who would restore the kingdom to Israel by military and political power. But Simeon seems to have had a view more in keeping with the mission of Jesus to save people—Jews and Gentiles—from sin.
A fourth fact about Simeon was that the Holy Ghost [Spirit] was upon him. The Holy Spirit is mentioned throughout the birth narratives in Luke (1:15, 35, 41, 67). He is mentioned three times in the account about Simeon (2:25, 26, 27). The Spirit was very active in the life of Simeon. The Spirit that was upon him also revealed something significant to him and led him in a special way. The revelation was that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. This was quite a promise. It was the kind of thing that could raise doubts, but Simeon believed. It is significant that this revelation was not a message from angels, as had been the means of revelations given to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. The assurance came to Simeon from the unseen Spirit at work in his life, not from any visible messenger.
On this special day Simeon came by the Spirit into the temple. He met Mary, Joseph, and Jesus not by accident or coincidence but by divine plan. The Spirit prompted him to be in the right place at just the right time.
These verses raise two questions about Mary and Joseph. Why did Mary and Joseph bring Jesus into the temple? Verses 21–24 show that they made two trips to the temple when Jesus was an infant. Three ceremonies were observed carefully by faithful Jews like Mary and Joseph. Verse 21 tells of the naming and circumcision of Jesus when He was eight days old. Leviticus 12 says that a son is to be circumcised on the eighth day. It also says that a woman is ceremonially unclean for the eight days and for an additional 33 days before she offered sacrifices to be cleansed. Luke 2:22–24 refer to sacrifices Mary and Joseph offered in the cleansing. Their economic status is reflected in the sacrifices they offered. Their obedience is reflected in the words after the custom of the law. They were obeying the law of the Lord. Verses 21–24 show that Mary and Joseph were poor but pious. Their offering of two birds was the offering for poorer people. The law also required the dedication of a firstborn son. They did this too (v. 23).
In verse 27 Mary and Joseph were called the parents. This designation is also in verse 41. Joseph is also called Jesus’ father in verse 48. Some people say this is contradictory to the account of the virgin birth in earlier parts of Luke’s Gospel. But Luke was merely using the way most people spoke of the couple. Clearly Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus, but he was the man God selected to be His earthly father. Thus Luke sometimes used the human way of describing Joseph.
Simeon and Mary, Joseph, and Jesus met by providential leadership in the temple. Luke properly used the word heiron, the outer courts of the temple, instead of using naos, the sanctuary. They probably were in the court of the women. The temple was a huge complex, so Simeon could have easily missed them even though they were there at the same time. But God caused their paths to cross.
Simeon recognized that the baby was the One whom God had promised that he would see. Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God. These words paint a beautiful picture—Simeon holding in his arms the baby Jesus and praising God for His coming. The words of praise in verses 29–32 are sometimes referred to as Simeon’s song. In form it is like the song of Mary in 1:46–55 and the song of Zechariah in 1:67–79.
Simeon said, Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace. Depart translates a word that may have several meanings: “set free,” “release,” “pardon,” “let go,” or “dismiss.” Perhaps Simeon was saying, “Now I can die in peace” (CEV). Many Bible students understand this to be his meaning. This provides a basis for assuming that Simeon was an old man. But the word can be used to mean be discharged from a task or vigil. Simeon’s mission was to recognize and acclaim the Messiah, and that was what he was doing. In either case, he was saying that God had kept His promise (according to thy word). Simeon had been looking for the Messiah, and now that hope had been fulfilled. Peace refers to the comfort of knowing the Messiah had come. Simeon was somewhat like Paul, who near the end of his life said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7, HCSB). Simeon was not like Elijah, who said in a weak moment, “I have had enough! LORD, take my life” (1 Kings 19:4, HCSB). He had no death wish. He was simply saying that the goal of his life was fulfilled and he was ready to go. Although the Bible does not explicitly say that Simeon was an old man, the implication is that he was.
When Simeon saw Jesus, he saw God’s salvation, and he said, Mine eyes have seen thy salvation. This salvation was prepared before the face of all people. God’s Messiah would be a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of God’s people Israel. The angel had announced to the shepherds the “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (v. 10). Now Simeon reinforced and made more explicit that this included the Gentiles. One strong theme of Luke and Acts is the intention of God to offer salvation to Gentiles as well as Jews.
Some key words reflect Simeon’s experience as a model for others: reveal, recognize, receive, redeem, and rejoice. When God’s Spirit revealed to him that the baby in Mary’s arms was the Messiah, Simeon recognized the Savior. He then received Jesus for who He is. Having received Jesus as Savior, he was redeemed. Then Simeon rejoiced in Him. God reveals Jesus as the Savior today. Some recognize Him, and some of them receive Him while others reject Him. He redeems those who receive Him. This leads them to rejoice in the Lord.
What are the lasting truths in Luke 2:25–32?
Believers should be righteous, dedicated, and expectant.
2. All Christians are to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
3. Encountering Jesus always marks a decisive point in a person’s life.
4. Believers are to trust God to keep His promises.
5. We should thank Him when He keeps His promise.
6. As believers, we should recognize God’s providential hand in our lives.
7. We are to tell the good news to all people.