It had been revealed to [Simeon] by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. (Luke 2:26)
It is often assumed that Simeon was an old man, but the Bible never says that. The reason we assume him to be old is that when he holds Jesus in his arms, he says to God, “Now you are letting your servant depart in peace.” He may have been old, but not necessarily so.
Another assumption that is often made is that Simeon was a priest. But, again, the Bible never says that. We don’t know Simeon’s work or profession. The reason we assume him to have been a priest is that he took Jesus and his arms and blessed God for him. He may have been a priest, but not necessarily so. He is simply described as “a man in Jerusalem” (2:25).
What we know about Simeon
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. (Luke 2:25)
This man was righteous
That speaks to his relationships with other people. He was a man of his word. He did what was right. His ‘yes’ was yes, and his ‘no’ was no. He could be trusted in business; you could count on him as a friend. He was a man of character and of integrity.
He was devout
This speaks to his relationship with God. He loved God. He worshipped God. He served God. He prayed to God. God carried weight in his mind and in his heart.
Some people like to point out that they’re honest and upright. Yes, what about your devotion to God? Others like to talk about their devotion to God. Yes, what about your right conduct with regard to others? Simeon was righteous and devout. These two belong together.
He was waiting for the consolation of Israel
That speaks to his hope. His confidence for life and death was not in his devout and upright life. It was not in the temple or in its rituals. He was waiting and looking for the One to whom all of the Old Testament Scriptures point, the Promised One. Here he is called the Consolation (or comfort) of Israel.
The Holy Spirit was upon him
What a great statement that is. In some way the presence of Almighty God himself rested on this man. When people were with him, they felt that they had come near to the Lord. There was something about him that marked him as a person who walked closely with God.
We know very little about Simeon. It doesn’t matter if he was a priest or a plumber; a mechanic or a missionary. It doesn’t matter if he was young or old when he died, or what opportunities he had during his short time in this world. What matters is that he was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
What a marvelous bio that is. Wouldn’t you love to have that said about you? Lord, may this be true of everyone who hears this message! Upright in our dealing with others. Devout in our worship of you. Looking to and trusting in your Son, Jesus. Living with evidence of your Holy Spirit resting upon us.
He met Mary and Joseph
The connection between Simeon and the infant Jesus came about when Mary and Joseph “brought him [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present him before the Lord” (2:22). This happened “when the time came for their purification” (2:22). That would have been forty days after the birth of the child.
This visit to Jerusalem would have taken place after the visit of the shepherds (on the night of his birth) but before the visit of the wise men, which is recorded in Matthew’s gospel. The wise men tipped off Herod by asking, “Where is he who is born king of the Jews?” Scripture says, “When Herod… heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Mat. 2:3).
It would have been difficult for Mary and Joseph to present Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem under these circumstances. So this story takes place before the coming of the wise men, when the only people who knew about Jesus were those who had heard about him from the shepherds or from someone in the relatively small circle around Mary and Joseph.
So when Mary and Joseph arrive at the temple in Jerusalem they look like just another couple with a baby, of whom there were many. Now I want to pick up two themes from this story; which speaks to us especially about the Law and the Spirit.
When the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord. (Luke 2:22-24)
God has laws and they matter. From Adam onwards, the human race has never produced a single person who has fulfilled the law of God. We produce great athletes: Michael Jordan, Muhamad Ali. We produce great leaders of business: Steven Jobs, Bill Gates. We produce extraordinary minds: Pythagoras, Newton, and Einstein. But the human race has never produced a single person who has fulfilled the law of God.
We often flatter ourselves by thinking we have made a pretty good attempt. Remember the story of the rich young ruler, who came to Jesus and asked what he had to do to inherit eternal life? Jesus said, “You know the commandments…”
The man said, “I have kept all of them since my youth.”
Jesus said to him, “Well, here is what I want you to do. Sell all that you have and then come follow me.” The Bible says that the man “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Mk. 10:22).
Here is a man who kids himself into thinking that he has kept all the laws of God. But the truth is, he hasn’t event kept the first one! In the first commandment, God says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” This man has become his own god. He doesn’t love God with all his heart. He loves himself. He loves his own life. He loves what money can buy.
We are a race of law breakers. This is true of the entire human family. We have not loved God with all our hearts. We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. Christ came to fulfill the law. He came to do so on our behalf, what we had not done and what we could not do for ourselves.
This is the great significance of the virgin birth. Jesus did not come from the human race. We did not produce him from our genetic pool. He came to the human race. He is the gift of God to us.
When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Gal. 4:4-5).
Notice what the Scriptures are saying: God sent forth his Son. He came to us. He is the gift from heaven. He was born of woman. He really became one with us. He took our flesh. God became a man in Jesus. He took his stand with us so that he could act take action for us.
This goes to the heart of the incarnation. Why did Jesus have to be born of a woman? Why did he become a man? He came as one of us, to do for all of us what none of us could do for ourselves.
Jesus was born under the law. He entered a life in which he was placed under his own commands. He fulfilled the law as one of us and then he laid down the only perfect human life that has ever been lived as a sacrifice for the sins of all who would receive him.
The coming of Jesus shows that God is love. But it does more than that. It shows us that God is righteous. It shows us that in the final reckoning there is justice, and that the One who upholds it is God. It points to the fact that God will judge the world in righteousness and that we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
God does justice, and he loves mercy, and this is how he holds the two together: He sends his Son who makes himself one with us so that he can act for us. He is born under the law, and he does for us what none of us could do for ourselves. He lives the life that fulfills all that God requires, and then he lays it down as a sacrifice for all who will receive him. God is just and he is the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26).
The Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple… (Luke 2:25-27)
Here are three observations about the work of the Holy Spirit:
1. The Holy Spirit Brings People to Jesus
The Holy Spirit was upon him… And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God. Luke 2:25-28
God orchestrated events so that this man arrived at the temple on the same day and at the same time as Mary and Joseph arrived with Jesus. They arrive at the temple, this center of religion, with all its priests and rituals.
Nobody knows that the child in the arms of the young girl is the Son of God. But there is a man in Jerusalem with the Spirit of God upon him and God causes him to arrive at precisely the right time.
“It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (2:26). And when Simeon arrived at the temple, the Holy Spirit prompted him: This is the One!
To everyone else in the temple, Mary was just another young mother with a baby. But the Holy Spirit opened Simeon’s eyes to see that Jesus was the Promised One in whom hope and comfort are found. He is the Christ. He is the Consolation of Israel.
This is a great work of the Holy Spirit. He brings people to Jesus. He opens people’s eyes to Jesus. Why you are here today? There are many answers to that question. Could it be that God’s purpose in you being here today is that the Holy Spirit should lead you to Jesus?
2. The Holy Spirit Gives Peace through Jesus
Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace. (Luke 2:29)
Bishop Ryle says Simeon speaks like “one for whom the grave has lost its terrors, and the world its charms.” This man can face death and he can live life because of Jesus. He has peace through Jesus Christ.
Notice Simeon said this with Christ in his arms, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace” (2:28). He proceeded from the Father. Now he is presented to the Father from whom he came. The Father says, “This in my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
Now here an ordinary man holds the Son of God in his arms. Simeon holds him up before God, “Lord, he is yours! And yet he is ours. Because you gave him to us.” Matthew Henry says, “When we received the good news of Christ with a lively faith, we take him in our arms.”
3. The Holy Spirit Changes Hearts toward Jesus
Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed… so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed. (Luke 2:35)
Jesus Christ brings the true attitude of your heart toward God out into the open. We like to speak well of God. The prevailing idea in our culture about God has been: “Whoever he she or it may be, we want that one on our side.” So we print it on our money: “In God we trust.” We tip our caps to God, “Say a prayer for me.”
But the coming of Jesus brings to the surface what we really feel about God. The thoughts of many hearts are revealed. God knows the secret inclinations of all our hearts. He knows those who want to serve him, and he knows those who deep down are resisting him.
You can talk all you want about God, but when he comes near to you in Jesus Christ and lays claim to your life, what you really think about God will be exposed.
A sign that is opposed (v34)
Because Jesus’ coming reveals our hearts, it’s not surprising that he was and is a sign that is opposed. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him (John 1:11). The secular world hated him, the religious world hated him. He was despised and rejected by men. And Mary, who laid him in the manger, endured the agony of seeing him on the cross.
This child is appointed for the fall and rising of many (v34)
It may mean that some will fall and others will rise, or it could be that people have to fall before they rise. Either way there is both a warning and an encouragement in these verses.
“In order to fall, it must be assumed that a person is first standing. So these words mean that those who imagine themselves to be strong and high, who rely on their own merit and power, will come to woeful ruin and undoing, because in their pride they do not realize their own need and doom and do not take refuge in Christ.” 
The coming of Jesus Christ brings hope. It will lead to the rising of many. And in the rest of the New Testament this word is used in relation to resurrection from the dead! There will be a great company of the redeemed.
The Law and the Spirit
The law is why you need Jesus. The human race has never produced a single person who has fulfilled the law of God. Not even you.
The Spirit is how you find Jesus. The Holy Spirit brings people to Jesus. He brings peace through Jesus. He changes hearts towards Jesus.
 Norvil Geldenhuys, Luke, p. 120, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1971.
© Colin S. Smith
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