21 Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived.
22 Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. 23 The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the Lord.” 24 So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord—“either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. 30 I have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared for all people. 32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”
33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”
Luke further indicates the poverty of the Holy Family here. They offer the alternative sacrifice for a firstborn, the one available to those who cannot afford to make the standard offering. While at the Temple they receive much more than they give, not from anyone officially associated with the Temple, but by old man who hung around the Temple everyday, waiting for God to fulfill what the Spirit had spoken to him, that he would see the Messiah. He sees Jesus and knows his wait is over. Simeon speaks what God gives him over the baby and then to Mary. Simeon wasn’t a pastor or a priest, but the prophetic words he shares minister to Mary, Joseph, and even Jesus through retellings, in a powerful, sustained way. Simeon actually gets three words here. The first is for himself; the Spirit told him he would see the Messiah before he died. To facilitate this, Simeon took to hanging out in the Temple, watching closely as each male baby was brought in for circumcision. Pretty effective strategy, if a long and perhaps tiring one. Simeon couldn’t just sit back and wait for the Messiah to walk by in front of him. He had to act on what the Spirit told him. The other two prophetic words are the ones recorded here, first about Jesus, then directed to Mary. These required Simeon to act as well – to share these words with the intended recipients.
Simeon operated on the same premise we follow at the church I pastor, Vineyard North in Wake Forest, NC. The Holy Spirit speaks to us. Often about ourselves. These almost always require responsive action of some kind. The Spirit doesn’t tell us things so we’ll sit around and wait for them. The Spirit speaks to encourage us to pursue those things the Spirit puts on our hearts. The Spirit speaking to us is wonderful and amazing and usually a call to work. The Spirit also gives us prophetic words for each other. The work there is as simple as it is hard – share with them what you hear from the Spirit. Do we sometimes get it wrong? Yes. Do we sometimes misinterpret what we get? Of course. But these are the exceptions, not the rule. Normally what the Spirit gives us for ourselves and each other comes through clearly and has the ability to help move our lives in significant ways. The other one person in our church was explaining to someone from another church how we pray for each other, listen for the Spirit, and share what we get. The other person wanted to know what sort of ‘words’ we get. So my congregant gave a hypothetical, “if a group of us were praying for you, one person might get a picture of __________, another might feel a sensation of ________, and a third might have the word __________ come to mind. We would share those with you and see if they made sense and if they fit together, and if so, we would pray more about that specific thing it meant for you.” Nice hypothetical, except the three examples this person ‘invented’ wound up being actual words for this person. God is cool.
If you aren’t part of a church that does this sort of thing, it can sound weird. But here it is right here in the New Testament. Simeon wasn’t a prophet, or a priest, or a scholar, or even a Pentecostal (though he foreshadows what happens in the second chapter of Luke’s follow up book). He was just a regular guy who listened to God and did what God said. We should do the same.
The New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.