And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and 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; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A light of revelation to the gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
– Luke 2.25-35
Simeon’s prophecy over Jesus is one of the most beautiful and illuminating prophecies in Scripture. The people of Israel were waiting and longing for a political king who would come in like King David and set them free, restore them to political power and dominance, and free them from Roman authority. After seeing the life and work of Jesus, it is easy to see the prophetic voice throughout the Old Testament that spoke of a suffering servant, a king who would set us free Spiritually and focus on our eternity rather than temporal wellness, but before He came the prophecies were vastly misunderstood.
There was a season of relative silence between the Old and New Testaments, approximately four hundred years, where we have no Biblical writings. Occasionally Bible teachers will imply that God was not active during that time but was allowing Israel to suffer in captivity because of their rebellion, but when Simeon enters the scene he is described as a devout and righteous man – and the Holy Spirit was upon him! Simeon was old when Jesus was born, and he had lived a righteous life. He was devoted to God. It is no small thing that the author takes note that the Holy Spirit was upon him. Until Jesus completed the work of salvation, people were not indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit would rest upon people who had been appointed and set aside for particular tasks. King Saul, for example, had the Holy Spirit until he disobeyed God and then God removed the Spirit from him and gave the Spirit to David.
Simeon, this righteous man, had sought God and the Holy Spirit empowered him and told him that he would see the Messiah before his death. What a phenomenal promise! The Spirit brought Simeon into the temple at the very moment Jesus was being circumcised and named and revealed to him the Truth that Jesus was the Messiah. At eight days old.
So clearly God was at work during this season of Biblically undocumented time (at least for a few years before!).
Two things stand out to me today about Simeon’s proclamation. Firstly, he rocked the common understanding that Jesus was coming to politically redeem the Jews.
“for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A light of revelation to the gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”
– Luke 2.30-32
It is possible to interpret this declaration of Jesus as “a light of revelation to the gentiles” in political terms. One could say, “When Jesus overthrows Rome the gentiles (all non-Jews) will see the salvation of the Jews”. One might understand it to be God declaring His authority and everyone finally seeing it through his intervention. But we know, by the rest of the Gospel account, that Simeon’s prophecy meant salvation would be available for people of all ethnic backgrounds. Yet Jesus was still the glory of ethnic Israel. Jesus fulfilled the Law, He is the Messiah, the savior, and the glory of God through His completed work amongst His chosen people.
But what Simeon says to Mary is even more shocking:
“Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
– Luke 2.34-35
God sent Jesus from Heaven and appointed Him for the rise and fall of many in Israel. Again, when perceived with the old mindset, this could sound political. But the nature of Jesus’ mission was Spiritual: Jesus was appointed to reveal the thoughts of the hearts of people. He was a sign which had to be opposed. Unless He was opposed, His work would be incomplete! And the end of the opposition against Him was the revelation of the hearts of men.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
– John 3.16-18
John tells us that the condition of men’s heart is established. Those who do not believe are already condemned while those who do believe have eternal life. And the belief is in Jesus who died and rose again in our place for the forgiveness of sins. The wrath of God remains on those who do not believe (John 3.36). It is already there from the beginning. And Simeon told Mary that Jesus came to reveal that. He was appointed as the litmus test, to cause some to fall and some to rise, to reveal the hearts of men.
Has Jesus revealed your heart? Have you examined your heart to see how you respond to Jesus? If you believe, cling to Him and repent you will rise with Him. You will reign with Him. You will love and cherish Him as your treasure. Believe today! And let Him reveal you to be His own. He already knows your heart, so turn it over to Him.