Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel. – Luke 2:29-32 ESV
Simeon was a Jew who is described as “righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel” (Luke 2:25 NLT). The Holy Spirit “had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah” (Luke 2:26 NLT) and so had led him to the temple that day. It had been 40 days since Jesus’ birth and, according to Levitical law, it was time for Mary to offer a sacrifice in the temple to atone for her ritual uncleanness (Leviticus 12:6-7). So God was arranging a divine appointment between Simeon, Mary, Joseph and the infant named Jesus. Like many Jews in his day. Simeon longed to see the Messiah. But while many of his fellow Jews had long given up, Simeon lived with a high degree of expectation and anticipation. The Spirit of God had told him that he would live long enough to see the coming of the Messiah. Evidently, Simeon was advanced in years and knew that his time was running out. But he also believed that God would be faithful to fulfill what He had promised. So on that particular day in the temple, Simeon came face to face with the long awaited Messiah. Jesus, the baby born to Mary, did not have a particularly unique name. In fact, it was common among Jews. But in His case, it carried particular significance, because it meant “Yahweh saves.” When the angel Gabriel had told Mary that she was to bear a child, he told her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” (Luke 1:30-33 NLT). This was to be no ordinary baby. This child was going to grow up to be the Son of God, the Messiah of the Jews and the Savior of the world. The very one for whom Simeon had been waiting.
Mary and Joseph, having offered their sacrifice, also offered Jesus to the Lord. This was in keeping with God’s instruction regarding the dedication of the firstborn (Exodus 13:2, 12, 15). Jesus, as the firstborn male son, belonged to God. And it was as Mary and Joseph entered the temple to dedicate Him to God, that Simeon got his first glimpse of the Messiah. His response came in the form of a prayer or praise to God. He is blown away by the experience. He basically says, “I can die a happy man now because I have seen Your salvation.” Keep in mind, all Simeon saw was a baby and His relatively poor Jewish parents. For all intense and purposes, they were just another Jewish couple coming to the temple to dedicate their firstborn. There was no grandeur, no pomp and ceremony. They were not greeted at the doors of the temple by dignitaries. There was no parade. There weren’t even any angels singing praises like there had been with the shepherds. But Simeon knew. He understood that he was looking at God’s salvation. Yahweh saves.
What strikes me is that this was probably not what Simeon expected. Like most Jews, he was probably anticipating a more robust, impressive, warrior-like Messiah. After all, even if Jesus grew up to be a king like David, Simeon would not live to see it happen. He would never get to watch Israel’s salvation take place. But he was okay with that. He expressed no disappointment. He revealed no hint of dissatisfaction. It was enough for him that he saw God’s salvation. He described Jesus as “light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” Jesus was to be a light shining in the darkness of Simeon’s day. John wrote in his gospel, “John (the Baptist) himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:8-9 NLT). Paul would later write, “the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike” (Acts 26:23 NLT). Simeon was seeing a glimmer of the light to come. This innocent, helpless baby would grow up to be the light of the world. He would shine in the midst of the darkness and bring the salvation of God to all of mankind, not just the Jews. Simeon would go on to bless Mary and Joseph and to tell them, “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” (Luke 2:34 NLT). God’s salvation would not be accepted by all. Many would reject Jesus as the Messiah. He would even suffer death at the hands of His own people. But this was all part of God’s divine plan. It was all part of God’s remedy for man’s sin and rebellion. As Isaiah the prophet had written many years earlier, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 ESV). Simeon lived to see the salvation of God and was satisfied. Many of us who have experienced the salvation of God through Jesus have received eternal life, but are still unsatisfied. It is as if, God’s salvation is not enough. Yes, we cannot see what is to come, but isn’t God’s Word enough. Isn’t His promise of abundant life now and life eternal enough? Oh, that we could say along with Simeon, “I have seen Your salvation!”