Summary: Why does Luke include the story of Simeon in his gospel? Four lessons based on his cameo appearance.
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All scripture is quoted from the New Living Translation of the Bible.
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What do you most want to do before you die? Hike the Grand Canyon? Run the Boston Marathon? Have grandchildren? Win $315 million in the lottery?
What do you have to do before you can say life is full -- life is complete -- I’m satisfied!
"Lord, now I can die in peace! As you promised me...¡±
Simeon, the subject of our text this morning was just such a man... A man driven by ambition and desire to live life to its fullest -- to go for the gusto -- to have a full and a complete life! Satisfied.
Now, we don’t know a whole lot about Simeon’s early life. We don’t know if he was originally driven by the desire to accumulate things and comforts. We don’t know if he was driven by the desire for personal security. We don’t know if he was driven by pleasure.
But we do know that at some point the object of his life’s ambitions -- his desires -- his drive merged with the messianic expectations of Israel.
Simeon lived to see the Messiah. He was a man who genuinely longed for his the coming. This is what defined his life.
Many people said they were looking for the Messiah but Simeon was genuine. He lived as though he expected the Messiah to come.
In verse 25 Luke describes him as "a righteous man and very devout. He was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he eagerly expected the Messiah to come and rescue Israel."
Verse 26 tells us that unlike many of us who have lists of things we’d like to do before we die but don’t really expect to fulfill them, Simeon fully expected to see the Messiah in his lifetime.
As a matter of fact, the Holy Spirit had somehow revealed that to him. Luke 2:26 -- "The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah."
This is the context for the unusual events that took place on that day in the Jerusalem Temple. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. There was the hustle and bustle of people coming and going. People coming to make sacrifices -- to dedicate their children to the Lord. But the ordinary was soon to give way to an extraordinary and mysterious encounter.
Verse 22 says -- "Then it was time for the 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."
This makes Jesus about 40 days old. For women had to wait 40 days after child birth before they were considered ritually pure -- before they could enter the Temple. Thus when Jesus was just seven weeks old his parents brought him to the temple "to present him to the Lord."
Follow with me. I’m at verse 23 -- "The law of the Lord says, ’If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the Lord.  So they offered a sacrifice according to what was required in the law of the Lord -- either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.’"
Luke is telling us that the child is a firstborn son for it is the birth of the firstborn son which required a sacrifice.
You see, according to the law of Moses the firstborn son technically belongs to the Lord. So you made a special sacrifice in the temple to remind yourself of that fact.
This is a principle that is consistently taught throughout the Bible. That is that you give the first to the Lord -- the firstfruits of your harvest -- the first portion of your income (not what’s left-over -- not what you can give once you’ve paid the bills) -- the firstborn of your sons. They all belong to the Lord as a reminder that the LORD is to be the first priority of life.
Now, the fact that Mary and Joseph offered a pair of turtle doves or pigeons tells us that they are poor people. If they were wealthy they would be required to bring a lamb AND a bird.
So, as this poor couple is standing in line to make their sacrifice the old man Simeon suddenly appears.
You can imagine him walking right up to that young couple and without a word gently taking the baby into his arms. He starts to chant a praise song that in all likelihood caught the attention of everyone in the Temple -- spooky -- strange.