Summary: Simeon is an amazing Jew who comes in and out of the scene of the Christmas narrative, but with power and significance to attest of the birth of Christ. What can we learn from him as we await the return of Christ
Pastor Brad Reaves
Grace Community Church Winchester VA
Watch this Message on Youtube: https://youtu.be/XoQ2v6xn_tM
This coming Friday, most of us will be waking up to another Christmas morning. Certainly, as with everything else this year, it will be much different. Our routines and traditions are likely going to be disrupted as a result of COVID and all this year has brought with it. What are your normal expectations for Christmas? How have those expectations changed? My hope is that you are willing to permit your vantage of Christmas and even more importantly, your faith to shift be more prayerful, hopeful, and watchful for God. For those of you who have followed our series over the last few months, I have tried to take you inside the hearts and minds of the people Luke presents in his Gospel.
Luke passes over some very familiar elements of the Christmas story. He mentions nothing about the Maggi and we don’t have any record from Luke of Herod’s slaughter of the innocents. He bypasses Mary and Joseph’s escape to Egypt, nor does he talk about the star. It is not that these events are not important, but for Luke, his focus is on the eyewitnesses. The collaborating testimony of Jesus’ life. Like a skillful attorney, Luke is collecting and establishing the credibility of these people so you may know the truth.
One of these witnesses is a man that I’ve always marveled at over the years. Simeon is mentioned only by Luke among the gospel writers. He enters the scene almost unexpectantly and departs from view just as quickly. Yet his inclusion, as with nearly all of Luke’s accounts, brings incredible value to what is being conveyed in the gospel. For most of us, we read through this as a sideline of the story. An old sage waiting for the prophetic fulfillment of the Christ child. It’s so much more than that and this what we’re studying on this Christmas Sunday of 2020.
I. Coming to the Temple
Luke 2:21–24 ESV
21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22 And 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 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
We have to set the scene first before we can fully understand what Simeon is all about. There are 32 days that separate verse 21 from verse 22. Eight days after being born, a Jewish boy is circumcised. Jewish boys were circumcised as an outward distinction as being set apart for God. This was part of God’s covenant with Abraham:
Genesis 17:10–12a ESV
10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring,
The significance of the circumcision was to be far greater than a physical distinction because it was to represent the distinction of the heart:
Jeremiah 4:4 ESV
4 Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.”
Romans 2:29 ESV
29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
So Mary and Joseph, being devout Jews, bring Jesus to the temple in accordance with Jewish law to have him circumcised. Now in verse 22, Luke is continuing on in the narrative for the purification. This second purification happened forty days after the birth of the child. That’s when the mother would bring an offering - 2 turtle doves or 2 pigeons - as a sacrificial offering. A woman was ceremonially unclean for 40 days after childbirth and according to Old Testament Law (Lev 12:4) and this sacrifice as a means to her purification. Additionally, Joseph and Mary are bringing Jesus and an offering of 5 Shekels to dedicate him to the Lord (Luke 2:22-23). The 5 Shekels was a ransom of silver that every firstborn male had to give to the Lord. Every first-born Jewish male, except for those in the tribe of Levi had to pay this ransom.