Summary: The rite of purification becomes the occasion of certain prophecies concerning Jesus, Israel, and the nations.
THE MESSAGE OF SIMEON
It was nearly six weeks after the birth of Jesus. Mary and Joseph went up to the Temple in Jerusalem, with baby Jesus, to fulfil the rite of purification. Jesus' parents were obedient to this tenet of the law, which involved both the child and His mother (Leviticus 12:2-4), (Luke 2:22).
The Old Testament ceremony dated back to the Exodus, and the sanctification of the first-born to God (Exodus 13:2). The LORD does not require human sacrifice, but dedication. It is remarkable that even as a baby all things were being done in relation to Jesus in such a way as to fulfil the law of God (cf. Matthew 3:15), (Luke 2:23).
There was a man in the Temple, named Simeon. Perhaps he lived there, like Anna the prophetess. Or perhaps he was a priest, or some other member of the ecclesiastical staff. Simeon was a godly man, clothed in God's righteousness, and committed to the LORD in all that he did. Simeon was longing for God's intervention in the life of His chosen nation, and had received the gift of the Holy Ghost ahead of time (Luke 2:25).
Furthermore, by the Holy Ghost, Simeon had been given some insight into the timing of God's deliverance. This was not a calculation based upon the seventy weeks of Daniel. Nor was it an expectation that had been birthed with the loosening of Zacharias' tongue upon the birth of John the Baptist. This was a personal word from the LORD to himself. Simeon would not taste death until he had seen, with his own eyes, the Lord's Christ. The question is not whether God still speaks today, but rather whether we are listening (Luke 2:26)!
It was by the Spirit that Simeon came into the Temple, just at the exact time that the parents of Jesus brought Him in. This is God's perfect timing, yet also contingent upon the obedience of both parties. The parents were doing what the law required, and Simeon was moving where and when the Spirit directed (Luke 2:27).
Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms. What a privilege! What wonderful holy audacity! Yet his motives were true: he blessed God, and spoke forth words which were inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21), (Luke 2:28).
In effect, Simeon asked the Lord to dismiss him now. With this child, that which God had promised had surely been fulfilled, and Simeon was ready to be received up into glory. It is a good benediction, “Let us depart in peace,” but it can only be “in the name of the Lord.” There is no peace otherwise. Simeon was able to claim a specific promise to himself: “according to thy word” (Luke 2:29).
Simeon held, and beheld, the baby in his arms. For one awesome moment Simeon saw the world's holistic salvation in the Person of that infant (Luke 2:30).
This is the light to lighten the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6), which would one day even be celebrated in “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Matthew 4:15-16). This is the glory, the Shekinah no less, of the people of Israel (Isaiah 46:13), (Luke 2:32).