I have read the story of Jesus’ dedication in the temple by Simeon a hundred times, and if you are like me, you probably skim right through it when you come across it in Luke Ch.2. It has become so familiar and seemingly inconsequential in light of the big news of Jesus’ birth and other events in the chapter.
But this last time I read through this account of Jesus’ dedication at the temple, it was beautiful in a new way which made me want to share it with you.
We all know the story of Simeon taking Jesus up in his arms, recognizing Him as the Christ and blessing Him, but how did Simeon know it was Jesus? Was he a special guy?
If you read throughout the New Testament, thousands of people came in contact with Jesus during his life– saw Him pass by, heard Him speak, witnessed His miracles, saw His death, but not many knew who He really was. How did Simeon recognize Jesus right away? Jesus was only an infant!
Simeon was looking.
Simeon was searching for Jesus and he found Him. The 3 verses that introduce Simeon reveal a lot about him and why he recognized Jesus when so many did not.
Verse 25 says, “Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout [cautiously and carefully observing the divine Law], and looking for the Consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
From this verse, we know 4 things:
- Simeon’s name
- He was in right standing with God. He wasn’t able to have a relationship based on Grace like we are, so instead Simeon “cautiously and carefully observed” the Law of Moses. He wasn’t perfect (it was impossible), but apparently he was diligent and intentional about it.
- He was actively and expectantly looking for Jesus’ arrival on the scene.
- Because of his relationship with God and focus on the coming Christ, the Holy Spirit was upon him.
26 And it had been divinely revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Christ.
27 And prompted by the [Holy] Spirit, he came into the temple [enclosure]; and when the parents brought in the little child Jesus to do for Him what was customary according to the Law.
It is widely accepted that Simeon must have been the officiating priest at Jesus’ dedication ceremony due to his presence in the temple, because he took Jesus in his arms and prophesied over Him and because he blessed Mary and Joseph.
Some traditions hold that Simeon was one of the 70 translators who transcribed the books of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek sometime in late 2 BC. As he wrestled with the translation of the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14, an angel appeared to him and told him that he would not die until he saw the fulfillment of the prophecy. This would make Simeon somewhere around 200 years old at the time of Jesus’ birth!
Regardless of the details, the only things we do know for certain from these two verses are that Simeon was a man in Jerusalem and he heard from the Holy Spirit at least two times. Apparently, he had such a relationship with God that when the Holy Spirit spoke, he recognized His voice and acted.
The Holy Spirit speaks to all of us all the time, but our ears aren’t always tuned in and we don’t recognize His voice. We are too busy to be quiet and listen; we often think it is our own thoughts or something else; many times we are so filled with the world and its priorities that we aren’t even tuned in to the right channel…
We aren’t looking.
But Simeon wasn’t the only one who was looking that day.
36 And there was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old, having lived with her husband seven years from her maidenhood,
37 And as a widow even for eighty-four years. She did not go out from the temple enclosure, but was worshiping night and day with fasting and prayer.
38 And she too came up at that same hour, and she immediately gave thanks to God and talked of [Jesus] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Anna, the Prophetess was also looking.
It was not coincidence that Anna “came up at that same hour.” Verse 37 says that she worshipped God constantly with fasting and prayer. She was in constant communion with God. Her mind and attention was consistently focused on Him. The title ‘prophetess’ implies that she heard from God and relayed His messages. She was expectant and intentional about her relationship with God.
She was looking.
Verse 38 says that others were looking too. Anna “talked of Jesus to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”
As a result, they were able to share in the joy and hope of knowing that Jesus had come. Sadly, we can also infer from this verse that there were some Jews (God’s people) who were not looking, were not searching, who were not expectant. And they missed out.
It is possible to be God’s people but to be blind to His very Presence. The Bible says that He will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). God is always present, yes, even in our individual lives, and He wants us to know it, to know HIM, more than ever. He is always moving, doing, and speaking. The problem is that we aren’t always intentionally or expectantly looking for Him… And like those before us, we miss out too.
At the beginning of a new year, many of us are busy making resolutions to be better than we were last year. But I keep hearing God’s voice saying that instead of resolving to do all those good things on our lists, we simply need to be intentionally & expectantly looking for Him in every. single. day.
Because He is here… in your life and in mine. He has always been here, patiently loving, working, speaking, and blessing. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss out!
He is beckoning to each of us, “Look for me.”
If you haven’t accepted Jesus’ gift of Salvation to you, click here to learn more so that you can build a relationship with Him and see His presence in your life every day.
Luke 2: 21-40, The Amplified and King James Version
Photos: A big “Thank You” to these photographers and their wonderful photographs of winter birds– simple and charming reminders of God’s presence, provision, and the hope He brings.
(1) Clyde Barrett | Winter Finch
(2) Rodney Campbell | Female Cardinal
(3) Ian Davies | Macualay Library | Cedar Waxwing
(4) Judy Dean | Robin
(5) Cheryl | Unknown Jay
(6) Janine Russell | Pine Sisken