Chuck Allen // @achuckallen //

The Cradle And The Cross – Simeon
Luke 2:25-35

If Jesus were born today, would it be any different than it was 2,000 years ago? We like to think the answer is yes, that we would be ready, that we wouldn’t make the mistake of turning the Son of God away. It’s obvious, right?

There would be room in our inn, right?  We’d find room, or make room, or maybe we’d throw somebody out of their room, but in any case, we’d be ready if Jesus were born in Atlanta, right? But is that the truth? Are we any more prepared for the coming of Jesus than they were in Bethlehem? That’s a tough question…but it’s obvious, right?

It seems when you read the Bible that most people weren’t prepared for his coming. Herod wasn’t, the scribes weren’t and they knew where he was to be born. The big shots of Bethlehem don’t seem to have paid any attention to the young couple from Nazareth. The rulers of the world never knew he was born. Many never knew he lived or died.

By the standards of the world, his birth was only a slight blip on the radar of history, a peasant child born to peasant parents. In Rome they paid no attention; in Athens and Alexandria no one took note. In China and India no one knew a thing.

He came silently, without fuss or ruckus, without making a stir or announcing his presence. He came in the same way all babies come, and most of the world paid no attention. John put it this way: “He was in the world, and although the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:10-11) How though? It’s so obvious!

His own what? His own world, his own people, his own nation. The very people who should have been happiest to see him, instead paid no attention at all. Sound familiar? But it’s different now, right? We are a more evolved people now, right? We are a more educated people, right?

It’s true that the nation as a whole was not ready for his birth, there were some who were ready. There were those who believed the time was drawing near for God to at last keep his promises and send the Messiah to the earth – known as the Quiet in the Land. Luke tells the story of a man who may have been a part of them. His name is Simeon. He had been waiting for years to see the Messiah, and when he meets the baby Jesus, he knows his long wait is finally over.

That’s where we pick up the story in Luke 2:21-24.

21 Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived. 22 Then it was time for their 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. 23 The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the Lord.” 24 So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord—“either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Three different aspects of the Old Testament Law are intertwined in these verses:

  1. The Law required that all male children be circumcised on the eighth day after birth. That’s verse 21.
  2. The Law also required that women wait 40 days after the birth of a son before presenting themselves in the temple for their purification. That’s verse 22.
  3. The Law also required that a mother and father present their firstborn son before the Lord to be “redeemed” by the offering of a sacrifice. That’s verse 23.

All three things are happening here.  These verses, illustrate the truth of Galatians 4:4 that when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, “born under the Law.”  

Verse 23 also tells us something about the financial situation of Mary and Joseph.  Leviticus 12 tells us that when a woman came for her purification she was to bring a lamb as an offering. If, however, she could not afford a lamb, she could bring two doves or two pigeons instead.

It’s obvious that Jesus wasn’t born into an upper-class home,or a middle-class home. He was born into a home that would be considered lower middle-class. Jesus knew poverty and hardship from the very beginning…Enter Simeon

Forty days have passed since the birth of Jesus. Here come Mary and Joseph into the Temple, ready to “redeem” their firstborn son. There was nothing to distinguish them, they were just another poor young couple coming with their newborn son.

Aside from what we are told in Luke 2, we know nothing about Simeon. We don’t know his background, hometown, education, or his occupation. He simply appears on the stage of history as a player in the drama surrounding the birth of Jesus. After his part is over, he fades from the scene, never to be heard from again.

Here comes Mary, here comes Joseph, and here comes Simeon. He has never seen them before, they have never seen him before. But a divinely-planned encounter is about to take place. Luke tells the story this way:

25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. (Luke 2:25-26)

These verses tell us a few things about Simeon. He was a righteous man. He was a devout man. He was waiting for the Messiah to come. The Holy Spirit had told him, “He would not die until he had seen the Messiah.” It will be so obvious…right?

If Simeon is now an old man, then he’s been waiting in the Temple for years. Day after day he prayed for the Messiah to appear. Year after year his prayers seemed futile. His anticipation grew stronger because he knew he couldn’t live forever. Maybe he’s now 70 or 75 or even 80 years old. If so, then he knows it can’t be long. TheMessiah must be coming at any moment.

Can you imagine? Every morning Simeon goes to the Temple, watching and waiting for the Messiah to come. How would he know him? What should he look for? Did he know to look for a baby? Or was he looking for a teenager or a strong young man?  

Day by day he kept watch over the folks coming into the Temple. Each day he watched, and looked. Each day the answer came back, time and again, No, that’s not the one.  

Here comes Mary holding the baby in her arms with Joseph by her side. Jesus is only forty days old. What an unlikely couple. He is a poor carpenter, she’s a peasant girl carrying a baby boy. It’s obvious – they don’t have much money.  

When Simeon sees them, he asks his question for the 10,000th time, “Is this the one?” And the Holy Spirit says, “Yes.” This is the One! Simeon’s heart explodes in his chest. The waiting is over. The Messiah is before him. He walks over, introduces himself, and says, “Do you mind if I hold your child?” As Mary gives the infant Jesus to Simeon, the obvious thought hits him, “I am holding the salvation of the world in my arms.”

At that point Simeon breaks out into a song of praise, a song that is so beautiful that it has come down through the centuries to us as the final and climactic song of Christmas.  What follows is first the song (vv. 29-32) and then a personal word of blessing to Mary (vv. 34-35). The song goes like this:

29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. 30 I have seen your salvation, 31  which you have prepared for all people. 32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “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. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

Simeon’s 1st thought is that he is now ready to die. The long wait is over, and his duty is finished, for he has seen and personally held “Jesus Christ – The Lord, The Messiah”

Simeon won’t live to see the Lord grow up. He won’t witness any of the miracles. He won’t see Jesus walk on water, feed the 5,000 or raise the dead. Simeon will be long gone when Jesus stands before Pilate. The crucifixion is hidden to him, as is the resurrection. But it doesn’t matter that he won’t see the end because Simeon has seen the beginning, and that is enough. Obviously, people will accept Him, right?

Notice what he says about Jesus. Simeon tells us three important things about who Jesus is. He is the Glory of Israel

In verse 32 Simeon calls Jesus “the glory of Israel.” In this baby, Simeon sees the fulfillment of all the hopes and dreams of the Jewish people across the centuries. For generations the promises were repeated—and Jewish children were taught to pray for the Messiah’s appearance.

Some thought the Messiah would be a great political leader. Others thought the Messiah would be God himself. Others expected a 2nd Moses or a 2nd Elijah. After all these years, all God’s promises are coming true. That’s what Simeon means when he calls Jesus “the glory of Israel.” As the song says, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”

He is the Savior of the World To this point in the story, it’s all about the Messiah,and the Jewish nation…Simeon says He’s not just for Israel. He came to shine the light of God into every nation, every tribe, every kindred and every tongue.  

He’s the Savior of the whole world. Rich and poor, young and old, black and white, Jew and Gentile, American and Japanese, healthy and handicapped. He didn’t come for a small group. He came for the whole world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the children of the world!

He is the Hope of the Nations That means there is hope for us this Christmas. If you are lonely this year, Simeon meant to include you. If your family has rejected you, Simeon meant to include you. If you feel forgotten, depressed, discouraged, and down on your luck, be of good cheer, Christmas is for you! Whatever sins are holding you back this year, Christmas means that you can be forgiven, because Jesus came for you. It’s so obvious!

Jesus didn’t come just for the Jews. He met a Samaritan woman at the well, and he forgave her. He met a Roman centurion and said, “I have not found such great faith in all of Israel.”  When he was crucified, it was a Roman centurion who said, “Surely this was the Son of God.” It became obvious to everyone that encountered Jesus.

Simeon says about Jesus – He is the Great Divider of Men. He will cause many to fall. He will cause many to rise. And many will speak against him, and in speaking against him, the hidden thoughts of the heart will be revealed.

What a thing to say about a tiny baby. “Mary, I know you are happy now, but you will weep later. Today your heart is filled with joy. Later it will be filled with sorrow. Rejoice and enjoy this time because dark days are coming.”

Isn’t it true that if you are a parent, the worst thing that can happen to you is to see your children suffer?  Simeon is saying, “Mary, they are going to touch this child, and you won’t be able to do anything about it. They are going to hate him, they are going to lie about him, they’ll spread rumors about you and Joseph, they will smear his name with malicious lies. And you will have to stand by helplessly and watch it happen.”

And it all came true. In the end, Mary stood by the cross and watched her son die. In the the gore of crucifixion, Mary stood by her son, unable to stop the flow of blood, unable to wipe his brow, unable to hold his hand.

It all happened exactly as Simeon had predicted. When Mary watched her son die, a sword pierced her soul. This little baby was born to die. The joy of Christmas leads on to the agony of Good Friday. He was born to end up that way.

Notice how Simeon put it. Because of Jesus, the thoughts of many will be revealed. With Jesus there is no neutrality. No one can come face to face with Jesus and remain the same. Every time you see Jesus, you will either be drawn closer to him or you will move farther away. That’s what Simeon means when he says that Jesus will cause the rising of many and the falling of many.

It’s popular to politically correct regarding Jesus. It’s popular to call him a good teacher, a good person, a great example. Simeon is saying you can’t do that. You have to make up your mind about Jesus. Either he is the Son of God, or he’s not.

If he is the Son of God, then the only possible response is to bow down and worship him! At Christmastime you only have two options regarding Jesus Christ.

Either you join Herod in trying to kill him or you join the Wise Men in bowing down and worshiping him. And there is nothing in between!

You are joining the throngs that cried crucify Him or the crowd that sang O Come Let Us Adore Him! What is Jesus to you this morning? He’s life or death. He’s heaven or hell. He’s joy or sorrow. He’s guilt or forgiveness. He’s salvation or condemnation.

That’s what Simeon is saying. This little baby who is the glory of Israel, who is the light of the world, is also the great divider of the human race.  Simeon saw it from the very beginning.

First there was Herod and the Wise Men. One tried to kill him and the others worshiped him. Then later there was Peter who repented and Judas who betrayed. There was Pilate who tried to wash his hands and the centurion who said, “Surely this was the Son of God.” Then there was one thief who blasphemed and another who believed. From the beginning of his life to the very end, Jesus divided the human race.

What is he to you this morning? When Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms, he said, “Lord, I’m ready to go home now. I can die in peace.” But no one is ready to die until they have seen Jesus with the eyes of faith. You’re not ready to die until you have seen him and known him and trusted him as your King, Your Savior, Your Lord.

The Only Thing That Matters Is Jesus It’s Christmastime. Do you know him?  It’s Christmastime. He came for you. Do you know him?