21Eight days later Jesus' parents did for him what the Law of Moses commands. And they named him Jesus, just as the angel had told Mary when he promised she would have a baby.
22The time came for Mary and Joseph to do what the Law of Moses says a mother is supposed to do after her baby is born.
They took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem and presented him to the Lord,23just as the Law of the Lord says, “Each firstborn baby boy belongs to the Lord.”24The Law of the Lord also says that parents have to offer a sacrifice, giving at least a pair of doves or two young pigeons. So that is what Mary and Joseph did.
25At this time a man named Simeon was living in Jerusalem. Simeon was a good man. He loved God and was waiting for God to save the people of Israel. God's Spirit came to him26and told him that he would not die until he had seen Christ the Lord.
27When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple to do what the Law of Moses says should be done for a new baby, the Spirit told Simeon to go into the temple.28Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and praised God,
29“Lord, I am your servant,
and now I can die in peace,
because you have kept
your promise to me.
30With my own eyes I have seen
what you have done
to save your people,
31and foreign nations
will also see this.
32Your mighty power is a light
for all nations,
and it will bring honour
to your people Israel.”
Contemporary English Version. Copyright © 1995 British & Foreign Bible Society. Used by permission.
Luke’s story of how Jesus was born ends with two more anecdotes which connect the present (Mary and Joseph’s present) with the past. Mary and Joseph were God-fearing Jews, who took Jesus to be circumcised when he was a week old, and returned to the Temple when it came time for Mary to be purified. At that time they also consecrated their firstborn son to the Lord. (That may seem ironic, considering who Jesus was, but he so fully identified with us that he later submitted to John for baptism.)
First there was the old man Simeon. (We will look at the story of Anna tomorrow.) He was thoroughly familiar with the Jewish scriptures, and not only as head knowledge. For years the nation of Israel had lived under oppression and exile, and the prophets had pointed to a future time when God would bring this to an end. Simeon was waiting for God to save his people (CEV) (for “the consolation of Israel,” NIV). If you read Isaiah 40-66 you will see that it is full of promises that this will happen. It had been centuries since anything had happened that was remotely like what Isaiah prophesied. One can only marvel at Simeon’s faithful faith.
The Holy Spirit was enabling him to understand what was going on. The Holy Spirit orchestrated Simeon’s movements and Mary and Joseph’s obedience to the law so that they met in the temple. Simeon understood. This was the moment! (Luke likes to notice these pivotal times with words like “now,” “today”).
Simeon also points to another truth about Jesus. Jesus would be the light not only for the Jews, but for all people everywhere (hinted at by the angel in v10). It had always been there in the Old Testament: God chose the Jews so that they could be a light to the Gentiles. But it was a truth they had chosen to ignore. Luke, himself a Gentile, will bring out this emphasis in the rest of his gospel.
Father, thank you for this story of faith and obedience, and for the activity of the Holy Spirit, enabling people to understand. Thank you for pouring out your Holy Spirit on all Christians. Help me make my faith more faithful and my obedience more consistent as I live under your guidance. Amen.