* * * *
“And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the Child, His name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before He was conceived in the womb. And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought Him to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord; (as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons. And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon: and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him after the custom of the law, then took he Him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word: for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel. And Jeseph, and His mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of Him. And Simeon blessed them and said unto Mary, His mother, Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against: (yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also;) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto die Lord, and spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem”—Luke 2:21-38.
* * * *
There are really five parts in this section. First, we have the actual presentation of the Lord in the temple, to do for Him according to the law. As a Jewish child the ordinance of circumcision had been performed upon Him when He was eight days old. At that time His name was definitely called Jesus, as the angel declared should be the case before His birth. It is important to remember that this very name signifies not only His Saviourhood, but also His Deity, for it actually means “Jehovah the Saviour.” That was the name given to Him before He was born, and confirmed to Mary before He was presented in the Temple. How blessed to know Him as that! God Himself came down in grace, linked His Deity with our humanity, in order to perfect our redemption. We have something that is rather pathetic and deeply interesting to me, in the offering that Mary and Joseph brought. According to the law, after a child was born and a certain number of days had elapsed, a sacrifice was to be brought in recognition of the Lord’s goodness to the parents, and also in recognition of the fact that even little children, as sweet and comparatively innocent as they are, come of a sinful race and need a Saviour. According to the law, that sacrifice might be of various animals. It might be a lamb out of the flock, or a kid of the goats, or, the Word says, if they were not able to bring a lamb or a kid, they might bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons. Here we have a most significant thing. When Mary and Joseph came to offer this sacrifice in connection with the presentation of our blessed Lord Jesus, their wonderful adorable Babe, we read that they brought a pair of turtledoves. They could not bring the higher-priced offerings. They were numbered among the poor of Israel. That gives us some conception of the place our Saviour took in grace—He who was higher than the highest. He who created all things came into this world and took His place in a family so poor that they were not able to bring a lamb out of the flock, but they brought the offering of the very needy—two turtledoves.
Next we have the recognition of the Saviour by Simeon and the prophecy concerning Him. We are told that, “There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and the same man was just and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel.” There were, doubtless, many of the Jews at this time who recognized the fact that the great time-prophecy of Daniel 9 had almost run out and that very soon the promised Messiah, the King and Saviour of Israel, must appear in accordance with the Word of God; and so they waited for Him. I wonder how many of us are waiting for His second coming. The years have gone since He went away. He said, “If I go to prepare a place for you I will come again, and receive you unto Myself.” The Thessalonian believers “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven.” Are we numbered among those who are waiting for the Lord Jesus—waiting for Him to return again; waiting for Him to call His Church to be with Himself, and then to be manifested in glory for the full blessing of Israel and the nations? Just as this little remnant in Israel was waiting for Him to come the first time, so we should be waiting for Him to appear the second time, apart from the sin question, unto our complete and final salvation.
This man, Simeon, an aged man, was waiting for the consolation of the coming of the Messiah, and it was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not taste of death until he had seen the Lord’s Christ; that is, until he had seen the Messiah that Jehovah had promised. As Mary and Joseph came into the Temple bringing the little child in their arms, Simeon entered also, and when the parents presented the Child Jesus, Simeon saw Him immediately and said, “That is the One,” and without a moment’s hesitation he went to Mary and took the child in his own arms and blessed God and said, “Now, Lord, let Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy Word, for mine eyes hath seen Thy salvation.” That for which he was waiting had now actually been fufilled. The Spirit made it clear to him, and he said, “This is what I have waited for. This is what I wanted, and I now have that for which I longed, and I am ready to go home. Let me now depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.” Notice the last expression— God’s salvation is bound up in a Person. When he saw Christ he said, “I have seen Thy salvation.” If you would ever see God’s salvation you must see the Lord Jesus Christ. If, when you look by faith upon Him, when you behold Him as the One who was sent by the Father, who came to this world in grace, and gave Himself a ransom for our souls—when you can see Him you are beholding God’s salvation. So, if you would know God’s salvation you must receive Christ.
Then Simeon goes on to prophesy. He says, “Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of Thy people, Israel.” You might have expected Simeon to reverse that expression, for it was prophesied in the Old Testament that the Messiah was coming first to bring blessing to Israel and then, through Israel, to the Gentile world. Simeon realizes and recognizes that there is a break in God’s way in dealing with men; so he puts the Gentiles first, and then Israel. The Spirit of God knew that when our Lord Jesus Christ came that first time in lowly grace, His own people would refuse Him. They would turn away from Him. They would not receive Him as their Messiah. So their hour of blessing was to be deferred. But he said, “He shall be a light to lighten the Gentiles,” and that explains why it is that, though Israel refuses to own our Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour, He has been manifested to untold millions of Gentiles who have recognized and trusted in Him. Has God lost His interest in Israel? No; for the present time blindness, in part, has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles comes in. When the work among the Gentiles is completed, then He is going to take up Israel again in a marvelous way. So Simeon says, “He is a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people, Israel.” What a day it will be when Israel returns to the Lord, and when they shall recognize in Him the One whom their fathers rejected—the Saviour that God had promised, whose finished work on the cross alone redeems!
Then notice in the third place, the special word for Mary, the mother of our blessed Lord. Simeon said unto her, “Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against.” How this must have confirmed to the blessed mother of our Lord the words spoken by the angel before His birth. It was all so strange and mysterious, but when this aged Spirit-controlled servant of God definitely said to her, “This child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel,” it would confirm what had already been revealed to her. What does he mean by the fall and rising again? You will remember, Jesus said He was the stone of salvation, but He said, “Whosoever shall fall upon this stone shall be broken.” Israel stumbled over the lowly Jesus. He was a stumbling-stone and a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel; so He was set for the fall of many in Israel; but, on the other hand, down through the centuries thousands upon thousands have turned to Him, as many did in the days immediately following His resurrection—three thousand at Pentecost, thousands more afterward, untold myriads down through the centuries since. Vast numbers from Israel have turned to God and found in the Lord Jesus their Saviour, and by-and-by the nation as a whole will be converted. So, this Child was set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign that should be spoken against. Oh, the bitter things, the blasphemous things that have been said concerning the Lord Jesus Christ! When people reject the Lord Jesus Christ there is no saying to what length they will go to bolster up their false beliefs.
Then Simeon turned directly to Mary and said to her, “Yea, a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” I wonder if these words did not come back to Mary as she stood by the cross and saw her blessed Son nailed to the tree, as she looked upon the thorn-crowned head, as she saw blood spurting from every wound, as she saw the hands that had been pressed upon her brow so many times nailed upon that cross, and those feet that had gone about, carrying their blessed Owner on errands of love and mercy, spiked to that tree. Her sorrows must have been deep indeed, and yet she knew that all was foreknown of God, and that it was her appointed destiny to bring into the world the Saviour who was thus to give His life a ransom for all.
The next thing we notice is that in verse 36, God gives further confirmation. This time an aged woman appears on the scene, a prophetess, named Anna, the daughter of Phanuel. She had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity, we are told, and was a widow of about eighty-four years, so she must have been above a hundred years of age. She was one of the remnant in Israel, waiting for the coming of the Messiah. She departed not from the Temple, but served God with fastings and prayer night and day. She, coming in that instant, suddenly recognized the Babe as the Saviour, and she gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and she spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. This aged woman, becomes one of the first evangelists of the new age, saying, “I have seen the Saviour. He has come—the One who is to bring redemption.”
The closing part of our passage has to do with the Childhood of our blessed Lord. When they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord they returned into Galilee, into their own city, Nazareth, and the Child grew and waxed strong in spirit. It is a lovely picture of this Child growing up in the seclusion of the home and glorifying God, His Father, in all things. There was nothing abnormal about Him. He was not doing wonderful and remarkable things. If you want signs and wonders the “Apocryphal Gospels” will give you all kinds of things attributed to our blessed Lord. It is told how, when He was a little boy, He went to school and the teacher started to teach Him the alphabet. The teacher said, “Say Aleph” and He repeated it. Then the teacher told Him to say Beth. He replied, “No, I will not say Beth until you tell me what Aleph means.” The teacher lifted up his hand to strike Him and his hand became paralyzed. That is the kind of Jesus the Apocryphal Gospels tell us of.
There is nothing like that in God’s Holy Word. This is a beautiful, perfectly normal Child growing up in a lowly home where God is revered, and feeding upon the Word of God until the hour when He was to go forth on His great mission to redeem the world. Those hidden years were the suitable preparation for His future ministry.