Luke tells us of a man named Simeon, who came into the Temple by the leading of God’s Spirit (Luke 2:25, 27). The Scripture implies he was already there when Joseph and Mary came in with Jesus (Luke 2:27). What is significant about Simeon, according to Luke, is that he was just a (righteous) man and devout (cautious and religious, pious). The Holy Spirit was upon him, and he waited for the consolation of Israel—i.e. he anticipated the fulfillment of the 70 Weeks Prophecy, which predicted the coming of the Messiah near the time of Jesus’ birth. What the Holy Spirit revealed to him was that he wouldn’t die until he met the Messiah (Luke 2:26).
Upon seeing Mary and Joseph with their baby, he took (i.e. received or accepted – G1209) Jesus into his arms, indicating he may have been serving in the Temple as a priest (Luke 2:27-28). Simeon shows a different understanding about the Messiah than was the current expectation of him when he would arrive. Notice what he says when he received Jesus into his arms for his presentation:
“Lord, now let 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” (Luke 2:29-32 KJV).
The then popular understanding of the Messiah’s office was that he would come to free his people from the heavy hand of their oppressors—namely, Rome (cf. John 12:34). Yet, Simeon declared that the Messiah would be a Light to the gentiles! In other words, he had not only come to benefit the Jews, but also all nations. Both Joseph and Mary marveled at Simeon’s words (Luke 2:33), perhaps because they were simple people and held to the popular teaching that the Messiah would merely lead the Jews out from under the oppression of Rome and all their enemies. They may not have connected gentiles with the mission of the Messiah (cf. Genesis 22:18).
Turning to Mary, Simeon said that Jesus would be a sign that would be spoken against or slandered, and it would be in this manner that Mary’s heart would be pierced (cf. Psalm 57:4; 64:3; Proverbs 12:18). That is, her sorrow would come due the manner in which the authorities would treat Jesus. Jesus’ office as Messiah would expose the hearts of the authorities and the thoughts of all Jews as to whether or not they were inclined toward God or their own desires (cf. Luke 2:12 Isaiah 28:13-16; Haggai 2:23; Isaiah 8:18; Acts 28:22).
Luke never claims Simeon was a resident of Jerusalem or Judea. The implication is that he was a visitor and happened to be in (Luke 2:25) Jerusalem on the day in which Jesus was brought into the Temple to be presented before the Lord. It is possible that Simeon was one of the Magi referred to in Matthew (Matthew 2:1-12). The Magi had been in Herod’s palace in west Jerusalem, when they spoke with him privately. As they were leaving the palace, they saw the star in the east, which would have been rising over the House, that is, the Temple (cf.1Kings 8:17, 20, 27; Luke19:46). They rejoiced at this sight, not simply because they saw the star, for they were able to see the star on any clear morning during their journey to Jerusalem. Rather, they rejoiced in the epiphany of understanding that they looked for the Messiah in the wrong places. They should have looked for him in the Temple. From this perceptive, both Matthew and Luke placed the important figures of their accounts in the Temple of God, when they met Jesus. Luke’s Simeon was an important person, perhaps even a priest, and I’ll write more of this in another blogpost.