Jesus Encounters: Simeon, Anna and the Salvation of God

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Jesus Encounters: Simeon, Anna and the Salvation of God

by I Gordon

While the vast majority of the 'Jesus encounters' in this series are taken from the ministry of Jesus, this first encounter is actually with the baby Jesus. Now, don't be ageist for, as you will see, the impact that He has is still remarkable! This study is taken from Luke chapter 2, verses 21-40 and it details the reaction of two godly believers who were both waiting to see the Salvation of God. In fact, the revelation that they had, while Jesus was still just a baby, is remarkable and even exceeds the understanding of Jesus' own disciples during His ministry in terms of understanding why Jesus came and what He would achieve. But more on that later! Lets start with the 8th day of Jesus' life.

Why the 8th day?

Luke 2:21 NIV On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.

So we see that, according to the Jewish custom, they circumcised baby Jesus on the 8th day. This action finds its roots back in the time of Abraham with the command given by God to circumcise the male babies as a sign of the Abrahamic covenant on the 8th day. Have you ever though of why this cutting away of the flesh occurs on the 8th day? From a medical point of view it has been shown that Vitamin K and prothrombin levels (which produce blood coagulation) are at their peak on the 8th day so it is the ideal time to perform circumcision. But also consider what this is a type of. The number 8 in the Bible speaks of resurrection and new life. So circumcision (the cutting away of the flesh) on this day points to the removal of the fleshly nature and being a new man. This occurs when we are born again and will be fully realised at the rapture and resurrection of our bodies.

Notice also that the angel had said the baby was to be called Jesus. The book of Matthew tells us why - Mat 1:21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." The name Jesus is very fitting for it is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua which means 'Yahweh is salvation'. Here, even in the form of this little baby, was the Salvation of God.

Luke 2:22-24 NIV When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (23) (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord" ), (24) and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: "a pair of doves or two young pigeons."

The Jewish custom that Joseph and Mary undertook here goes back to the law in Leviticus 12. Leviticus 12:6, 8 NIV 'When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering... (8) If she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.' " An interesting point is that Joseph and Mary offered a pair of doves or two young pigeons. Most gave a year old lamb and a young bird at this point but the poor were allowed to substitute that for two young birds. So this shows that Joseph and Mary were poor - they didn't have enough money to offer a lamb. But in another sense they were doing that very thing, for their son, Jesus, who they were consecrating to the Lord, was Himself the very Lamb of God!

Imagine being told you won't die until you see the Messiah come!

Luke 2:25-26 NIV Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. (26) It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

Now, this is where the story gets interesting. You see, there was a man in Jerusalem, a righteous man who loved God. His name was Simeon and he had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before seeing the Messiah. Imagine that! It says that he was waiting of the 'consolation of Israel' So what is that? It is the Messiah. The word 'consolation' means 'comfort received by a person after a loss or disappointment.' Thus, the coming One would console Israel. He would be their comforter. Their years of loss and disappointment would end with this coming One. The full fulfillment of this awaits the second coming of Christ for He had to first be the sacrifice for sin, but at the second coming, when all nations have turned and come against Israel, they will cry out for the Messiah to come. And He will! He will be their consolation. He will be their comfort. And He is the consolation and comfort of everyone who believes in Him today.
Now, wouldn't you, like Simeon, like to be someone that was told that you wouldn't die without seeing the return of Jesus? Could God do this again with the return of Jesus? Will we know when Jesus is about to return? Does God do things without first revealing it? Amos 3:7 is an interesting passage on this. 'Surely the Lord GOD does nothing Unless He reveals His secret counsel To His servants the prophets.' I can't be dogmatic on this but I have a personal belief that as the day approaches we will know that Jesus is coming. I realise that no one knows the day or the hour now. Many teach that the rapture is going to be chaotic with planes falling out of the sky etc because they had Christian pilots who were suddenly taken. I don't see this. I think, and again, I can't be dogmatic, that Christians will have a sense that He is coming, even if it is only very close to the event. I don't think that God is a God of such chaos. One of the last statements given in the book of Revelation 22:17 says 'the Spirit and the bride say 'come'. I don't see the bride of Christ saying 'come' at the moment... Not in unison anyway. There are certainly pockets of believers who long and watch for that day but the bride as a whole in not yet crying 'come'. Quite likely it is because we are too comfortable in the West. But when the Spirit within us starts saying 'come' the Bride will respond! So it may be that we will know just before the time.... it may only be hours or minutes before He comes. We'll have to wait and see! What we do know is that when Simeon saw the first coming of Jesus, his life on earth was then complete and he could die and go to the place prepared for the saints of God in peace. When we see Jesus return at the rapture, our life on this planet will also be complete (though we won't die but will be changed! - 1 Thes 4:17) and we will be taken to the place that Jesus has prepared for us. (John 14:1-3)

Luke 2:27-32 NIV Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, (28) Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: (29) Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. (30) For my eyes have seen your salvation, (31) which you have prepared in the sight of all people, (32) a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."

Imagine finding the Spirit stirring you within to go somewhere because the time has come - the Messiah has arrived! Amazing! What will the stirring of the Spirit be in the hours or even minutes leading up to the rapture? I also find the reaction of Simeon instructive when he first sees Jesus. It could be listed as follows:

 - He embraces Jesus ('Simeon took him in his arms')
- There is praise for God
- He has no fear of death ('Lord, as you have promised, you can now dismiss your servant...)
- He has peace ('you can now dismiss your servant in peace')

When our eyes have seen the salvation of God, we should have the same experiences - Praise, no fear of death and peace. Look also at the revelation that was given to Simeon at this stage - He knew that Jesus, even as a child, was Salvation. He also knew that He was this for both the Gentiles and Israel. Not many knew this. John the Baptist revealed that Jesus was 'the lamb that takes away the sins of the world' but most didn't look past the Messiah's work for the nation of Israel. But Simeon had it revealed to him that Jesus would be a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel. Of course this was prophesied about the Messiah in the book of Isaiah::

Isaiah 49:6 NASB He says, "It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth."

So Jesus would be a light for the Gentiles and glory for Israel. This takes in both the first and second comings of Jesus. The first coming has been primarily to be a light to the Gentiles for in this age the nation of Israel has been blinded in part (Rom 11:25-26) . But at His second coming and return to this planet will see glory for nation of Israel.

Simeon has a word of knowledge for Mary as well

Luke 2:33-35 NIV The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. (34) Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, (35) so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."

Simeon's revelation didn't just end with Jesus. He also saw what effect this One would have on those in Israel. Specifically, He would cause many to rise and many to fall in Israel. We see this in the lives of many humble simple folk that embraced Jesus and rose, like the disciples, to be men still talked about 2000 years later. And the opposite was also true. The proud and arrogant among Israel's leaders were brought down. They were exposed for the white washed tombs that they were. But all of this was to come about with great opposition. Simeon, speaking by the Spirit of God, knew that Jesus would be a sign to be spoken against signifying the opposition that He would generate. I have read that the word 'sign' here literally means 'a target that people shoot at'. And so they would as their own hearts are exposed. And Mary herself would not be immune - her heart would be pierced as well through the anguish of seeing the death of her Son.

Anna - A godly woman looking for Jerusalem's redemption

Luke 2:36-40 NIV There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, (37) and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. (38) Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (39) When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. (40) And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

The passage closes with the testimony of another that was looking. In this case it was a godly woman by the name of Anna. She longed and looked for the redemption of Jerusalem. That is, she waited for the day that the Messiah would come and bring Jerusalem into the glory that has been prophesied about through many promises and prophecies given by the Hebrew prophets. It says of Anna that she never left the temple and had been there since her husband died, just seven years into their marriage. So, as they generally married quite young in that time and culture, we could estimate that she had serving God through prayer and fasting for around 55-60 years. That is pretty remarkable! And all that time, through joy and trials, encouragement and lonliness... she looked... she hoped... she longed... for the Messiah to appear. No wonder she got a mention in the Bible and was allowed to see God's salvation!

What a lesson we can learn from these two godly saints in this passage! Both were looking and both were granted what that hoped for. God wants us to look. He has commended many believers for this very act and instructed us to do likewise. Let me close this little study with these important verses encouraging us to 'look'.

Titus 2:11-14 NASB For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, (12) instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, (13)  looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, (14) who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

Philippians 3:20-21 NASB (20) For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; (21) who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.