Simeon, Prophet in Jerusalem


Reference:  Luke 2:22-35

Heart of the Story:  Simeon, a righteous and devout man, went into the temple courts. He saw the baby Jesus and praised God.

Back Story: Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were living in Bethlehem. Mosaic Law required that after giving birth to a son, the mother was ceremonially unclean forty days. During that time she must not touch anything sacred or go into the sanctuary. When the 40 days were over, she should bring a sacrifice to the priest. The sacrifice should include a year old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or dove for a sin offering.  The lamb and pigeon or dove were to make atonement for the woman who were ceremonially unclean from her blood flow. If the woman cannot afford a lamb, two pigeons or two doves could be used in place of the lamb.

Story Line:  Forty days after Mary gave birth to Jesus, Joseph and Mary took him to the Jerusalem temple to be presented to the Lord. At same time Mary offered the sacrifices to purify herself from being unclean because of her blood flow.  At that time Simeon was in Jerusalem. Previously, the Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he saw God’s Messiah.

Moved by the Holy Spirit, Simeon went to the temple courts. Simeon took the baby Jesus into his arms and praised God, saying that as God promised he would not die until he saw the Messiah who would bring salvation to both the Jew and Gentile.  Then, Simeon blessed the family and said to Mary that the child was destined to cause the falling and rising of many. The child would reveal the heart of many individuals plus a sword would pierce Mary’s own soul.

When Joseph and Mary heard Simeon’s praise and prophecy, they marveled at what he said.

Pondering Relationships: This simple story has so many implications. First as a woman and an RN, I don’t like that Mary was considered “unclean” for forty days after the birth of Jesus. I am even more offended that if Mary birthed a daughter, she would have been religiously unclean for 66 days. Her bleeding was a simple hormonal response to giving birth.

Second, Simeon had a very positive relationship with God and the Holy Spirit. They favored Simeon because they promised Simeon that he would not die until he saw the Messiah. Do you ever wonder how old Simeon was? I think of him as quite elderly possibly because the next story in Luke recorded that Anna was old (84 years of age).  Unlike Anna, however, Simeon did not live in the Temple. He may have lived in Jerusalem, possibly with a wife and children. Simeon could have been middle aged or younger. He may have been watching for the Messiah a short time or a long time. From his words of prophecy we learned that his eye sight was not dimmed.

Third, Simeon was a prophet. He prophesied about the baby’s effect on the Jewish nation, the Gentile world, and on Mary. He was perhaps the only Israelite prophet between Malachi and John the Baptist.  God must have wanted Simeon to give this prophecy or he would not have had Simeon come to the Temple on the very day that the Holy Family was there.

Reflection: I wonder why I don’t hear more ministers and spiritual teachers talking about God’s promise to Simeon and Simeon’s prophecy?

Copyright: January 26, 2017; Carolyn A. Roth

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