What was Simeon going about doing that day before he was moved by the Holy Spirit to walk over to the temple courts? Had he been amidst throwing pottery on a wheel to sell in the market tomorrow? Had he just returned home from a walk on a sunny Jerusalem day? Had he and his wife been locked in a conflict? Maybe the same mountain they’d circled numerous times in their long marriage? Even righteous men aren’t perfect husbands. Even devout men need a Messiah.
Simeon and all of his fellow Jews were awaiting the consolation of Israel. Oh, the day when all would be made right. God perhaps coming as a messiah king with flowing robes, trampling the Romans as He did, finally freeing His people?
Whatever he was doing that day, Simeon stops. He hears from God in a way that moves his feet. Does he remember the promise–oh, the promise!–that day, however long ago when it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he wouldn’t die before he’d seen the Christ, the Coming One. Does he know this prompting today is tied to that promise, or has he over the years learned that simple obedience to what God says is, truly, the best way to live?
He sees a man and woman–both young and yet with eyes that seem to hold secrets–holding a baby and a pair of birds for the sacrifice for after delivery of a boy.
What did Simeon’s brain register in the nanoseconds between when his eyes land on Jesus and the confirmation that courses through his body like electricity.
That’s a…I was expecting…not…so little…a…baby?
In seconds, Simeon closes the distance between him and this Promise. Did he even sprint, even though culturally shameful for older men to run? How could he not? How could he do anything but take 7-week-old* Jesus in his arms and praise God?
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory to your people Israel.”
*7 weeks or, more accurately 41 days, because of Leviticus 12:8 that states how many days before circumcision occurs and then how many days after that for a mother’s purification before the baby would be brought to the temple for dedication. Picture this little guy, below, our Joshua about that age. Now, just picture a Middle Eastern Joshua. This is the age you receive real smiles from them, engaging eye contact.
Oh, Simeon! How did his weight feel in your arms? Holding the One so long awaited? The One who made the heavens and the earth?
And I can imagine how you looked on Jesus. But I’d love to know this: how did Jesus look at you?
And Jesus and Mary stood there mouths agape, I picture, marveling. Not understanding…yet…understanding. Did all the world stand still for them? Even if their ears were ringing, almost like the first sign of a faint about to fall on them, still they heard Simeon speaking over their son.
This stranger with their son in his arms blesses the young parents, confirming that the angels speaking to them, the star, the shepherds, all of it…it wasn’t a dream.
Then Simeon turns his gaze to Mary.
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Before Mary can even begin to digest those words of prophesy, an old widow named Anna bursts into their holy gathering. Her presence was likely more striking because of her joy and solid hope in God than the wrinkles of her 84 years. Her husband had truly become the Lord all these years, after only having been married 7 years, even as she lived at the temple.
And so it’s the old woman who is the first evangelist. She thanks God and then begins proclaiming the good news of this young baby “to all who were looking forward the redemption of Jerusalem.” Can you picture it?
Excited and confused voices, mixed with the sounds of animals to be sacrificed–lambs and birds–ricocheting off the stone walls and floating up into the heavens.
I can picture Anna and Simeon waving people over with a youthful zeal not matching their age. Come see! Come see!
Does a crowd gather? Who can make out what this all means?
At the center is an old man, an old woman, a young man, a young woman, their sacrifice, and the Sacrifice to come–a grinning and cooing 7-week-old.