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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:Simeon's Great Expectations
Text:Luke 2:25-32 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:The Incarnation

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 87:1,4,5                                                                                     

Ps 81:7,8,9

Reading – Isaiah 40:1-11; Luke 2:21-40

Ps 27:1,2,6

Sermon – Luke 2:25-32

Hy 22:1,2

Hy 64:1,2

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Brothers and sisters, in this world there are scientists of all kinds. So many people, researching so many areas of knowledge. And among these many scientists, there are those who study human behaviour. They will even conduct social experiments because they want to know why people act and react the way we do.

You could say that Luke the gospel-writer is interested in a similar question. As he writes this book, he’s got an eye for human behaviour. And for him, this isn’t a scientific enterprise, it’s a spiritual one. Luke is watching for how different people respond to the meaning and the message of Jesus Christ.

Over the first two chapters of Luke, you see that a few times. For example, what does Zachariah do with the good news of salvation? He doubts, but then he sings. How does Mary react? She believes, and then she sings too. How about John the Baptist? Even as a baby, still in the womb of Elizabeth, his reaction is to leap for joy!

This is true throughout Christ’s life. Once they meet Jesus, everyone has to do something. There is always some kind of reaction to him—for better or for worse: it is either faith or unbelief; repentance or a hardening in sin. Even at the very end of Christ’s life, we see this. Think of the criminal on the cross, or the Roman centurion, how they react rightly when they catch a glimpse of who Jesus is.

And Luke wants everyone to consider it carefully: What is our reaction to the Saviour? What do we do with the message of Jesus Christ? That’s a good question for us, who hear and read often about the coming of Jesus in the flesh and about his dying on the cross. So what do we do now? How do treat the message of the gospel? Let us learn from the reaction of Simeon to Jesus in Luke 2:25-32,

Simeon praises God for the arrival of consolation:

  1. Simeon’s expectation
  2. God’s fulfillment
  3. Simeon’s peace


1) Simeon’s expectation: The first two chapters of Luke are action-packed. From the beginning, there are marvelous events taking place: angels appearing, an old priest struck dumb, a child born to senior citizens, people breaking out in song and prophecy—and of course, Jesus making his entrance.

But in verse 25, Luke gives us a “meanwhile.” While so much was happening around the arrival of Christ, for most people life went on as usual. And Luke focuses on one man in particular, an old fellow sitting on the sidelines: “There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout” (v 25).

Nothing too out of the ordinary. Here is Simeon, a man unknown to us apart from this one incident. Over the years, people have tried to identify him, to shed light on this mystery figure. There is an old tradition which says that Simeon was a man of high standing in Jerusalem at that time. He was said to have a prophetic spirit, and he possessed great learning too, for he was the son a great rabbi.

But we don’t know for sure. Instead of Simeon being a prominent citizen, we could just as well picture him as an average Israelite, just another face in the crowd: a senior citizen living a quiet life on a nameless street somewhere in the big city.

What we do know is that Simeon was a child of God. Luke tells us that he “was just and devout.” That is to say, he was a man who was serious about his relationship with God. He was faithful in observing the law, and he did so out of a genuine love for the LORD.

And as Simeon meditated on God’s law, as he listened to the priests explaining it at the temple, he often heard about the coming Messiah. It was something that clearly stood out on so many of the old scrolls, that God had promised a Saviour. For this reason, Luke says that Simeon “was waiting for the consolation of Israel” (v 25).

When do people “wait for consolation?” When they have suffered, when they are sad or disappointed. Simeon is waiting, because he’s been around for a while. From his long life, he knew God’s people carry a burden of sorrow because of sin. It was always there—sin—knocking God’s people down, causing grief, upsetting a right relationship with the LORD.

Sure, God had given the system of sacrifice. Simeon saw it whenever he went to the temple. The people could present their animal offerings, and be assured that God’s grace was upon them, that He’d really forgiven them. Yet the sacrifices seemed so incomplete, so temporary, and after a while, somewhat empty. Atoning for sin had to take something more than all this—something to really open up the floodgates of God’s mercy.

We get the sense that this old Simeon, devout as he was, was discouraged in his closing years. Yes, he was waiting for consolation: relief from his sorrow, rest from his pain, healing for the brokenness. Like a hurting child waits for Dad or Mum to come close and make things better.

And Simeon was looking in the direction that all of God’s hurting children must look, for he fixed his eyes on God’s promises. He surely knew the consoling message from Isaiah, “‘Comfort, yes comfort my people,’ says your God. ‘Speak comfort to Jerusalem’” (40:1). If only the Comforter, the Consoler, would soon arrive!

Simeon wasn’t alone in hoping for the day of consolation. In the next section, Luke tells us about Anna. She was an old prophetess, one whose life was devoted to worshiping at the temple. She too, was one of those “who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (2:38). Redemption: to be set free, released from bondage to captivity. That’s what these old folks looked forward to, what they cried out for, day and night.

Like Simeon and Anna, some of us are getting old: 70, 80, 90. We don’t know, but a few might be near the end of their time on earth. Many others are active, healthy and strong, even in the prime of life. Yet this text should make all of us, young and old, reflect whether we can relate. Is “consolation” something that we also desire? Are we at all like the watchful man in the temple, hoping earnestly in the promises of God, wanting to embrace the Saviour in faith?

This isn’t something to put off, to delay for another time. Sometimes we act like it is. We think to ourselves: “Living close to God is for later in life. When I’m older, when I’m an old Simeon, when I’m an old Anna, then I’ll take it more seriously. Or when I’m sick, or in trouble, then I’ll seek God’s comfort and consolation. That’s when I’ll really need it. But for now, I’m fine.”

Beloved, that isn’t the response God wants from us. Is this how to treat his message of salvation through Christ—like a life insurance policy that we tuck away until such time as we actually need it? No, the gospel always comes with an urgent and unavoidable call: Repent and believe, today, here and now! Now is the day of salvation.

God calls us not to hesitate one moment, but to seek Christ—even when we’re young, even when we’re healthy, even when our lives are full of good things. We should dare to look into the depths of our sin and misery, no matter our age. For God calls us to admit how much we need a Saviour, to know He’s our only hope. Then we’ll humbly cry out for his grace, and God will answer.

God definitely saw Simeon’s longing, and He heard his prayers. For the LORD granted him a revelation through the Holy Spirit. Notice how three times in a few verses, Luke speaks of how God’s Spirit filled this old man Simeon: “the Holy Spirit was upon him” (v 25); then, “it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit” (v 26); and finally, “[Simeon] came by the Spirit into the temple” (v 27).

The Holy Spirit laid a very distinct message on Simeon’s heart, that “he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (v 26). Now, that gives rise to a string of questions. How had the Spirit revealed this remarkable truth to him? By a dream? A vision? How long had Simeon known this? And did Simeon tell others what the Spirit told him?

All we know is that Simeon was assured by God that he would live to see the day of the Christ. And so as Simeon got older and older, even as his death drew closer, he was courageous. He was comforted. Because he knew that one day, he’d see the Christ. And now, suddenly, that day is here.


2) God’s fulfillment: Having waited so long, the man on the sidelines springs into action. Luke says, “he came by the Spirit into the temple” (v 27). The Spirit compels Simeon to hurry down the streets of Jerusalem, straight for the temple. He must’ve known that the moment had arrived. For this was the perfect place to see the Messiah: in God’s holy house!

But just what was Simeon going to see at the temple? We’ll often picture a person to look a certain way, even before we meet them face to face. Maybe we’ve talked to someone on the phone a few times, but then we’re quite surprised when she doesn’t look at all like we pictured! Surely Simeon too, had formed a mental image of the Messiah over the years. What kind of Saviour was he going to see?

Simeon probably didn’t realize that something special had happened in Bethlehem, just ten kilometers away, about a month before. He probably didn’t realize that in David’s town, a child had been born to young woman, even a virgin. He didn’t realize these things, but now, in the temple courts, at last he sees Him. He sees the Messiah!

And He’s a baby. Just a baby boy, recently circumcised, now being dedicated to the Lord in such a humble way, with “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons” (v 24), the offering of the poorest people in Israel. But we read of no hesitation on Simeon’s part. No puzzled looks to heaven, no second-guessing. For the Spirit’s testimony to Simeon’s heart was sure: “This is the one. This little baby—He’s the great Consoler. He’s the Messiah.”

So as Joseph and Mary carry their newborn into the temple, Simeon intercepts them, maybe even running across the courtyard to stop them: “[Simeon] took him up in his arms and blessed God” (v 28). You can’t get more hands-on than that! After waiting so long, Simeon can actually see, touch, even embrace, the promised Messiah. A life lived in expectation has now reached fulfillment.

No wonder Simeon opens his mouth to sing praise to God: “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word” (v 29). We’ll say more about these words in a moment; for now, we focus on the last three verses.

Simeon is overcome with joy, for he has finally beheld what God promised. “My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all peoples” (vv 30-31). This is “your salvation,” he sings to God—the salvation that God brings about! For where else does salvation come from? Who but God can deliver us from sin and Satan?

The Lord has granted salvation, a salvation “which you have prepared before the face of all people” (v 31). There’s a little word in that verse that we shouldn’t overlook: ALL. Simeon rejoices, not just for himself and not just for Israel. He rejoices because this little child will bring consolation to every nation of the earth, to all peoples.

And this wasn’t some novel idea that was dreamed up by Simeon. For centuries God said that a Saviour was going to come not just for the people of Israel, but for every nation. As one example, think again of Isaiah 40, “The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (v 5). For now, just a handful of people knew about it. For now, the gift of salvation was hidden in a blanket, held in the arms of an old Jewish man. But in due time, this Christ will be lifted up for everyone to see and believe.

For He would be a light, says Simeon, “a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles” (v 32). The darkness of Satan’s dominion was about to end. The night of sin is about to lift, and Jesus will shine to all the world!

Beloved, imagine all this, coming from that little package in Simeon’s arms, a warm bundle weighing perhaps five kilograms. All that redeeming potential, that saving power, wrapped up in a humble cloth. This again is the miracle of the incarnation: that God brings about our salvation in such a lowly yet glorious way.

Like any proud parents, Joseph and Mary are pleased to hear these words about their child. Sounds like Jesus is going to go places, has a bright future! But Simeon is not done yet. For after his song, he speaks a few more words to Mary: “This child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against…that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (vv 34-35).

He is saying that Christ’s coming will not be all joy and bliss. Not everyone will accept him—He will cause some to rise, others to fall. Indeed, this child will become the dividing line through mankind, He will be the line that runs even through families and friendships: What is your answer to the Christ? Are you with him or against him? Will you sing a song of praise to Christ like Simeon did, or will your curse him like so many others?

And the road in front of this child will not be easy. The Spirit told Simeon that this same happy, young mother in the temple courts will one day grieve terribly. A sword will pierce her soul, for one day she will stand at the cross and watch her son suffer untold pain. This little bundle of joy will one day journey to a place of deep suffering and death. But this too, was God’s purpose and plan. And in this, Simeon found his peace.


3) Simeon’s peace: When people are dying, they sometimes hold on for one more day. They hold on, just so they can see a special someone and say words of farewell. We don’t know if Simeon died shortly after our text, but he certainly felt that now he was ready to go. “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word” (v 29). God had told Simeon that he would not die before he’d seen the Christ. And God was true to his word.

We said we don’t know when or how God made his promise to Simeon. But this story really isn’t just about Simeon, about an old man’s comfort in his dying days. No, God wanted Simeon to play a part in announcing the great day of salvation.

For Simeon stands as a link to all who had gone before. He represents all who had waited for this day, but who died without receiving what was promised. And being one of the few with the privilege of seeing the Christ, Simeon responds in the only proper way: he gives glory to God. He sings a song of praise in honour of Christ. Think of it: in a few short minutes at the temple, Simeon has completed his greatest earthly task!

There’s a powerful truth in his example. Simeon was nearing the end of his life, just as Anna was. Yet both were still serving God with their whole heart! Even at the close of life, they were prepared to do their part, and they were prepared to worship the Lord. This teaches us that Christian service is never a matter of age, or energy level, or skill set. For all of us, there is always a calling, and there is always an opportunity.

I know that older believers can wonder about this sometimes: How can they still serve the Lord in the place where they are? Or those who suffer with a lot of pain, or a lack of strength—they might think there’s not much that can be done anymore. It can be a struggle, to find God’s purpose for the twilight years, or for years where there is much hardship. Yet think again of Simeon, and think of Anna: God gave them a place to serve, even to the end. They would glorify the LORD until their last days on earth.

Today, our service of God might be done in a quiet place, performed behind the scenes, or in a very different way than we were able to do before. Yet by faith, it’s an acceptable sacrifice to the LORD. We might serve through offering many prayers for our neighbors and fellow members. We might serve by encouraging others. We might serve by setting an example of faithfulness in the midst of our family. We can serve when we have prepared for it, and when we have asked God to show us when and how to serve.

Right to end of his life, Simeon was employed in God’s service. But now it was time to go: “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word” (v 29). We hear contentment in his words. He is a servant who is soon to be released from duty. “You are letting your servant depart,” for his job was done.

In peace, Simeon will leave the temple courts. And in peace, Simeon will leave this earthly life. No, Simeon didn’t know the whole story. He didn’t see what happened to Jesus, at the cross or in the grave. But Simeon knew that however God did it, He would bring consolation for sinners. For God is faithful! With a deep confidence in God, Simeon can die.

Beloved, that’s a powerful testimony. For we’ve seen more than Simeon ever did. We know how God actually brought about our salvation, on Good Friday and then on Easter Sunday. That has to mean something as we listen to another gospel message, on another Lord’s day. Treasure the incredible privilege to know the crucified and resurrected Saviour, to know the one who brought redemption from sin!

Simeon understood, as Paul understood, that everything pales in comparison next to the greatness of knowing Jesus our Saviour. As Paul said, “I count all things as loss compared to the excellence of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3:8).

For when we know him, we too can be at rest. Whether we live another fifty years, or we die tomorrow, we can find contentment in him. When we’ve embraced Christ in faith, we can be ready to say to God, at any time, in any moment, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you can dismiss your servant in peace.”

When you really know Christ, you can have this peace, the peace that passes all understanding. For Jesus Christ has brought consolation to all who put their trust in Him—He has brought us comfort, for body and soul, in life and in death.  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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