“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 on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 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…”
– Luke 2:25-27, NIV
A Hebrew mother, based on Leviticus 12:1-5, was required to remain at home for forty days after the birth of a male child and about eighty for a female. During these days, the mother was considered to be impure and was not permitted to go the house of worship or to participate in the religious services with the congregation.
Joseph and Mary observed these laws then went up to Jerusalem for two reasons: (1) to present Jesus to the Lord and (2) to offer a sacrifice. Both of these acts were based upon provisions (Luke 1:23-24) of the Law. Mary and Joseph were carefully following the provisions of the Law.
At the time that Joseph and Mary went to Jerusalem, there was a devout man named Simeon in Jerusalem. He was looking for the “consolation of Israel.” This consolation, according to Marshall (p. 118), is the one that will be brought about by the “messianic era.” Or, as Lenski (p. 144) says, that it is “the one promised to Israel in and through the Messiah.”
Our word consolation is a translation of the Greek word paraklesin. We sometimes translate this word as Paraclete. Jesus was the first Paraclete. Near the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus told His disciples (John 14:16) that He would ask the Father to send them “another” Paraclete, or Helper.
Three verses in succession mention the Holy Spirit in connection with Simeon. In Luke 2:25 writes that the Holy Spirit “was upon” Simeon. The verb is an imperfect indicative. The imperfect tense represents an action continuously or repeatedly going on in the past. Here, the context suggests that the Spirit was continuously upon him.
Next, in Luke 2:26 we learn that it had been revealed to Simeon “by the Holy Spirit” that He would not see death before he had seen the “Lord’s Christ.” The Holy Spirit revealed a special and personal truth to Simeon. No doubt his heart was full of joy over this.
Then, in Luke 2:27, we read “And he came in [en] the Spirit into the temple. The word “by” is a translation of the Greek en. It can mean “in” or “by.” Either way, the point is that he entered the temple under the influence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit motivated and prompted his entry into the Temple.
When the parents presented Jesus, in accordance with the Law, Simeon (Luke 2:28) “took Him into his arms, and blessed God.” This moment was no doubt the greatest in His life. He was holding the Savior of the world in his arms. While holding the baby, He uttered a prophecy. Although Luke does not call his words a prophecy, they have prophetic character. The six poetic lines in this prophecy are called the Nunc Dimittis from the first two words in the Latin translation. Lenski (p. 148) writes: “They constitute a psalmlike adoration of praise to God for what he is doing for Simeon on the basis of what he did for the whole world.”
In addition, Simeon spoke a special prophetic word to Mary. As Horton (81) say, “He also foretold the heartbreak that would come to Mary (fulfilled at the cross). Simeon declared, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed–and a sword will pierce even your own soul–to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
Horton, Stanley. What the Bible Says About the Holy Spirit. Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 1976.
Lenski, R. C. H. St. Luke’s Gospel. Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1946.
Marshall, I. Howard. The Gospel of Luke. Exeter: The Paternoster Press, 1978.
Robertson, A. T. Word Pictures of the New Testament, Vol. II. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1930.
Swete, H. B. The Holy Spirit in the New Testament. London: Macmillan and Company, 1910.
Copyright 2000 © George M. Flattery