It is time for Mary’s to be purified at the temple following childbirth. She makes the sacrifice for a male child but the one for the poor; a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. In the temple is an old man named Simeon. We are told that he is a righteous and devout man who was waiting for the coming of the Messiah. The Holy Spirit had told him that he would not die until he saw the Lord’s Christ.
We are given no time frame for Simeon. We are told that he is elderly. What we are not told is when the Holy Spirit spoke to him. Was it recently that he heard from the Lord or years previous? I sense that he has been waiting for some time for the Lord to fulfill his promise to him. Waiting is such a hard thing to do.
We live in an age of immediate gratification. “We want the world and we want it now.” God does not work on our time frame and God does not understand power the way that we do. One day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day to God. When the power of God confront the powers of the enemy God comes as a baby born to a poor family who sets out to die a lone on a cross.
Waiting is so hard for us. Our schedules are maxed out and so we leave no time to wait for anything. We don’t know the people who live on the same block as we do or the people on the floor of our apartment because who has the time to get to know their neighbors. We want Facebook friends who can like us in an instant. We want complex situations resolved in a moment. It used to be that something worth having was worth waiting for, but now if I have to wait it’s almost not worth having.
It’s been 500 years since the Old Testament prophets were silenced for the last time. Then all of a sudden a baby is born. There has been some scuffling amongst one family. Old barren Elizabeth becomes pregnant and her doubting husband Zachariah is struck dumb till the birth of the child because he challenged the angel. Mary their niece becomes pregnant through a miracle and her fiancé Joseph has to deal with a pregnancy he had nothing to do with. When the baby finally comes to term he is born in a stable and the only people who show up to celebrate are some local shepherds and some wise men from the east. Somewhere during this time a righteous devout man named Simeon gets a word from the Holy Spirit that the messiah is coming and he will not die until he sees him with his own eyes.
Then one day it happens. Simeon is in the temple as usual doing what he usually did. We are not told he is a priest or Levite, just that he is an old man. Thro the gat of the temple comes a young couple. The Holy Spirit taps Simeon on the shoulder and lest him know that this is the one he has been waiting to see.
Simeon has been waiting to see the one who was the hope of Israel, the promised messiah. Who knows what this man was waiting for; a great general, a king who would take the throne from Herod and establish justice and righteousness in the land again, or a great religious leader how would turn the people back to God? He was given a great promise from God that he would see the one and the promised one had finally arrived and he is a baby.
How often in our needs do we cry out for God expecting him to deliver us? How often we turn to the scriptures and reread the promises to us that God answers prayer and we pray. Finally the answer comes and we barely recognize it because it is nothing like what we were expecting. Short of money we pray for relief and God in his mercy sends us a job but not the one we were looking for. We feel led to pursue and certain career believing after much prayer that God was directing our path. Upon graduation the only job we can land is not the one we were working toward and we wonder is this of God. After work most of our lives thanking God for his sustaining grace we get a pink slip and we are back in the job market. We pray for a new job so that our needs could be met. God continually supplies our daily bread but we still can’t seem to land a job. Is this of God? Is this his hand upon us we ask?
Simeon was looking for the hope of Israel and a baby enters. This baby will grow to meet every human need and defy every expectation. In many ways we are all like Simeon.
Like him we are in desperate need. The world around us is fallen. Sin is rampant and death reigns upon all of creation. Yet with in each of us is a longing for something better. You sense it in everyone you meet. There is a hope however faith that things will get better, and the emptiness inside will be filled. We, like Simeon, long for deliverance.
The striving that you see in everyone you meet, the pressure to succeed that is in the very air of this city is the longing for something better. We are promised that good things will fill the need and so we work long hours. We are told that just having that good job will cause people to look up and take notice of us and we will feel needed and appreciated, successful. The nice apartment, the big house, the quiet neighborhood or the busy active one is all offered as solutions to our greats need. So like Simeon we go to our temples, our places of worship and we wait for that one thing, that one person, that one situation that will change everything and time passes,
Then one day at the least expected time in through the gate of the temple comes the answer to our deepest longing. It’s not a new job, it’s not the latest stuff, nor a new boy friend or girl friend it’s Jesus. He is no longer a child; he comes as our risen savior. Simeon know immediately that this baby was the messiah and he know that he would not live to see this child’s deliverance plan. He was left to die in peace that his eyes had seen the savior but left with questions about how.
We too are left with many questions. Jesus comes on the scene and promises to fill the void we can’t seem to fill and bring us back to God. But somehow it just doesn’t seem to fit. The values of our expectations and Jesus’ answer to our needs seem at odds with one another. We are told that if we work hard and live right we will see the blessing of God and enjoy all the world has to offer us.
Jesus comes promising us that he will meet our every need; daily bread, family and friends, clothing but he doesn’t promise to meet them on our terms. Jesus invites us to partake in his abundant life but in order for that to take place we must die. In order to die we must follow after Jesus. And so the battle rages, Paul speak of it in Romans 7. The world pulls one way and Jesus another. Jesus holds up to us peace and joy that can only be found in our relationship with God. Mean while the devil whispers in our ear, “Did God really say…?”
The temple court was busy that morning, it always was. The people pushing and shoving each other trying to carry out their religious obligations. Mary, Joseph and Jesus were just one family among many. There were other women there for the purification rite, No one noticed that the answer to their deepest longings the very reason they were in the temple that day was in their midst.
Jesus is here in this city. He is the answer to our deepest needs. Yet he goes unnoticed by the majority of the people. They go on about their business, worshiping the gods that promise but cannot provide all the while missing the savior who died that they might live. Will you stop and notice? Can you say with Simeon that your eyes have seen the salvation of God? Will you follow him?