Today is our first Bible Prayer of the New Testament!
About a month after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph took him to the Temple in Jerusalem to perform the traditional Jewish customs. Firstly they were to pay 5 shekels to ‘redeem the first born son.’ To redeem means to buy back or pay-off, to clear a debt. In the Old Testament, in Numbers 18 God tells the priests that the first male child born to every woman and every animal is dedicated to him. First born ox, sheep and goats were to be sacrificed as an offering to God but first born sons were to be bought back by paying the priest 5 shekels which is about 100 grams of silver.
Mary was also to present an offering to purify herself after giving birth.
In the Temple they meet Simeon.
We don’t know who Simeon was. We don’t know how old he was but we presume that he was quite old, because of the references to his death. There is a story that he was 113 years old.
We do know that Simeon is a man of God - filled with the Holy Spirit.
He was honourable and devout which means he was kind to people and they respected him and he was devoted to religious practices.
Another story says that Simeon puzzled or meditated for a long time about the Old Testament prophecy in Isaiah chapter 7: verse 14 which says The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Which of course refers to Jesus’ birth.
This scripture tells us that Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel. At a time when the nation of Israel was living under Roman occupation the Jews were watching particularly closely for the promised coming of the Messiah who would console them, bring them comfort and rescue them from their hardships.
Simeon doesn’t appear to be the priest that is performing the duties for the family. But, prompted by the Spirit, he takes Jesus in his arms and realises that this little baby, that is here to be redeemed is the one that will redeem mankind. And Simeon is very clear that the redemption Jesus will bring is not just for the Jewish nation, but is for everyone. Through Jesus we can all be redeemed for our sins.
Our wrong doing causes a divide between us and God, but Jesus blood paid the redemption price for each one of us.
Having seen the child that is the Messiah, Simeon is satisfied. All his meditations have been answered. His work is done. He is content to die. But before he leaves the family alone, he blesses them, and prophesies to Mary.
Simeon tells Mary that her son will divide people, he will cause some to rise and some to fall. I think that means that some will follow him as their Lord and Saviour and rise to a life of faith, trust in God and salvation. But some will find Jesus’ words difficult and will fall and reject everything that he has to offer.
Simeon also predicts that a sword would pierce Mary’s heart. He is talking about a rhomphaia, a close combat weapon that has a long, slightly curved blade and a short wooden handle. Whoever wielded such a weapon would need to be close when they caused injury. It would have been personal. I think Simeon is particularly referring to Mary seeing Jesus on the cross. When she saw the child she bore nailed to a cross it would have been just like that spiteful sword had pierced her heart. The hatred of the people doing this would have felt very personal.
Simeon was a watchman. He watched carefully for signs of the Messiah. He lived a good life, devoted to God and was rewarded with a glimpse of what he desired to see. His continual mediations enabled him to recognise that this baby, who was no more than a few weeks old, was the person he was looking for. The one that visited the Temple to be redeemed was the one that would redeem all of us.
Tonight let’s take Simeon’s example and meditate on this idea of redemption. Before we go to bed, let’s take some time to dwell on thoughts about what Jesus did for us. Think about the price Jesus paid to redeem us from our sins. And to thank God for his plan, that means that we can rise to a life knowing that we are ultimately saved.