A Cycle – Presentation of the Lord 20
Lk. 2: 22-40
Was Simeon unique in salvation history? The scriptures tell us the Spirit of the Lord came upon him and he was told by the Spirit, he would not see death until he had seen Christ the Lord. Was Simeon so holy, like the prophetess Anna in this gospel story. Anna spent day and night in the temple praying and fasting and she too seeing Jesus spoke to the people telling them he would bring redemption to Israel.
Is that what it takes to recognize Jesus? Simeon and Anna spent their days and nights in the temple, praying and fasting are we to be like them. I believe that is how we envision holiness and worthiness to be acceptable to God. We just do not have the time to be like them. We have jobs, family concerns, home maintenance, relationship maintenance and on top of all that we must have time for ourselves to protect our health, mental and physical. No, we do not have time to be in the temple all day.
Because we cannot have time to be in the temple all day does that mean we will not encounter Jesus until the moment of our death? The quick and easy answer is no we do not have to wait for God is constantly revealing himself to us. But there are some things we can do to put ourselves in a position to recognize him when he comes to us. Jesus had not yet come into his glory when Simeon and Anna saw him. Jesus was a child, being consecrated to the Lord according to the law. How did Simeon and Anna see what others could not see? The scriptures are clear it was because the Spirit revealed him to them.
If you take the time to read the scriptures, you will see in the Old Testament the Spirit was given to very specific people by God for a definitive task. Not everyone had this outpouring of the Spirit in the Old Testament but those used to advance the kingdom of God were filled with the Spirit to accomplish that task. But that was not to be the case when salvation history was nearing completion with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But what was coming was not a secret, it was told to us by the prophets. Just last week we heard from Isaiah telling us God would send us the light of the world to free us of all our burdens with sin being the principle burden keeping us from God.
But there was more to be given us beyond forgiveness of sin. We would also be given the means to overcome temptation, to be bold witnesses like Simeon and Anna were, to desire intimacy with God and to be able to make everything we do a means of prayer. God set in motion a plan to bring us back into an intimate relationship with himself and that plan was known in biblical times as the “promise of God.” The prophet Jeremiah articulated that promise (Jer. 31:33 -34) to us during one of the most difficult times in Israel’s history. God’s plan was to equip us for holiness and to embed in our hearts a desire to seek a deeper relationship with him and he is very specific and clear in how that would happen.
He would do it, not us. No amount of seeking holiness on our own can accomplish what God can accomplish if only we believe and trust in his promise. What did God promise us? One part of God’s promise was to make a new covenant where he would write his law on our hearts and where we would know him (vs. 33. The key to understanding this passage is in the simple word “know.” The root word is a Hebrew word that we see used in the scriptures in the story of the creation. It is here we see God’s plan for us and his desire for intimacy with us. In Genesis 4:1 (RSV), we read, Adam “knew” Eve and she conceived and bore a son Cain. So, when God through the prophet Jeremiah says we will know him that means total and complete intimacy. A union of heart, mind, strength and soul. Sounds familiar, well it should it is the first and greatest commandment.
Another part of God’s promise (vs. 34) is to forgive our sin and remember our guilt no more. That is the promise and then through the prophet Ezekiel (EZ. 34: 25-26) he tells us how he will change our hearts, making it possible for us to see beyond the obvious, to desire intimacy, to understand the will and mind of God. If you take the time to read those two promises you will discover how God will transform us into holy men and women. It may surprise you to know the means of the fulfilling of the promise is by the outpouring of the Spirit upon us.
The Holy Spirit would not be just given to particular people for a specific task it would be poured out upon all of us (Joel 2: 28 – 29). That was the final part of God’s promise. First, we had God’s promise to change us. Second, we had the promise of how he would change us and third we have the final promise that the Spirit would come upon everyone not just the Simeon’s of the world. Jesus speaks of the Spirit, he would send after his death (Jn. 14:6), reminding us that God’s promise is we would grow through intimacy with the Triune God.
The plan to restore us to live in the kingdom of God on earth is revealed to us in the scriptures and if we understand we are the Simeon’s and Anna’s of our time we will give witness to the great gift of God who removes all barriers between ourselves and him by the gift of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit. All we must do is to begin to appropriate the promises of God for our selves and allow that same Spirit that revealed Jesus to Simeon to reveal Jesus to us. Once we have that revelation, we will begin to live a life guided by the sure and certain knowledge that nothing can separate us from the love of God.