December 30, 2019 • Life for Leaders
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, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Our Scripture passage for today tells the story of Simeon. Appearing in Luke 2, this story is a continuation of the narrative of the birth of Jesus, focusing on something that happened very early in Jesus’s life. When his parents brought Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem in order to offer a sacrifice as they consecrated their son to God, they encountered a man named Simeon whose prayer and prophecy were astounding. Simeon said he could now die because he had seen the Savior of Israel, who would also be a revelation to the Gentiles (Luke 2:29-32). To Mary, Simeon said that her son would be controversial among the Jews and that, because of him, a sword would pierce Mary’s own soul (Luke 2:35).
We don’t know much about Simeon, but Luke does let us know that he wasn’t some crazy man who regularly harassed people in the courts of the temple. In fact, he was “righteous,” “devout,” and filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 2:25). The Spirit had promised Simeon that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah (Luke 2:26). This comment has led interpreters to believe that Simeon was quite old and approaching death. This inference is backed up by Simeon’s own prayer, “you may now dismiss your servant in peace” (Luke 2:29). We would not expect a young man to pray this way, but rather someone who knows that his death is near.
As I read this story in Luke’s gospel, many things strike me. One of them is pretty obvious, but seems worthy of our attention. I’m thinking of the way God works through people of all ages. Most strikingly, God was at work in Jesus, who was an infant in his first weeks of life. God was also at work in the parents of Jesus. We don’t know their precise ages, but it’s likely that Mary was a teenage mother. Joseph was probably a bit older—but not in his nineties as some Christians once believed. If we take Jesus, Mary, and Joseph together, we would rightly conclude that God uses younger people in his work.
But then there’s Simeon. He was nearing the end of a life of faithfulness to God. He was eager for God’s saving work through the promised Messiah. He was attentive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. He was bold both in prayer and in prophesying. It’s clear from the story that God used Simeon in a unique way, both to exalt Jesus and to warn the parents of Jesus that the future would not be easy.
The story of Simeon reminds us that God is still using people of all ages. Sometimes we can assume that people close to the edges of life, both young and old, are not able to contribute in meaningful ways to this world, not to mention God’s work in this world. But God is not limited, and neither should we be limited by cultural biases. You are never too young and you are never too old for God to use you in wonderful ways and to have great plans for your life.
Something to Think About:
As you read the story of Simeon, what stands out to you?
Do you sometimes assume that only people in the so-called “prime of life” are able to be truly productive?
Do you know any “Simeons,” people whom God is using in their old age?
Something to Do:
If you’re on the young side of life, or if you’re on the old side, be open today to how God might use you in unexpected ways. If you’re in the middle of life, pay attention to how those younger or older than you are making a difference.
Gracious God, thank you for this story in Luke’s gospel. Thank you for working so clearly in the lives of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Thank you for using young people in your work in this world.
Thanks also for Simeon, who in his latter years was open to you and responsive to your Spirit. Thank you for his example of faithfulness and boldness.
Lord, no matter my age, may I be available to you. Use me in the work of your kingdom. And help me not to discount the potential for any person of any age to make a difference. Amen.
Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
A Light to the Nations
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.