Eight days after Mary gave birth to the Christ he was circumcised according to Jewish custom and given the name Jesus as the angel had instructed her and Joseph to do. Following that, so we are told, Mary and Joseph traveled from Bethlehem to Jerusalem for two reasons: first, it was time for their purification according to the Law of Moses; and second, they brought Jesus to be presented to the Lord as was also prescribed by Law. It might interest you to know that there were twenty-five days between Jesus’ circumcision and his presentation to the Lord in the temple. Those were separate events which did not occur at the same time as I once assumed, but this makes sense given the fact that Mary could not enter the temple grounds to dedicate Jesus before her days of purification were complete.
While Mary and Joseph were at the temple they met a man named Simeon who prophesied over their child, Jesus, which gave further confirmation to the things they had already heard about him and added to their revelatory experience. As it is written in the gospel of Luke…
And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said: “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring 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.”
Simeon is described as a unique individual. It is said that he was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and under the influence of the Holy Spirit – not your average Joe but a man full of the Spirit and of wisdom. Simeon had been given a revelation of his own that he would meet the Messiah before he died. The “Consolation of Israel” is in reference to Messiah but in order to understand what that phrase means a definition of the word “Consolation” is required. In English it means the act of consoling; comfort; solace. In Koine Greek it meant exhortation; encouragement; comfort. The Messiah, then, is identified as the one who consoles, comforts, exhorts and encourages the nation of Israel. Why did they need such sympathies? The answer lies in Israel’s tumultuous history. First, the descendants of Jacob were delivered from slavery in Egypt and became a great nation. Secondly, through constant struggle with the sin of idolatry they declined as a nation, were exiled from their land and dispersed into the Gentile nations only to return once more to slavery. Finally, a remnant returned to the land of Israel but, even so, they were still subject to the conquest and rule of other nations. The promise of scripture and the prophets was that Messiah would come and ultimately deliver Israel once and for all and restore her to her former glory. Thus, Israel’s hope and expectation of a deliverer when suffering under the cruelty and oppression of their enemies was a comfort to say the least; however, the gospels inform us that when Jesus came he was not the kind of Messiah many in Israel expected and that, my friends, is precisely the point of Simeon’s prophecy.
So let us consider Simeon’s revelation carefully. Notice that there are two parts to this prophetic word.
Part one is in regard to Simeon’s response to the promise made to him personally by God that he would live to see the long awaited Messiah. Upon seeing the baby Jesus, Simeon declared, “My eyes have (finally) seen your salvation (Messiah, Jesus, the Consolation of Israel) which you have prepared before the face of ALL peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” According to Simeon, Messiah would influence the world as well as Israel. Salvation has always been God’s intention for all peoples. Jesus would be a light bringing revelation to the non-Jewish world of the Savior – the one who would unite all ethnicities under one banner, which would later be known as the kingdom of God, and the one who would be Israel’s ultimate, eternal king. Joseph and Mary marveled at what Simeon spoke about their son because it was yet another confirmation of the fame and glory that would belong to Jesus. One wonders, however, if that was enough to soften the blow of what Simeon would say next.
Part two of the prophecy was specific to Mary. It’s as though Simeon intuitively knew that Jesus would spark controversy within the nation of Israel, which in turn would create division; or, as the idiom declared, would cause many to either fall or rise. “Falling and rising” is a metaphor describing defeat or victory, ruin or success; however, spiritually speaking, it refers to the misfortune (judgment) of the faithless or the good fortune (vindication) of the faithful. Furthermore, Simeon prophesied that Jesus would act as a sign from God which would be spoken against, meaning opposed, contradicted, refuted and rejected. This describes Christ’s ministry to a tee! There were those who loved Jesus and believed in him, but there were also those who despised him and plotted his demise. And if that alone were not sufficient for Mary’s future sorrow, Simeon concluded his prophecy by informing her that, “a sword will pierce your own soul too.” No doubt this is an allusion to that moment on the cross when a Roman soldier intent on breaking Jesus’ legs first thrust a spear into his side and out came blood and water indicating that he was in fact already dead thus eliminating the need. Mary, being present at Jesus’ crucifixion, must have watched in horror as the details of Simeon’s prophecy unfolded before her very eyes.
This is cause for wonder. Why would Simeon, by the Holy Spirit, reveal to Mary that her heart would break as she watched her son be horribly tortured and killed? Was it to prepare her for that day so that when it happened she would remember Simeon’s words and be somehow consoled? Was it to let her know the end from the beginning so that even amidst her pain she would understand that it was part of the grand scheme of God in redeeming the world and be comforted? Luke does not give answers, nor does God always explain his reasons. Even so, the knowledge that Simeon imparted to Mary was meant to be a blessing to her and I trust that it helped her through that difficult time though we may not see how.
What strikes me most about this aspect of the incarnation story is that it introduces us to the reality that salvation is a messy business. Salvation means rescue from sin, from the fall, from death, and from the cruelty of mankind, but the road to salvation is not smooth or sanitary. It’s fraught with intrigue, astonishment, controversy, bloodshed, and sorrow. But in the end there is victory, success, resurrection, and life. Travel the road wisely.
 Luke 2:21
 Leviticus 12 outlines purification rites for women who have given birth. Joseph may have helped in Mary’s delivery and was likely subject to purification as well.
 See Exodus 13:2, 12, 15 for the law regarding firstborn males in Israel.
 The total number of days from Christ’s birth to his presentation to the Lord in the temple was 33 (i.e. if the requirement of Leviticus 12 was adhered to) which, incidentally, corresponds to the number of years he lived before his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.
 Luke 2:25-35 (NKJV)
 Simeon was familiar with scripture and likely derived his prophetic word from Isaiah 49:6 where God considered it too small a thing for Messiah to restore Israel only but would also make him to be a light for the Gentiles and in so doing extend God’s salvation to the ends of the earth.
 The prophet Isaiah, possibly reflecting on Psalm 118:22, foretold that Messiah would be to some “a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall” (Isaiah 8:14), but to others he would be “a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed” (Is 28:16). See also Luke 20:17-18; Romans 9:33; 1Peter 2:6-8 where Jesus, Paul and Peter respectively quote these same verses from Isaiah exposing the division surrounding the ministry of Jesus between those who believe in him and those who do not. Quotations are from the NIV Bible.
 John 19:34
 See Zechariah 12:10