Jesus Presented in the Temple
22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
25 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. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 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, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
It would be safe to assume that Luke had a mixed audience, so it is interesting that he speaks of the Jewish rites of circumcision and purification. Luke seems to be quite well informed about both Jewish customs as well as Jesus’ years of youth.
The “purification rites” that were required by the law of Moses come from Leviticus 12.
A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. 3 On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. 4 Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over. (Leviticus 12:2-4)
When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering. 7 He shall offer them before the Lord to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood. (Leviticus 12:6-7)
Thus, bringing Jesus to the temple was a normal function of Israelite society. Luke does well by also recalling the prescribed offering when presenting a child in the temple.
she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons (Leviticus 12:8)
However, one thing that seems to be lumped in with Leviticus 12 is from Exodus 13 which states
“Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal.” (Exodus 13:2)
As we listen to the words of the Simeon who spoke over the boy, we notice another instance where Jesus is proclaimed to be a revelation to the gentiles, and a light to all nations. This was originally a prophetic word about Israel, given in Isaiah 49:6. Indeed, Luke want’s to be clear that the gospel is for all of God’s creation, not just the remnant of Israel.
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
It is a beautiful thing when we see God’s hand continue to move forward in His redemptive plan for the world. Simeon was one in whom God has revealed that one day the true Messiah would come and redeem His people. This is just an indication that God’s plan was always in place and that He had planned it from the beginning of this world. When sin first entered in, God out of His love for us, set a plan in motion to save us from eternal punishment.
Simeon’s words express his joy in experiencing salvation. Salvation brings about true joy, peace and hope for the lost and weary. Salvation was already at hand in the life of Simeon through the work of Jesus Christ. God was already at work saving lives and this is just the beginning of how many would come to know, love and follow after Him.
When we are confronted with Jesus Christ and the message of hope, we too ought to have the same joyful and hopeful response that Simeon had. With that joy, we should also have the desire to spread the good news of Salvation to those around us. Today, rejoice in what God has done for you and will continue to do in your life.
[Featured image by Giovanni Bellini, dating to c. 1460. It is aptly titled “Presentation at the Temple”]