Simeon held Jesus, the Messiah, in his arms; this little bitty baby was going to save the world! He looked at Him in awe and wonder, and he believed.
To Simeon, the news of the Messiah’s arrival must have felt like rainfall after a long dry-spell. Israel had seen many prophets come and go, but for centuries on end there had been a pronounced silence. No new prophet spoke to them and no fresh message was received. God seemed remote and withdrawn.
Israel had been repeatedly subjected to a long list of empires: the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and finally the Romans. The more freedom eluded the people of Israel, the more they craved it. They called for a Redeemer who would set them free once and for all, which is really humanly impossible. Only God can free us for good. And so it happened that, under the Roman Empire, God sent His Son Jesus, and an influential movement began that would go all around the world.
We sometimes hear the saying: “Be careful what you wish for.” People see us pursuing a dream, but foresee a problem if this dream actually comes true. The Messiah was such a dream. God answered prayer and Israel’s Messiah finally came. He came to deliver the Jews; actually, He came to deliver the entire human race. This clearly went beyond everybody’s expectations. God made a wish come true, but the Son of God was not what Israel had bargained for.
Before we start pointing fingers at Israel’s rejection of the Messiah, let’s stop right here and ask ourselves this question: Don’t we all sometimes wish that God answers prayers our way? Well, if we do, then chances are we won’t recognize God’s answer to our prayers when it actually happens – as in Israel’s case. Of course, God is never beholden to our expectations. He knows what He is doing, and He will answer all our prayers His way. We can ask for His help – but we cannot tell Him how to help us. That is definitely His call.
God has sent us Emmanuel, God with us – and God is indeed with us, albeit unbeknownst to the world. At some point in the future, we will collectively lay eyes on the Messiah when He arrives in the clouds publicly, for everybody to see. Until then, it is up to us to recognize Jesus whenever He shows up in our lives. God’s Spirit speaks to us – are we listening?
When Simeon laid eyes on the Messiah in the Jerusalem temple, He believed. Now, it is our turn.