The Holy Spirit at Baby Jesus’ Dedication
By Frank Tunstall
When Jesus was eight days old His young parents made the five-mile journey from Bethlehem to take Him to the temple for dedication and circumcision (Luke 2:21-24; Leviticus 12:8; Exodus 13:1-2, 12). Even if Joseph by this time owned a donkey for Mary to ride, it had to be a hard journey for a mother who only eight days earlier had given birth to a baby. If Joseph and Mary could average two miles an hour while walking, and allowing for frequent stops to care for their infant, the journey would have been at a minimum a three-hour walk. But they were young and energetic, and had to be excited to be going to the temple with their baby.
John (the Baptist) was about three months old at the time.
A man named Simeon who was “righteous and devout” was in the temple. He was “waiting for the consolation of Israel… the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Guided by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts and was present at the exact time Joseph and Mary arrived at the temple with their Baby (Luke 2:25-27).
Please, dear reader, ponder it. No one is ready to die until, with a repentant heart, he has “seen the Lord’s Christ.”
How did Simeon know which baby to select? Surely other moms and dads were in the temple holding their infants. They all wanted to fulfill the rituals of dedication and circumcision that went back 1800 years to Abraham. So how did Simeon choose the right baby? Only one answer is plausible. Simeon was a prophet who walked daily in the Spirit, and the Holy Spirit guided him to Baby Jesus. This stranger to Joseph and Mary gently took Jesus out of Mary’s arms; it was surely an emotional moment. While holding the infant, Simeon began to praise God. He had many reasons to be a grateful man, but holding this Baby was the greatest.
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).
Three great truths stand out here. First. The Lord God is sovereign and keeps His promises. Second. Simeon received the revelation by the Spirit that the Baby would grow up and hold the key to salvation for all who believe in Jesus. Third. Many Gentiles would be captivated by Jesus-the-light and accept the revelation. This prophecy is one of the first predictions in the New Covenant that Messiah would have an international vision. Jesus would bring a message of salvation and redemption to the whole world. Some Jews and many Gentiles would be attracted to the light.
The revelation to Simeon was limited, however. He did not comprehend that Ground zero for Jesus-the-light would be the hill called Calvary where Jesus would die on a cruel cross and then walk out of His tomb in triumph three days later. But this Godly prophet knew he was holding His Messiah in his arms, and that was enough (Matthew 13:17; 1 Peter 1:12).
It must have been minutes of ecstasy for Simeon. Mary and Joseph could only marvel.
After expressing this prophecy, Simeon then blessed Joseph and Mary, and in the moment the Holy Spirit gave him more prophecy. This time he spoke directly to Mary: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and 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” (Luke 2:34-35; John 1:29).
One can wonder if the prophecy was like a hit in the stomach to this teenage mother. How could she ever put it out of her mind?
No, Simeon did not perceive Jesus’ crucifixion, but he did comprehend Mary’s Baby would be surrounded by heavy conflict that would be like a sword in her soul.
Some thirty years later, on crucifixion morning, an unnamed person rushed to bring the news to Mary that her Son had been nailed to a cross (Isaiah 50:6, 53:3-5; Lamentations 1:12). In the moment she heard it, she must have yelled the piercing scream of a mother’s mortified heart. Probably in her shock she remembered again Simeon’s prophecy some thirty years earlier. No mother should ever be called to see her bloody and mangled son impaled with three nails on a cross with a crown of thorns on His head. She no doubt saw the blood trickling into His eyes and burning like fire, but Mary could do nothing to stop it. The ‘dagger’ surely hurt Mary beyond words and she never forgot the sight.
Another of the Lord’s saints, an elderly woman named Anna, was also in the temple when Mary and Joseph arrived with Baby Jesus. “She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:37-38). Anna had lost her husband in their seventh year of marriage. She did not follow the custom and marry again and raise a family, as most young women did in her situation. She must have been very sure God had given her the assignment to stay in the temple in prayer and fasting, because she did it for six decades, day after day. It certainly is plausible the primary focus of her praying was for the Messiah to come. She lived to see her prayers answered.
I wonder if she gave Baby Jesus a warm hug and a kiss. What do you think, dear reader?
All believers are called to pray, and some receive special assignments and anointing from the Holy Spirit to make praying and fasting their primary ministry (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Revelation 5:3; 8:3-4). Do you know an Anna?
No, Anna never held a baby that was her own flesh and blood, but she did get to hold the Baby who one day would be the King of kings! We can be sure until the day Anna was called to heaven she told everyone who would listen the Messiah had been born and she got to hold Him.
Moses wrote in the “mouth of two or three witnesses a matter shall be established” (Two witnesses at random, Simeon and Anna, expressed prophetic testimony about the mission of Jesus’ life. It was another confirmation to Mary and Joseph (Deuteronomy 19:15, NKJV). The witness of Simeon and Anna continues to this day to go around the globe.
Jesus was warmly received as a child of twelve in the temple (Luke 2:42-49). But when He launched His ministry, it must be noted He never had a pleasant, conflict-free visit to the temple He described as “my house.” The Messiah was not welcome in His own house. Jesus even indicted the temple leaders later in His ministry as “a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13; Isaiah 56:7 Jeremiah 7:11).
Simeon and Anna were living when Jesus was born, but they were not temple priests or members of the Sanhedrin. During Jesus’ ministry no one in the temple system recognized Him as the Messiah and welcomed Him; Nicodemus probably came the closest, but he rejected Jesus too (John 3:11; Malachi 3:1).1 In addition, neither Simeon nor Anna were present to affirm Jesus.
It’s a sad note to end on, but Temple worship had moved far away from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus had no choice. For the gospel to go to the nations, He had to bypass the temple system and build another form of worship.
1Many priests did turn to Jesus after His resurrection (Acts 6:7). Nicodemus could have been one of them.