Seth asks how I know that Simeon is a priest, and accuses me of making stuff up by insisting that he is. Elsewhere, commentators on the Bathroom post have told us that they want to see some more theology on this blog. So let’s do some.
Getting Simeon right matters because if Simeon was not a priest, you and I could not be saved. If we dismiss Simeon as a crazy old man, we invalidate Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross.
Yes, it’s that important. Here’s why.
- Jesus had to perfectly obey the law. Paul makes clear in Romans that the point of the law was to condemn us. No-one can obey it. Jesus, however, did. He’s the only one who obeyed the law perfectly, which makes his righteousness effective when by God’s grace it is credited to believers. If Jesus had not kept the law, he would not be able to save us from the law’s punishment.
- Jesus had to conform to the law’s requirements for firstborns. Exodus 13:2 required the consecration of every firstborn male. Jesus was a firstborn male. He had to be consecrated.
- Jesus had to conform to the law’s requirements for circumcision. Luke 2:21 tells us that Mary and Joseph obeyed that requirement.
- Mary had to be purified after Jesus’ birth. Leviticus 12:2-4 tells us that she had to wait until the right time.
‘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.
On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised.
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.
Luke tells us that this is what Mary had been waiting for in Luke 2:22.
When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.
- Jesus was consecrated at the same time that Mary was purified. Luke explains the connection in Luke 2:23.
As it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord.”
- Mary and Joseph had to offer the correct sacrifice. Leviticus tells us that the parents had some options on what sacrifices to bring for the purification and consecration. From Leviticus 12:6, 8:
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.
If she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering.
Mary and Joseph obeyed this requirement by bringing the doves or pigeons, as recorded in Luke 2:24. Luke is being very careful to explain the connection between Leviticus 12 and what is happening here in Jerusalem. Leviticus 12 and Luke 2 are exactly parallel. So, let’s go to the next requirement:
- Jesus had to be consecrated by a priest. Luke says the consecration and purification are the same event. Leviticus says that the purification must be done through a priest. From Leviticus 12:6-8:
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.
He shall offer them before the Lord to make atonement for her…
In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’
Luke 2:27-28 tells us that Simeon was the one who did all of this for Jesus and Mary.
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
Only a priest could do for Jesus what the custom of the law required. Simeon was the person who did what Mary and Jesus needed done.
Simeon must have been a priest.
If Simeon had really been the out-of-control, crazy old man that Perry Noble describes, we miss the significance of this event.
If Simeon were not a priest, Jesus would not have been consecrated according to the requirements of the law. Had that been the case, he would have not perfectly followed the law. Had that been the case, he could not have atoned for our disobedience to the law. Had that been the case, we could not have been saved.
Simeon’s resume matters.
(For extra credit, why did Mary and Joseph bring pigeons and doves instead of a lamb?)