Yeshua was only a month old when He first entered the holy Temple. Luke 2 tells the story of how his parents brought their infant son to Jerusalem for Mary’s purification and for the redemption of the firstborn. While in the Temple, they encountered two significant characters, Simeon the priest and Anna the prophetess, both waiting for the coming of Messiah.
When we forget the Jewish context of the gospel, it’s easy to forget the Messiah’s role in the national redemption of Israel. It’s far too easy to let a theological interpretation reduce Him to the role of personal savior and antidote for sin. Simeon and Anna enter the gospel, right at the outset, to remind us what Messiah is meant to accomplish.
Placed together, Simeon and Anna are among those who were “looking for the consolation of Israel” and “the redemption of Jerusalem.” Luke uses these two characters to present Israel’s messianic hope and to summarize the Messiah’s role. King Messiah comes to comfort the nation of Israel by righting the wrongs of her past, liberating her from captivity, and ending her subjection to foreign powers:
“Comfort, O comfort My people,” says your God. “Speak kindly to Jerusalem; and call out to her, that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity has been removed, that she has received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1-2)
The Messiah comes to redeem Jerusalem by loosing the city from chains, clothing it with strength, and raising up its walls, never to be cast down again:
Break forth, shout joyfully together, you waste places of Jerusalem; for the LORD has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem. (Isaiah 52:9)
Simeon and Anna symbolize the perseverance of the saints who receive the Word of God, believe its promises, and await their fulfillment. As priest and prophet, they represent two of the three holy offices of ancient Israel: the priests, the prophets, and the kings. In Simeon and Anna, priest and prophet await the restoration of the third—the coming of the king and the establishment of the kingdom. The persevering faith of Simeon and Anna can be compared to that of the heroes of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11, who all “died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).
Today, Yeshua’s disciples continue the long vigil of faith, waiting and watching for the day of His coming. That hope animates us and keeps us alive, sustaining us with optimism for the future and consoling us in our sorrows and suffering as it preserved and sustained old Simeon in his last years. That hope yokes our hearts to the holy city and to the house of the God of Jacob as it did for ancient Anna and her friends praying daily in the Temple for Jerusalem’s redemption. Simeon and Anna embody the principle of faith articulated so well by Maimonides, the medieval codifier of Jewish law, when he said, “I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah. Though He may tarry, I await Him every day.