Dr. Michael Beates

“Simeon and Anna in the cloud of witnesses”

Cloud of witnesses — who will we see? John Newton said, “If ever I reach heaven, I expect to find three wonders there. First, to meet some I had not thought to see there; second, to miss some I had expected to see there; and third, the greatest wonder of all, to find myself there.”

We spoke last semester of many Old Testament saints listed in chapter 11 in Hebrews – people of faith under the old covenant – people who believed the promises. We considered people like Abraham, the messed up family of Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Ruth and Naomi, Hannah, David and Mephibosheth, Hezekiah and Josiah. I believe we will see them in heaven. This semester we will consider some people not mentioned in Hebrews 11, people who are under the new covenant, people found in the New Testament Scriptures who we believe we will see there as well. Mr. Ingram spoke about the Magi two weeks ago. But today I need to step back in time just before the Magi and let us think together about two rather obscure people mentioned in Luke’s story of the birth of Jesus: Simeon and Anna and their encounter with Mary and Joseph when Jesus was just a week or so old.

The wonder of Simeon and Anna is that their faith in God was so deeply grounded in His promises. Promises speak to something we do not yet see, but for which we hope. And as many of you have heard me say before, Christian hope is not like hope in this world – “I hope we win tonight” or “I hope it does not rain on our picnic” or “I hope I will get this job or that good thing.” The world’s hope may or may not come to pass. For the world, hope basically equals chance or good luck.

Christian hope is like an anchor – it’s secure, it’s immovable, heavy, solid. Hebrews 6 says our hope is grounded in two unchangeable truths: first, that God cannot die (and He promised to Abraham that He would die if He did not fulfill the promises) and second that God cannot lie – thus His promises are sure. Our Hope is secure. It’s as good as done . . . but we don’t see it yet, do we? So we believe in the promises. And perhaps the saints of old are like links in the chain connecting us more directly to that Anchor of Hope.

Simeon and Anna saw a mere spark of the fulfillment of God’s promise – they saw Jesus and trusted! – and they took great joy from it. Remarkable. Imagine being Mary and Joseph and this old guy walks up and takes the baby from Mary, probably holds him up in the air a bit and begins to sing or at least recite his “psalm” (what we call the “Nunc Dimitis”). I think Simeon was ready for this moment. He knew it was coming and he had something to say when it did. He was waiting for this moment.

Simeon declared that Jesus was a light of revelation to the Gentiles – Simeon knew that the promises were for all people everywhere, not merely for God’s chosen people, the Jews.

And Jesus’ parents marveled . . . ya think? This was further confirmation to them! The angel had said so to Mary at the announcement to her months before; Joseph had dreams with angels telling him what to do and where to go; the shepherds bore witness to glory, now here was an old saint further testifying to the truth about Jesus – even though He was a mere babe in arms. Amazing!

Then Anna went further. Not only was Jesus to be a light, a salvation; but she said He was to be God’s instrument of redemption – this little one, somehow, someday, would provide the payment for sin to buy His people back from captivity to sin.

Such foresight . . . such faith in God’s promises.

So what about us? Have we seen the fulfillment of God’s promises? Well, we have seen so much more than Simeon and Anna, right? We have seen the cross, the resurrection, the Scriptures that unfold the fulfillment of God’s promises to redeem His people and renew the world through His everlasting kingdom. All things these two old saints never lived to see.

But have we seen everything? No indeed. We still look to another coming, a victorious King coming. And when He comes in glory, He will make right of everything that’s wrong.

We know there’s lots wrong with our world, amen? We see moral decay and confusion all around us. There’s covid and cancer, injustice, family struggles, war around the world, and uncertainty about so many things like the economy, etc. But the promises of God say He will put things right. All the wrongs will be made right.

Anna and Simeon knew this. God is not finished. We have seen only a part of the whole. So we trust and take each day as it comes, grateful for simple blessings. In this world we will have trouble. I caught a quote in a Christmas movie – it grabbed me so much I reached for my hand-held computer – that thing we still call a phone, and I wrote it down in a note. One character said, “Grief is the price we pay for love . . . and it’s worth it a million times over.” Truth for sure. But it’s still grief. So we say with the saints of old, “Come Lord Jesus.”