Zacharias And Simeon
Are Similar Yet Different
Both Add Richness
To The Story
There are many supporting characters in the Christmas Story. Some have very short roles but they all add richness to the plot. Because they are diverse, they symbolize different types of believers.
More on that later.
Two characters that illustrate this are Zacharias (Luke 1:5-25) and Simeon (Luke 2:21-35). They were alike in many ways but very different also. Neither could be called an unbeliever but each expressed their belief in different ways as the following comparison shows:
- Zacharias was a priest and some believe Simeon was also.
Even though the text doesn’t specifically say Simeon was a priest many speculate that he was the popular priest named Simeon who was defrocked because of his divergent views about the Messiah.
In any case, his actions in the narrative are priest-like.
Joseph and Mary are in the Temple to present Jesus to the Lord and Simeon insinuates himself into the picture confidently, very much like a priest. The text even says “the Holy Spirit was upon him” – wording usually reserved for prophets – and he makes a few prophecies that turned out to be accurate.
Zacharias held the office of priest but demonstrated none of the spiritual depth of Simeon.
- Both were referred to as “righteous” but only Simeon was called “devout.”
Zacharias “walked” in all the commandments blameless, which is a backhanded way to say he never did anything wrong. He went through the motions “religiously” but is that enough? Abiding the law outwardly doesn’t mean you love the law giver or the law. That kind of obedience can sometimes be nothing but a cover for an bad attitude.
Devotion, however, the quality that defined Simeon, comes from the heart.
- Both were in the Temple complex.
Zacharias as an acting priest and Simeon was there out of personal commitment.
- Both were conversant with revealed truth, the Bible.
Zacharias had an academic understanding of Old Testament law. Simeon had this knowledge also. The difference, however, was Simeon was spiritually discerning.
- Both received a message about a child.
Zacharias would have a child – John the Baptist. Simeon would see a child, a special one – the Messiah.
- Both had a personal meeting with God. An angel appeared to and spoke with Zacharias. The Holy Spirit spoke directly and quietly to Simeon.
Zacharias wasn’t expecting to hear from God and was the least open to God’s message. Not only did the angel physically appear – a sign not to be taken lightly – once the message was delivered Zacharias responded disbelievingly. He wanted another sign. He was surprised at first and then belligerent.
Simeon, on the other hand, was expecting to hear from God and responded immediately.
- Both men were waiting.
Zacharias had prayed for a child but had given up hope. Simeon waited for the consolation of Israel and, though long in coming, believed it was still on the way.
- Both men were old.
Simeon was ready to “depart” in peace after seeing the Messiah. Zacharias was beyond the age of having children naturally.
- The experiences of both men happen close in time to Christ’s birth.
Zacharias received his message at least six months before Christ was conceived. Simeon saw the Messiah approximately 30 days after His birth.
- Both men were changed by this meeting.
Simeon walked away encouraged. Zacharias walked away unable to speak and remained that way until his son, John, was born. Both men were blessed in the end.
Luke is the only Gospel writer to mention these two men and he places them like bookends on either side of Christ’s birth. One, Zacharias, represents the Old Testament law, which cannot save and does not enliven, and the other, Simeon, represents the effect of Christ’s sacrifice on believers in the New Testament era.
God is now accessible to us and His spirit now resides in and leads those who believe.