Acts Lesson 4: Luke 2.25-39 (Christmas)
Prayers & Announcements
THIS WEEK: We're taking a brief detour from our Acts study to look at part of the familiar Christmas story reported in Luke 2 concerning the presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple. Joseph and Mary, both devout Jews, observed the requirements of Mosaic Law for a firstborn son, so that Jesus was circumcised eight days after birth and officially given His name. Then waiting 40 days after giving birth, the Levitical timeframe in which a woman was considered 'unclean,' Mary and Joseph went to the Temple to offer the prescribed sacrifice for a firstborn, two turtle doves, and present the infant Jesus to a priest for the purpose of dedicating Him to the LORD. As today's story opens, we encounter an elderly man named Simeon and then, an elderly woman, Anna, called a prophetess.
Read Luke 2:25-32 - Simeon's Praise
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel."
v. 25: "Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him" - At this time in history, Jerusalem was the political and religious center of Israel. Simeon, whose name means "God has heard," is thought to have been a Levitcal priest, though the text doesn't confirm this. He is described as "righteous," which in the Jewish context, refers to someone's right standing before God in regard to God's covenant with Israel, and "devout," means he was reverent and pious as opposed to proud and arrogant. "Waiting" in the Greek (prosdechomai) meant eagerly looking forward to something important and "consolation of Israel" was a metaphor term for the coming of the Messiah. Significantly, Luke reports that the "Holy Spirit was upon him." Prior to coming of the Holy Spirit to followers of Christ at the Pentecost in Acts 2:1-4, the indwelling of the Spirit in OT times was selective and temporary and used at times to convict, enlighten, and lead certain people for specific reasons purposed by God. In Simeon's case, God had a specific task appointed for him.
v. 26: "And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ" - The Holy Spirit had made Simeon a promise: that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah, "the Lord's Christ." We don't know how old Simeon was, but tradition holds that he was over 100, which is actually conjecture that isn't documented by Scripture.
v. 27-28: "And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said " - Today was to be Simeon's day. The Holy Spirit is guiding him, and he is listening carefully to the "voice" of the Spirit. Luke implies, at least, that Simeon was the priest to whom Mary and Joseph brought Jesus. This "custom" required them to redeem Jesus as their firstborn with sacrifice. Since Mary wasn't allowed past the Court of Women, this meeting took place there, or perhaps the Court of Gentiles. Once the offering was made, the priest would take up the child in his arms and pronounce a blessing of praise to God.
v. 29: "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word" - By "depart in peace," Simeon means he is ready to die. He has been waiting and watching like a divine sentinel for all this time, and now his task is complete. Simeon state that God's promise to him has been fulfilled "according to Your word," which wasn't something written in Scripture but spoken by the Spirit directly to Simeon. Though God had not spoken to Israel through an appointed prophet for over 400 years, this tells us that God still spoke specifically to certain faithful individuals.
v. 30: "for my eyes have seen your salvation" - By this, Simeon confirms (via the Spirit) that the infant Jesus he is seeing and holding now is the promised Messiah. "Salvation" in this context does not refer to an expectation of eternal life, but the deliverance of Israel from her enemies.
v. 31-32: "that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel" - However, Simeon doesn't stop with Israel: since the nation of Israel never fully revealed to the nations all that God intended, he now indicates that this will be the task of Jesus, the Messiah, "to be a light and revelation to the Gentiles." Unlike Israel, the nations were without reliable revelation from God, and thus, without knowledge of how to be reconciled to Him. The Messiah would bring (and be) revelation to the Gentiles and show them how to be welcomed into the family of God.
Read Luke 2:33-34 - Simeon's Prophecy
33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."
v. 33: "And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him" - Both are quite frankly amazed (and you would be too) at what Simeon has told them about Jesus' forthcoming ministry as the Messiah, and they would have been absolutely astounded by the pronouncement that He was to bring revelation to the Gentiles.
v. 34-35: "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed" - Simeon's blessing, whatever he said, is not recorded; what follows in these two verses is a prophecy. Simeon reveals that not all in Israel will accept Jesus as Messiah. Some, such as the religious leaders in power and authority, will fall, while others, the poor, the forgotten, the humble, and the meek, will rise. In short, Jesus would divide the nation. He tells them that Jesus will serve as a "sign" for the people of Israel. We should note that signs were always given for the purpose of revealing the truth of the words of a prophet. The sign in this instance is: even though the Messiah foretold and confirmed by prophecy has come to Israel, He will be "opposed." In the parenthetical expression of v.35, "a sword will pierce through your own soul also," Simeon is telling Mary that she will experience great sorrow when her son is rejected by the very people He came to save. Using the phrase, "many hearts may be revealed," Simeon is predicting that what is in the hearts of the people of Israel will be revealed by how they respond to the Messiah. God's concern has always been the condition of a person's heart, the spiritual part of us where our emotions and desires reside.
Read Luke 2:36-38 - Anna's Affirmation
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
v. 36-37: "And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day." - Here, Luke shifts the scene in the Temple from Simeon to a widow named Anna. He describes her as a prophetess, although how she achieved that distinction is not revealed. He lists her Hebrew heritage as the tribe of Asher and tells us she had been widowed after seven years of marriage and was now apparently 84 years old or over a 100, depending on how you calculate it. No doubt Anna had experienced a difficult life, yet she did not become bitter and turn her back on God. Instead, Anna took refuge under God's protective care, practically living in the women's Court of the Temple day and night, worshiping with fasting and prayer.
v. 38: "And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of Him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem" - You'll have to look close to see this. Like Simeon, Anna was now in the right place at precisely the right time. "Coming up at that very hour,' she approached the young couple with the baby at about the same moment that Simeon was handing the infant Jesus back to His parents. Although no interaction between Anna and Mary or Joseph is recorded, Luke reports that Anna thereafter spoke to people in the Temple area. That she spoke "of Him" (about the child in some translations) indicated she was talking about the baby Jesus. The words Anna used, "waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem," had the same meaning-Messiah-as the words "waiting for the consolation of Israel," spoken by Simeon in v.25, above. Notice that Anna doesn't speak to everyone about Jesus but to those in the Temple whom she knew were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah.