LUKE 2:25-38 - EXEGESIS
THE CONTEXT: Chapter 2 starts with the story of the birth of Jesus (vv. 1-7)-the familiar and beloved story that includes the angels and shepherds (vv. 8-20). It moves to this week's Gospel lesson, the presentation of Jesus in the temple and return to Nazareth (vv. 22-40). It concludes with the story of Jesus' visit to the temple at the age of twelve (vv. 41-51) and a statement about his growth (v. 52).
At the point of our text, Jesus is only a few weeks old, but he has been recognized by:
• Elizabeth, Mary's kinswoman, whose baby, John, "leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She called out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!'" (1:41-42).
• Zechariah, Elizabeth's husband, who prophesied that God "has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David " (1:69).
• Angels and shepherds (2:8-20). The Wise Men will come later.
LUKE 2:22-24. THEY BROUGHT JESUS UP TO JERUSALEM
22 And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "EVERY firstborn MALE THAT OPENS THE WOMB SHALL BE CALLED HOLY TO THE LORD"), 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, "A PAIR OF TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG PIGEONS."
"When the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were fulfilled, they brought him up to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord" (v. 22). Purification applies only to the mother. Whether intentionally or not, Luke seems to be combining two rites here:
• One is the purification of the mother following the birth of a child (Leviticus 12:1-8). The mother is considered unclean for forty days following the birth of a son or eighty days following the birth of a daughter. During that time, she is prohibited from going to the temple or handling holy objects.
• The other is the presentation in the temple-a consecration and redemption of the firstborn (Exodus 13:1-2, 11-16) signifying that the child is "holy to the Lord" (v. 23). The redemption commemorates the deliverance of the people of Israel through the final plague-the death of the firstborn of Egypt. Henceforth, all firstborn of Israel (animals as well as humans) are to be redeemed. The price of redemption for a human baby is five shekels of silver (Numbers 18:15-16). The purpose of the ceremony is to "be for a sign on your hand, and for symbols between your eyes: for by strength of hand Yahweh brought us out of Egypt" (Exodus 13:16). However, Luke does not mention the redemption of Jesus here. He needs no redemption, because he will always belong to God (Farris, 302).
A third requirement for a baby boy is circumcision. That took place earlier, on the eighth day after Jesus' birth (v. 21).
"according to the law of Moses" (v. 22b). Luke makes it clear that Jesus, from the very beginning, is obedient to the Law of Moses. He also confirms the devotion of Joseph and Mary to the law, mentioning the law three times in verses 22-24 and again in verses 27 and 39. Luke has already told us of Mary's devotion (1:38, 46-55). We will soon learn that Joseph and Mary go to Jerusalem every year for Passover (2:41-42).
The law of Moses was God's plan in the Old Testament for the salvation of the Jewish people. Jesus is God's plan in the New Testament for the salvation of all people. It is fitting that Jesus, from the beginning of his life, has his roots firmly planted in God's law. As he will later explain, "Don't think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn't come to destroy, but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17).
"to present him to the Lord" (v. 22c). The Jewish people of Jesus' day observed a multitude of ritual observances to mark significant passages of ordinary life. These observances served as a constant reminder of their relationship with God and encouraged them to regard all of life as sacred.
Today we often ignore such observances or handle them crudely-and we are thereby impoverished. God has planted something in our hearts that needs to find meaning amid the everyday events of life.
As the church, we need to help people to observe the passages of life (birth, coming of age, marriage, illness, death) in ways that acknowledge the Lord-and that lend those passages dignity.
As individuals, we need to make space in our lives to express thanksgiving for the blessings we have received-and to praise God for his mercies-and to ask God for guidance and forgiveness. Where possible, we need to eat together as a family, and we need to take the opportunity to express thanks for the food-and for the people around the table. We need to pray with our children, and teach them to pray. We need to make God a part of our daily lives. There are several parallels between dedications of Jesus and Samuel, the great prophet:
"as it is written in the law of the Lord, 'Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord'" (v. 23). The law in question is Exodus 13:2, where Yahweh says, "Sanctify to me all of the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of animal. It is mine" (see also Exodus 13:12, 15). This is in commemoration of the Passover, where firstborn Jewish males were spared death.
"and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, 'A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons'" (v. 24). The law requires a sacrifice of "a year old lamb for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering" (Leviticus 12:6). However, there is a provision in the law for a woman who cannot afford a lamb. In that case, she is allowed to sacrifice two turtledoves or two pigeons (Leviticus 12:8).
This offering of two pigeons tells us that Joseph and Mary are poor. Jesus begins his life in concert with the poor whose cause he will champion throughout his ministry. He was born in a stable and was raised as the son of a carpenter in little Nazareth, far from Jerusalem and the temple-far from the center of wealth and power.
LUKE 2:25-32. LOOKING FOR THE CONSOLATION OF ISRAEL
25 And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking 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 carry out for Him the custom of the Law, 28 then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 "Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation, 31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Your people Israel."
"Behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking for (prosdechomenos-waiting for) the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him" (v. 25). Luke emphasizes Simeon's unusual qualifications. He is righteous and devout. He has spent a lifetime "looking for the consolation of Israel" (v. 25). The Holy Spirit rests on him, and has revealed to him that he will not die until he has seen the Messiah (vv. 25-26). The Spirit guides him to the temple, where he encounters Joseph, Mary, and Jesus (v. 27). He takes the baby in his arms and prays, "Now you are releasing your servant, Master, according to your word, in peace; for my eyes have seen your salvation" (vv. 29-30). God has fulfilled his promise, and Simeon has seen the Savior. Surely, over the years, he has prayed a thousand prayers, hoped a thousand hopes, and suffered a thousand disappointments. Finally, his dream is realized, and he can die in peace. God has rewarded his waiting.
We are a busy and impatient people. We expect instant gratification, and hate to be kept waiting. We know that "Anything worth having is worth working for." We need also to learn that "Anything worth having is worth waiting for." God works in a time zone where a day is as a thousand years. When our dreams don't come true in a day, we need to keep in mind that God is still at work-still wrapping the package-still preparing the gift to fit our needs and preparing us for the gift. We need to pray, not just for the gift, but also
"the Holy Spirit was on him" (v. 25). "It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit" (v. 26). "He came in the Spirit" (v. 27). Just as Luke emphasizes the law in verses 22-24, he emphasizes the Spirit in verses 25-27. While the Jewish leaders of Jesus' day emphasized the law to the point that they killed the spirit, law and Spirit are hardly incompatible.
Now you are releasing your servant, Master, according to your word, in peace" (v. 29). Simeon's First Oracle (vv. 29-32), known as the Nunc Dimittis (from the Latin words for "Now thou lettest depart," the Latin translation of Simeon's words, here translated "Now you are releasing"), has been used in Christian worship since the fifth century. In this First Oracle, Simeon praises God for allowing him to see "your salvation" (v. 30) and speaks traditional words of peace, salvation, and light.
"for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all peoples; a light for revelation to the nations, and the glory of your people Israel" (vv. 30-32). Then Simeon speaks less traditional words (at least for this temple where Gentiles are restricted to the outermost court), acknowledging that God has "prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles" (vv. 31-32a). Isaiah had earlier said that "all flesh shall see (the glory of Yahweh) together" (40:5)-and spoke of "a light for the nations" (42:6) and salvation that would reach "to the end of the earth" (49:6), but Judaism is still quite insular.
Luke will also write the book of Acts, and in that book will tell the story of the church opening its doors to Gentiles. Simeon gives us a very early clue as to the direction that salvation history will take. However, he is also careful to add that God has prepared salvation for "the glory of your people Israel" (v. 32).
"which you have prepared before the face of all peoples" (v. 31). Salvation is something that God has prepared. He intends this salvation for all peoples. Our first response might be that God is gracious to offer salvation to people who are not like us-but it should be that God is gracious enough to offer salvation to us. We are, after all, sinners-all of us (Romans 3:23). Our hope lies not in anything that we have done, but on God's grace-mercy that we have not deserved but which Christ has made available to us.
LUKE 2:33-35. A SWORD WILL PIERCE YOUR SOUL
33 And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed- 35 and a sword will pierce even your own soul-to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."
"Joseph and his mother were marveling at the things which were spoken concerning him" (v. 33). Amazement is a frequent response to Jesus in this Gospel (1:63; 2:18, 47; 4:22, 36; 5:9; 7:9; 8:25; 9:43; 11:14,
"and Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, his mother" (v. 34a). Simeon blesses the Holy Family (v. 34), but then directs his Second Oracle (vv. 34b-35) to Mary. It is quite possible that Joseph dies before Jesus begins his ministry. If so, Joseph will not experience the events of this Second Oracle, which has an ominous tone. Simeon speaks of rising and falling-and opposition-and a sword.
The "Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel" (v. 34b) could refer to the fact that some Jews will become Jesus' disciples while others will oppose him. It could refer to families being torn apart as some choose Jesus and the rest turn against them. It could refer to the first who will become last and the last who will become first (13:30). It could refer to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.
"and for a sign which is spoken against" (v. 34c). While Jesus is light (v. 32), "the inescapable fact is that anyone who turns on light creates shadows" (Craddock, Interpretation, 39). Jesus will be a friend to tax collectors and sinners, but religious authorities will oppose him and will finally succeed in killing him.
Simeon tells Mary, "a sword will pierce through your own soul" (v. 35a). There will be times during Jesus' ministry when Jesus seems not to care about his family (8:19-21)-or when he seems to speak sharply to Mary (John 2:4), and those must be painful times for Mary. Also, Mary cannot fail to see that Jesus stirs great controversy, and must be distressed to know that it is the best rather than the worst of society that opposes him. At the cross, the sword that pierces Jesus' side surely will not be as painful as the sword that pierces Mary's heart. God has honored Mary by choosing her to be the mother of the Messiah, but the honor will not include an easy life. What could be more painful than a mother seeing her son executed as a common criminal?
"that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (v. 35b). Jesus will be able to perceive the unspoken questions of people's hearts (5:22), and will scatter "the proud in the thoughts of their hearts" (1:51).
LUKE 2:36-38. THERE WAS ONE ANNA, A PROPHETESS
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 38 At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
"There was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher (she was of a great age, having lived with a husband seven years from her virginity, and she had been a widow for about eighty-four years)" (vv. 36-37a). Luke often pairs a man and a woman. Here he pairs Anna with Simeon. Other male/female pairings include (Johnson, 56):
These pairings reflect Luke's uncommon regard for women in that patriarchal society.
"who didn't depart from the temple, worshiping with fastings and petitions night and day" (v. 37b). Like Simeon, Anna is devout, old, and a prophet. Like Simeon, she recognizes this child as the messiah (Tannehill, 70).
"Coming up at that very hour, she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of him to all those who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem" (v. 38). Anna bears testimony about Jesus to the faithful people who were gathered in that place.
Earlier, Luke mentioned that Simeon was "looking for the consolation of Israel" (v. 25). Now he speaks of people who "were looking for redemption in Jerusalem" (v. 38). The parallel wording suggests that these two phrases are roughly synonymous. What these people expected is not clear from this brief phrase. Most probably thought of the redemption of Jerusalem in terms of freedom from Roman rule, but some would have had a grander vision-a vision of spiritual renewal.
Christmas Lesson Luke 2:25-38
2. (Lk. 2:25-32) A promise fulfilled to Simeon.
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[a] 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."
a. Waiting for the Consolation of Israel: Simeon may have known that there were rumors of something happening regarding the coming of the Messiah. The news of John the Baptist's birth and its meaning was widely publicized (Luke 1:65), and the shepherds who heard the angelic announcement may have kept temple flocks, and they may have reported what happened among the people of the temple.
b. So he came by the Spirit into the temple: It was not rumors, but the Spirit who led him into the temple on that day. Simeon was a man who knew how to be led by the Holy Spirit, both in hearing God's promise to him and being prompted to go to the temple at the right time.
c. He took Him up in his arms: Simeon's prophecy is filled with love for his Savior; and he hardly knows Jesus! We who know so much more about Him should love Him even more.
d. According to Your word: Simeon now had the peace of seeing God's promise fulfilled in his life.
e. You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation: It's as if Simeon was commanded by God to keep a lonely watch through the night until he saw the sun come up; here is God's sunrise, and because Jesus has come, Simeon can be relieved of his watch.
f. A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles: The amazing thing about Simeon's prophecy is that it shows that this light is for the Gentiles also. The salvation of Jesus began with Israel, but was always to be extended beyond Israel.
3. (Lk. 2:33-35) A promise and a warning from Simeon.
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."
a. His father and His mother marveled: We can imagine their combination of joy and surprise to see how God has touched the hearts of others with an understanding of their Son is. No matter how well you know Jesus, there is something special about seeing someone else come to know Him.
b. For the fall and rising of many: This is shown in the way that Peter repents, but Judas despairs; in that one thief blasphemes, the other believes. Jesus is like a magnet that is attractive to some, but others are repelled from Him.
i. And a sign which will be spoken against: Sign is literally "a target that people shoot at." Jesus would surely be the target of much evil.
c. A sword will pierce through your own soul also: It was important for Mary to know that mothering the Messiah would not be all sweetness and light. It was both a great privilege and a great burden.
i. Possibly no other human agonized as much over Jesus' rejection and suffering as His mother did. This was not only because of the natural love of a mother, but also because His rejection was her rejection. Wonderfully, His vindication was hers also.
4. (Lk. 2:36-38) Anna's testimony to the Redeemer.
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.[a] 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.
a. Anna, a prophetess: We don't know in what capacity Anna was a prophetess. Perhaps it was in the way that she brought forth this specific word about Jesus.
b. Who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day: This godly woman served God with total devotion. Anna's close walk with God is shown by her love for Jesus, and her desire to tell others about Jesus (spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption).
i. Again, Anna knew almost nothing about Jesus, compared to what we know about Him -yet see how she loved Him!
Lk. 2:25-35 - Myers Commentary
The description in 2:21-24 of Mary and Joseph bringing Jesus to the temple to present Him to the Lord introduces the events of 2:25-38, namely two Jewish people who have been waiting for the Messiah, and who are at the temple to meet and bless Him. It seems that Luke, following the instructions of Deuteronomy 19:15 to confirm a matter by two or three witnesses, is intentionally presenting three witnesses to the birth of the Messiah: the shepherds, Simeon, and Anna.
The shepherds have already witnessed the birth of Jesus; Luke now presents two individuals who provide further testimony. The first of these is Simeon in 2:25-35. It is possible that Simeon was a Levitical priest, and it was to him that Mary gave the five shekel redemption offering, and who then pronounced the blessing upon Jesus that Luke records here (Pentecost 1981:65; contra. Bock 1994:240). The blessing reiterates much of the Jewish expectations that were seen in the statements of Mary and Zacharias (1:46-55; 67-79), but includes some new elements as well. Simeon and Zarcharias are placed in parallel, as both are righteous men in the temple who act under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Green 1997:143).
2:25. At the time when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple for Mary's purification and to redeem Jesus, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. Jerusalem was the political and religious center of Israel. Simeon means "God has heard." There are numerous legends about Simeon. "We are told that he was high priest and successor to Zacharias (cf. Protevangelium of James 24:3-4), that Jesus raised his two sons from the dead (cf Acts of Pilate 17:1), and that he was perhaps the son of the great Rabbi Hillell (b. Shabbath 15a). All of these traditions are dubious" (Evans 2003:54; cf. Bock 1994:238). Though there was a Rabbi Simeon, the son of Hillel, alive at the time Jesus was born, this Simeon mentioned by Luke cannot be Simeon, the son of Hillel. For one reason, Simeon the son of Hillel lived a long time after the birth of Jesus, and later fathered a son named Gamaliel, whom Luke writes about in Acts (Lightfoot 1989:40). From Luke, it appears that this Simeon did not live too much longer, and was probably too old to produce a son. So all we really know about this Simeon are the four things Luke records.
First, Simeon was just (Gk. dikaios), which could also be translated "righteous." From a Jewish perspective, it refers to one's right standing before God, specifically in regard to God's Covenant with Israel. Luke has previously informed his readers that Zacharias and Elizabeth were righteous, "walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" (1:6), and that the ministry of John the Baptist will include helping people practice the wisdom of living righteously to prepare the way for the Messiah (1:17).
Simeon was also devout, which means he was reverent and pious. Though obedient to the law, he was not proud and arrogant about it (cf. Acts 22:12).
Third, Luke writes that Simeon was waiting for the Consolation of Israel, which is a prophetic term for the Messiah, the One who would bring peace, comfort, and relief from afflictions to the people of Israel. Such consolation is a frequent theme in Isaiah 40-66. Sometimes, in Rabbinic tradition, the Messiah is called a "consoler" (Evans 2003:54; cf. Lightfoot 1989:41). The term Luke uses, paraklesis is used later by John to refer to the coming Holy Spirit (John 14-16).
Finally, Luke records that the Holy Spirit was upon Simeon. Luke writes more about the Holy Spirit than any other Gospel writer. By doing so, he lays groundwork for the birth of the church at Pentecost in Acts 2. Prior to Pentecost in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit only came upon a select few, and only for a short while so they could accomplish a specific task. He would come upon kings to provide leadership, prophets to speak God's Word, and builders to construct the temple. After Pentecost in Acts 2, He remains in all believers permanently. If Simeon had the Holy Spirit upon him, he was specially chosen by God to do something specific for God.
2:26. The specific task given to Simeon was that he would be a witness to the birth of the Messiah. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's hrist. Scripture doesn't say how old Simeon was, or how long he had been waiting, but tradition says he was 113 years old (Wiersbe 1989:177). Again, this is only speculation and tradition, not Scripture (Bock 1994:238).
2:27-28. Luke seems to imply that Simeon was the priest to whom Mary and Joseph brought Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law. As discussed in 2:23, this custom required them to redeem Jesus as their firstborn son with five pieces of silver. As Mary would not be allowed past the Court of Women, this meeting took place there, or possibly in the Court of Gentiles. The location is not without significance. In Israel, the temple was viewed as the center of worship, and the place where God dwelled among men. Yet it is here, in Israel's temple, that God reveals His plan to send a Messiah who will be for all the world, not just for Israel (cf. 2:30-32; Green 1997:146).
Once the offering was made, the priest would take up the child in his arms, and pronounce a blessing of praise to God, as Simeon does in 2:29-32.
2:29. Simeon begins by stating that he is now ready to depart in peace. The term means that Simeon is ready to die. He has been acting like a sentinel, waiting and watching for the arrival of some great event or person, and now that the task is complete, God can do with Simeon as He wishes (Bock 1994:241). Simeon is ready to die because the promises of God have been fulfilled. Simeon states that these promises were according to Your word, which does not refer to promises in Scripture which Simeon had read, but promises from God which had been spoken directly to Simeon (cf. 2:26). This implies that although God had not spoken to Israel through a prophet in over 400 years, God still spoke specifically to certain individuals who lived in faithfulness to Him. There are, of course, promises from Scripture which Simeon refers to in verses 30-32.
2:30. Simeon states that the reason he can depart in peace is his eyes have seen God's salvation, namely, the Messiah Jesus. By referring to salvation Simeon is not stating that he now knows he has eternal life, or that he knows that through Jesus, he gets to go to heaven when he dies. Those sorts of questions and issues are relatively new on the theological scene (primarily since the Bubonic Plague hit Europe in the 1340s, killing millions). Throughout biblical history, when people spoke and wrote about salvation, they were referring to physical deliverance from some sort of temporal calamity, such as sickness, premature physical death, enemies, and natural disasters like storms, floods, and famines. In the case of Israelites like Simeon, they most often thought of salvation in the way it is used in prophetical passages like Isaiah 40:5 and 52:10. Salvation is the time when God would deliver Israel from enemy occupation, and restore her to her rightful place among the nations, with the Messiah ruling and reigning over the entire world from Jerusalem (cf. Green 1997:145). This is what Simeon had in mind, as confirmed by what he says in verses 31-32. Forgiveness of sins (national and personal) was definitely a part of this, but only as a prerequisite to the permanent and perpetual deliverance from enemies that Israel hoped and longed for.
2:31. The salvation (i.e., the national deliverance of Israel from her enemies through the Messiah; see v 30) is something that God has prepared before the face of all peoples. The plans which God has for the nation of Israel were intended to reveal something about God to all other nations. Israel was not to be set apart simply for the sake of being different, but so that people could see who God was, and how He wanted to bless them and restore them unto Himself. Due to frequently falling short of the covenant requirements, the nation of Israel never fully revealed to the nations all that God intended, so now Simeon indicates that this will be the task of the Messiah, Jesus.
2:32. The task will generally involve two things, which both involve bringing light to a particular people group (cf. Bock 1994:244-245). First, the light of the Messiah bring revelation to the Gentiles (cf. Isa 42:6; 49:6; 60:1; Luke 1:79). Unlike Israel, the nations were without reliable revelation from God, and 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. Previously, when Mary and Zacharias spoke of the salvation that would come through the Messiah, they spoke only of deliverance from enemies for Israel (cf. 1:51-55, 69-74). Simeon's words here both build on that, and reveal more. The salvation will not be just for Israel, but will somehow include the Gentiles as well. Luke's depiction of the nature and mission of Jesus' ministry is being molded continually by the shape and progress of the narrative (Green 1997:144).
Israel, of course, would receive what was promised to her as well. The light of the Messiah will bring glory to His people Israel (cf. Isa 46:13). "As Isaiah 60:1-3 shows, the nation's hope was that, with the coming of salvific light to Israel, the attention of all people would be drawn to Israel" (Bock 1994:245). So the coming of the Messiah will accomplish for Israel what they never could accomplish on their own. This, however, does not mean that they will be set aside, but only that as a result of the Messiah, they will be able to enjoy the benefits of the covenant, and achieve all that God intended for them. There will, of course, still be stipulations, but that is addressed later in Luke's Gospel and elsewhere.
2:33. When Simeon finished speaking these things about Jesus, Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him (cf. 1:29; 2:19). Joseph is mentioned specifically by name (due to a textual variant the NIV and NAS omit his name) because Luke wants to emphasize two things. First, up to this point, when both are mentioned together, Mary has been mentioned first (cf. 2:16). Here, Joseph is mentioned first, indicating his role of spiritual leader in presenting Jesus at the temple. But secondly, up to this point in the narrative, Mary has wondered about Jesus (1:29; 2:19), and nameless crowds wondered (2:18), but nothing has been said about how Joseph responded. Luke now shows that Joseph finally begins to wonder about what kind of son he has been given. They are amazed because of the new things that Simeon has revealed to them about what kind of ministry Jesus will have, specifically, a ministry to bring revelation to the Gentiles. But Simeon is not done revealing surprises. He now turns to speak to Joseph and Mary to present a surprising reversal.
2:34-35. Then Simeon blessed Joseph and Mary. It does not appear that this blessing is recorded in Scripture, as what follows in verses 34-35 is not a blessing, but more of a prophecy. If, however, this is the blessing that Simeon pronounces, "it is not entirely encouraging" (Bock 1994:246). Simeon states that the arrival of Jesus will cause the falling and rising of many. With this statement, is Simeon referring to two groups, one that falls and one that rises, or to one group, which first falls, and then rises (Bock 1994:246)? If the former, then Simeon's prophecy reveals that not all in Israel will accept Jesus as the Messiah. Some, such as those in power in authority, will fall and others, who are poor and forgotten, will rise (cf. 1:51-53). If, however, Simeon means the latter, then this is a prophecy about the followers of Jesus, who will have to fall, or die to who they were, and rise again to new life in Jesus (cf. the baptism of John in Luke 3:3-6 with Amos 5;2; 8:14; Isa 24:20; Mic 7:8; Prov 24:16). The first option seems best, since a common theme in Jesus' ministry is that His ministry divides people into two groups (Luke 4:29; 6;20-26; 12:51; 13:28-35; 16;25; 18:19-14; 19:44-48; 20:14-18). Rather than bless the entire nation, as most Israelites expected, Jesus will instead divide the nation (Bock 1994:247).
In this way, Jesus will serve as a sign to the people of Israel. For the people of Israel, signs were always for the purpose of revealing the truth of the words of a prophet. Simeon, by declaring the sign, is indicating that his prophecies will come true, and the sign will prove it. The sign in this case is that though the Messiah has come to Israel, He will be spoken against. This serves not only to validate Simeon's words, but also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. God's concern has always been for the condition of the heart, and how Israelites respond to the Messiah reveals what is in their hearts.
Mary also is given some hard words. Though up until now, she has been considered blessed, she now learns that with the blessing comes great pain. Simeon says to Mary that a sword will pierce through your own soul also. There are about ten views as to what exactly the sword pictures (for the views, see Bock 1994:248). It seems that the best option is that since Simeon was speaking prophetically by the Holy Spirit, he probably didn't know what the sword referred to either, but from our perspective, we can take it as a foreshadowing of the future crucifixion of Jesus, and the intense pain it would cause Mary. However, since a first-time reader may not be aware of the crucifixion of Jesus, the mysterious allusion by Luke encourages the reader to continue (Green 1997:151).
"Luke is warning us that [the work of the Messiah will not] look like what people had expected. In particular, this is becoming a story about suffering. ... Simeon speaks dark words about opposition, and about a sword that will pierce Mary's heart as well. ... Mary will look on in dismay as her son is rejected by the very city to which he offered the way of peace, by the very people he had come to rescue. ... But...he is also showing that the kingdom brought by this baby is not for Israel only, but for the whole world"
ANNA THE PROPHETESS Lk.2:36-38 - Devotion to God is really all that matters and Devotion to God is available to everyone (Cole Bible.org).
No matter what your station in life, you can devote yourself to the Lord, and that makes whatever you are and whatever you do count in light of eternity. Take Anna, for example.
Anna was a woman. While Jewish women enjoyed more respect in that day than women in other cultures, there still was a fair amount of discrimination against them. The rabbis did not approve of the same amount of instruction in the Torah being given to girls as to boys. They regarded women's minds as not adapted for such investigations (Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life [Eerdmans], pp. 132-133). The women were restricted to an area of the temple called "The Women's Court." They could not enter the inner court where the ceremonies were performed. According to Josephus, women and slaves could not give evidence in court (cited by Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel [McGraw-Hill], 1:156).
And yet the Lord is pleased to include the testimony of Anna concerning Jesus. God is no respecter of persons. He is pleased with the devotion of any person, male or female.
Anna was a widow. In fact, she had been widowed at an early age. She easily could have grown bitter toward God. She could have complained of her loneliness. Widows in that culture didn't have much opportunity to get an education and learn a business or trade to provide for themselves. They were often the target of unscrupulous businessmen. No doubt Anna had experienced a difficult life. And yet she did not turn her back on God. In fact, God declares that He has a special concern for orphans and widows: "A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows is God in His holy habitation" (Ps. 68:5). Anna took refuge under God's protective care. Her trials drove her to deeper devotion to God, not away from Him.
Anna was elderly. While the elderly were more respected in that society than they are in ours, they were still subject to the abuse of the unscrupulous. In our pragmatic society, the elderly are often viewed as useless. They can't take care of themselves. Thankfully, God does not view the elderly as useless or as a burden on society! If an elderly person is devoted to God, their life and death is precious in His sight (Psalm 116:15).
The point is, no matter what your station in life-male or female, young or old, rich or poor-you can be devoted to God and He will be pleased with your devotion. The world may ignore or despise you, but God always has had such a godly remnant. They are the salt of the earth; they preserve the whole mass from corruption. You can be counted among them.
Thus we've seen that devotion to God is all that matters; it is available to all.
3. Devotion to God takes many outward forms, but always involves worship, witness, and waiting.
• Worship: Most likely Anna did not live in the temple, but Luke means that she was there all the time. The word translated "serving" (NASB) has the nuance of worship or service to God. Anna's worship took the form of "fastings and prayers" (2:37). Fasting means going without food for some period of time, and is usually joined with prayer. For the Jews, the most common fast lasted from sunrise to sunset, although longer fasts are mentioned in the Bible. The Day of Atonement was an annual national fast. Otherwise, fasting was done in times of personal or national distress, or as preparation for special times of seeking the Lord. While there are no commands in the New Testament epistles for us to fast, there are examples of fasting (Acts 9:9; 13:3; 14:23; 2 Corinthians 6:5; 11:27). Personally, I have found fasting to be a beneficial way of setting aside time to seek the Lord in times where I needed to know His will or in times of crisis.
Anna's worship also took the form of prayers. Some of God's saints are especially gifted for the ministry of prayer in that He enables them to devote large blocks of time to it. Part of that time involves interceding for others, but part of it also will be devoted to praise and thanksgiving. The main thing in prayer is to seek God and commune with Him.
Even if you are not gifted in the ministry of worship and prayer, you need to set aside time to seek the Lord as Anna did. Take a half-day each quarter or one lunch hour each week or an hour each Sunday afternoon to spend in devotion to the Lord. Read His Word, sing some hymns or praise songs, and pray. The familiar ACTS-Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication-is a helpful outline to follow in your prayer time.
• Witness: Anna couldn't keep it to herself; she "continued to speak of Him" to others (2:38). If your cup is brim-full, you can't help but slop some of it on others. If you are excited about your relationship with the living God who sent His Son to save you from your sins, people around you will know about it. Some believers justify their not witnessing by saying, "I don't talk about it; I just live the message." But part of living the Christian life is talking about it!
We all talk about the things we love. Have you ever been around a sports fanatic? What does he talk about? "Did you see that game last night!" Have you ever been around a young man or woman who has just fallen in love? What do they talk about?
Yes, you need to be tactful and sensitive. Yes, you need to wait on the Lord for the right opening. But, all too often we don't err on the side of being too bold or insensitive. The order, by the way, is important: Worship first, then witness. The reason Anna was telling everyone about the Lord Jesus was that she spent much time in private devotion with the Lord. All too often, the reason that we do not bear witness is that we have lost our first love.
• Waiting: Not only Simeon and Anna, but others also were "looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (2:38). While that phrase has nationalistic nuances, it also refers to the spiritual redemption that God had long ago promised and now was bringing to fruition for His people (Isa. 40:1, 9; 52:9; 63:4). J. C. Ryle (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [Baker], 2:74-75) observes that although these people lived in a wicked city, they "were not carried away by the flood of worldliness, formality, and self-righteousness around them. They were not infected by the carnal expectations of a mere worldly Messiah, in which most Jews indulged. They lived in the faith of patriarchs and prophets, that the coming Redeemer would bring in holiness and righteousness, and that His principal victory would be over sin and the devil." Even so, those devoted to God in our day "wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come" (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
Devotion to God is really all that matters. It is available to everyone. It takes many outward forms, but always involves worship, witness, and waiting for His final redemption to come.
Truth: Devotion to God is one and the same with devotion to Jesus Christ.