Simeon and Anna Learn about Jesus
- Express excitement and eagerness to learn more about Jesus.
- Imagine what it was like for Anna and Simeon to wait so many years for the promised Savior.
- Name one thing God promises us.
- Thank God for keeping promises, especially the promise to send Jesus.
As Luke continues his telling of the story of Jesus, we meet some more unexpected people who welcome him. We've met Mary and Joseph, who are young and poor, and the shepherds, who are earthy and disreputable. Now Luke calls us to ponder two old people in the temple who take the infant in their arms.
Just skimming the text, you can see that two words dominate the story, Law and Holy Spirit Luke signals us that it's terribly important that Jesus' parents follow God's law in this birth. It's not as though the first two-thirds of the Bible get ripped away as a new era of grace dawns. It all comes to fulfillment here.
The Law of Moses stipulates three important actions after the birth of a child. The child is circumcised on the eighth day, symbolizing his covenant status. The mother must undergo a ritual purification, since she is rendered "unclean" after the birth (and therefore unable to participate in any official religious observance). Finally the child is "presented" at the temple in Jerusalem and "consecrated" with a sacrifice there. The last action recalls the time of the Exodus, when the angel of death struck down the firstborn of Egypt while the houses of the Hebrews were "passed over." From that time, the life of every firstborn child belonged to God. So in a ritual that reminded them of their salvation from Egypt, every firstborn boy was redeemed by the payment of an offering in the temple. (The sacrifice mentioned in verse 24 was for Mary's purification.)
Why all this stuff about the law? Luke wants us to know that Jesus did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. He is the ultimate fulfillment of the covenant promise to Abraham, of which circumcision was a sign and seal. He is the firstborn Son who died and rose again for the redemption of the world. He is the one who will take away our uncleanness and make us pure.
This is where the two old people---people of the old covenant---come in, and where the Holy Spirit orchestrates the scene flawlessly. Simeon was in the temple that day because the Holy Spirit moved him to be there at that moment. Anna was always there because she was a prophet, that is, someone through whom the Holy Spirit especially spoke and acted.
Their demeanor was one of patient waiting. This waiting was not like waiting in line at the checkout. It was waiting in faith for the sure action of God, waiting to see God's promises fulfilled. And on this particular day the wait was over. Each of them, moved by the Holy Spirit, knew that this was the child of promise.
In a moving scene, Simeon takes the child in his arms and offers a prayer of thanksgiving to God, a prayer that has become the last prayer at the close of day for countless Christians across the centuries. Simeon says, in effect, "This is what I've been hoping for and waiting for all my life long---God's salvation has finally arrived." His prophetic words to Mary must have already pierced her soul. Anna, a long-time widow, dedicated her life to prayer, and she too saw the child and believed.
While his birth is unnoticed in the larger world, Jesus is welcomed by the earthy shepherds and these obscure old people, pious in the best sense of the word, their expectant faith rewarded with sight.
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