Luke 2: 21-40
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.
When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.
Jesus is named just as the angel told them. According to Jewish Law, he is circumcised and taken to the temple to be presented as the firstborn male – to be dedicated to God. There is no doubt of Jesus’ Jewishness. Circumcision, the badge of the covenant, the mark of belonging. And this dedication of the firstborn to God. But this is no ordinary Jewish child, and somebody knows it. His name is Simeon, and he has been waiting. Although Simeon’s age is not mentioned, the implication is that he has been waiting a long time, and now can be ‘dismissed in peace’ (v29). God promised him that Simeon would see God’s Messiah before he died. Again Jesus’ special identity is made clear to us, and Simeon confirms this as he praised God while holding the baby. His words give us even more clarity about Jesus – he is salvation for all people. Not just the Jews, indeed, he is to be ‘a light for revelation to the Gentiles’ as well as glory to God’s original chosen people, Israel.
Jesus now takes on the role to which God called Abraham’s descendants: ‘…all peoples on earth will be blessed through you’ (Genesis 12:3). Part of Israel’s specialness was that she was to be a blessing to those outside of her own, to be a light for the nations. And when we read in Isaiah about the Lord’s servant, we see that ‘It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.’ (Isaiah 49:6). Simeon sees this being fulfilled in Jesus, this child destined for greatness, and also controversy (v34).
Interestingly, again we have a focus on Mary, as Simeon speaks directly to her in v34, and adds a very personal statement: ‘a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ He gives her this sympathetic warning that heartbreak also lies ahead, that there will be pain as well as joy.
Now we are told that Anna was very old. Her devotion is evident – she never left the temple, and worshipped ‘night and day’. She is also a prophetess – someone who speaks the words of God. ‘At that very moment’ she too comes up to the parents, and perhaps as the child is still held in Simeon’s arms. And she sees him as a redeemer (v38) and speaks about him to those hoping for Jerusalem’s redemption.
Often in today’s world we glorify youth, especially amid the cult of celebrity, glamour, and good looks. We have little time for the elderly. We forget the wisdom they hold, forget the contributions they can make. But every generation is blessed and used by God. He does not wash his hands of us, but whatever our age is present with us, available to us. Perhaps we need to remember the Simeons and Annas around us today. Do we not realise that they have important things to say? Do we not think God uses the wisdom of age as he uses the vitality of youth?
As for Jesus, he grows in wisdom and strength. The grace of God was on him. He was a child of destiny, a destiny that would be fulfilled in a way that no one had ever imagined.