Simeon and Anna Recognize Baby Jesus A Story of Devotion
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Jesus was born into a very Jewish family that kept all the Jewish laws righteously. St. Paul observes: "But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under law..." (Galatians 4:4-5).
Let’s identify three Jewish ceremonies:
Circumcision, performed on the eighth day, for all male children
Purification from childbirth for Mary, 40 days after her son's birth, and
Consecration of the firstborn, in recognition, that the firstborn son belongs to the Lord.
We will review these three topics, but attention needs are on the Messiah (baby Jesus) as given through God's servants -Simeon and Anna. They are rewarded (for their total devotion to God) by seeing and recognizing the Savior.
"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." (2:21)
In Genesis Chapter 1:59-66, the ceremony of circumcision is noted: On the eighth day after birth represents placing the sign of the Covenant upon each male child who becomes part of the nation (Genesis 17:11; Leviticus 12:3).
Purpose of Mary's Visit to the Temple
"When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed ...
to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: 'a pair of doves or two young pigeons." (2:22, 24).
In the Hebrew tradition mothers were considered ceremonially unclean for a certain number of days.
Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed,
and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days;
according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. (Leviticus 12:2)
The sacrifice for her cleansing was to be offered on the fortieth day at the Nicanor Gate (Court of Women). If a mother was a distance away two ceremonies may not have been possible. However, for Joseph and Mary, the town of Bethlehem was just below Jerusalem. Thus, dual ceremonies were possible: Presentation of her firstborn male child and the purification.
The third ceremony mentioned in this passage is the redemption of the firstborn.
"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')..." (2:22-23)
First a bit of history. In the Old Testament, Hebrews believed that the firstborn male of humans and animals belonged to God (Exodus 13:1). They were "consecrated" or holy" to God.
In the Exodus, the firstborn sons of Egypt are killed due to Pharaoh’s persistent refusal to let the Israelites go, but the firstborn of the people of Israel are passed over by the Death Angel due to the blood on the posts made by each family (Exodus 12:13-28).
"The Lord also said to Moses, 'I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites
in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine,
for all the firstborn are mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I
set apart for myself every firstborn in Israel, whether man or animal. They are to be mine.
I am the Lord.'" (Numbers 3:11-13). For the firstborn of non-Levites,
a redemption price was five shekels was paid (Numbers 3:46-47)
The story of Simeon and Anna who just "happen" to be in the temple currently is most beautiful. Both are righteous, God-fearing people whom God has sent as witnesses.
"Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout ... and the Holy Spirit was upon him." (2:25)
Simeon is a Hebrew name (Greek: Simon). The name means "hearing" in Hebrew.
He is "just". high standards of rectitude, upright, just, fair."
He is "devout," "devout, God-fearing, pious, reverent."
The Holy Spirit rests upon him. In the phrase "the Holy Spirit was upon him," the Holy Spirit sometimes came upon prophets and others to accomplish particular tasks for the Lord (Numbers 24:2; Judges 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 14:6, 19; 15:14; 1 Samuel 10:6, 10; 11:6; 16:13; 19:20, 23; 1 Chronicles. 12:18; 2 Chronicles 15:1; 20:14; 24:20; Ezekiel 11:5; Luke 1:35; Acts 8:16).
The Promise of the Holy Spirit
Simeon has been anxiously awaiting this day in the temple.
"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." (2:25-26)
Meeting In the Temple
Prompt by the Holy Ghost, Simeon knows its voice all too well.
"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..." (2:27-28).
Simeon's Prophetic Praise:
"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. It is extraordinary that Simeon sees Jesus' salvation as extending to all people -- Gentiles and Jews alike. This is the same message the angel spoke to the shepherds on Christmas night:
"I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people" (2:10).
Also, in Isaiah 49:6:
"I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."
Simon's Prophecy to Mary (2:34-35).
Then Simeon offers solemn prayer and said to Mary:
'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.'" (2:34-35).
Simeon now blesses Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. Through the Holy Spirit, Simeon can see the deep anguish that Mary will feel as her son is rejected by the nation's leaders and prophetically crucified.
The Prophetess Anna (2:36-37)
Simeon recognizes Jesus as The Chosen One, in addition to an 84-year-old woman, a devout fixture in the Woman's Court of the Temple. And she is a prophetess, a female prophet - a women preacher in today's time.
"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." (2:36-37)
The Redemption of Jerusalem (2:38)
"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." (2:38). Although her prophecy is not given, it consists of (1) inspired thanksgiving and (2) speaking about the child to other believing people who are present. Like Simeon, who looks forward to the "consolation" or comfort of Jerusalem, Anna looks forward to the time when Jerusalem will once again be free from Roman oppression.
Wilson, R. (n.d.). Meeting Simeon and Anna in the Temple (Luke 2:21-38) -- JesusWalk. [online] Jesuswalk.com. Available at: http://www.jesuswalk.com/lessons/2_21-38.htm [Accessed 22 Dec. 2019].
King James Bible