Anna, circumcision, dedication, devotion, discipline, Ezra, fasting, heart, Jesus Christ, Joseph, Levite, marvel, Mary, prayer, priest, prophecy, prophesy, prophet, prophetess, purification, radical, redemption, regeneration, revolution, soul, spirit, treasure, Word of God, Zechariah
Luke 2:21 ESV
And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
Mary and Joseph took their new baby boy to the temple to have Him circumcised, named, and dedicated to the Lord. As instructed by Gabriel, they named Him Jesus, which means “God saves.”
Luke 2:22-24 ESV
And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
Interestingly enough, the purpose of the sacrifice was to purify Mary from the uncleanness of childbirth, as prescribed in Leviticus chapter 12. One day, Jesus would be offered as a sacrifice, once and for all, to cleanse Mary and every other person from the uncleanness of the sinful nature.
Luke 2:25-33 ESV
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. 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. 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, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.
Simeon was dedicated to the Messiah, even before He was born. Before the teaching, before the miracles, before the crucifixion, and before the resurrection, Simeon was devoted to Jesus Christ.
Even after He’s done all these things, few people are as faithful to our Savior as Simeon was.
Simeon walked in the Spirit, and recognized his Lord at once. He praised God just for the opportunity to see the Christ, the consolation of Israel.
Luke 2:34-35 ESV
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 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
This is a passage for us to stop and ponder for a moment. What does it mean?
Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed. This is reminiscent of Mary’s Magnificat.
He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty (Luke 1:52-53, ESV). The last would be first, and the first would be last. Blessed would be the poor, and they would receive the kingdom of God. Woe to the rich, they had received their consolation.
The Gospel preached by Jesus would be the great equalizer, and He would turn the world upside down. He would teach us radical love, revolutionary grace, and the regenerative power of God.
(And a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed. What was Simeon talking about? Was it the pain Mary would experience, watching the Romans crucifying her son? That would seem to make sense of the first part of the passage, but how would Mary’s pain reveal the thoughts of many?
This is a difficult passage to interpret, but I don’t think Mary’s pain is what Simeon was talking about. This passage reminds me of another Scripture:
Hebrews 4:12 ESV
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
I suspect, in light of this verse in Hebrews, that the sword Simeon referred to was the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit. It is this Sword that pierces deep into the heart, even to the division of the soul and of the spirit. The Word of God discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Mary seemed to understand certain things, even when others did not. When the shepherds came to visit the infant Messiah, and relayed their angelic vision all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
A few years later,when the young boy Jesus was found in the temple among the teachers, when Mary scolded Him, He replied, Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? Luke recorded they did not understand the saying… And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart (Luke 2:48-51).
Mary treasured the things that most people did not even understand. I suspect Mary knew something of God’s Word. If this was the case, it would explain her deep wisdom and insight into the things of God.
We have no record that Mary was educated, but there is some evidence in the Mishnah (part of the Talmud, Jewish commentary on the Scriptures) that some rabbis believed in educating girls. We also know that Mary came from the priestly tribe of Levi, who taught the Torah to all the people as part of their duties, as Ezra had after Israel’s return from captivity in Babylon (Nehemiah 8:1-8). As a woman, she would not have taken part in priestly and other Levitical duties, but she certainly grew up among men who did.
After Simeon prophesied over Jesus and His family, another devout elder appeared, this time the prophetess, Anna.
Luke 2:36-38 ESV
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, 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. 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.
The prophetess recognized the Prophet, and began to thank God and speak of Him to everyone waiting for redemption. Just like Simeon, Anna was dedicated to Jesus even before He became a great, miracle-working rabbi. She already knew He was the promised Messiah.
Like Zechariah and Anna, we must be completely devoted and dedicated to our Lord Jesus Christ. If we are disciplined in God’s Word like Mary, we will understand when others marvel. If we walk according to the Spirit like Zechariah and Anna, we will recognize our Savior at His coming.