PSALM OF SIMEON & ANNOUNCEMENT OF ANNA
“When the day came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought the baby up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord: ‘Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to God’. And they offered a sacrifice as ordered in the law of the Lord: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.
There lived in Jerusalem at this time a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel, and he had been assured by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord. So he was led into the Temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law.
Simeon took the child in his arms and blessed God, saying, "Now, O Lord, you can dismiss your servant in peace, for you have fulfilled your word and my eyes have seen your salvation, which you display for all the people to see.Here is the light you will reveal to the nations and the glory of your people Israel."
His father and mother wondered at what was said about the child. Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother, "See him; he will be for the rise or fall of the multitudes of Israel. He shall stand as a sign of contradiction, while a sword will pierce your own soul. Then the secret thoughts of many may be brought to light."
There was also a prophetess named Anna, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. After leaving her father's home, she had been seven years with her husband, and since then she had been continually about the Temple, serving God as a widow night and day in fasting and prayer. She was now eighty-four.
Coming up at that time, she gave praise to God and spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.
When the parents had fulfilled all that was required by the law of the Lord, they returned to their town, Nazareth in Galilee. There the child grew in stature and strength and was filled with wisdom: the grace of God was upon him.”
The last part of chapter two of Luke’s Gospel describes two important incidents in the early life of our Lord, and both took place in the temple of Jerusalem, but separated by twelve years.
1. Verses 22-40 focus on Simeon and Anna, who recognize the infant Jesus as Israel’s promised Messiah, and who publicly praise God for this and proclaim this good news to those who are waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises to His people Israel.
2. The final story of the chapter takes place twelve years later, when Jesus accompanied His parents to Jerusalem and they found Him in the same Temple.
The first ceremony is the circumcision, referred to in verse 21. This event probably took place where the family lived, and not at the temple. It occurred on the 8th day, as God had instructed Abraham (Gen. 17:9-14) and as prescribed by the Law of Moses (Lev. 12:3). Associated with the circumcision was the giving of the name of the child (cf. Luke 1:59-63; 2:21).
The presentation of the first-born son is the second ceremony. This, too, was a requirement of the Law (Luke 2:23 from Exodus 13:2, 12; cf. Num. 18:15-17). The redemption price for a first-born male Israelite a month or more old was set at five (sanctuary) shekels (Numbers 18:16). Thus, the presentation of the child and the purification of the mother (the third ceremony), could be done on the same visit to the temple.
The third ceremony was the purification of the mother, required by the Law after the birth of a child. In Leviticus chapter 12 we are told that a woman is ceremonially unclean after the birth of a child. For a boy child the woman is unclean for seven days (12:2), and unable to enter the sanctuary for another 33 days (12:4). For a girl child the time doubles. She is unclean for 14 days and unable to enter the sanctuary for 66 days (12:5). This means that Jesus would have been approximately six weeks old at the time of his presentation. The sacrifice of the two turtledoves indicates that Mary and Joseph were poor, as this was a provision for the poor (Lev. 12:6-8).
The Psalm of Simeon (2:22-35)
Simeon is a man that is something like Melchizedek, in that he suddenly appears out of nowhere. We are told very little about this man Simeon. We do not know from what tribe he is a descendent, although it would appear that he was an Israelite. We know nothing about his family, whether he was married or had any children. We are told nothing about his occupation, but it does not appear that he was a priest, for he was directed of the Holy Spirit to go to the temple.
The only things we are told about Simeon are those things which matter most to God -things which pertain to his faith and his character, things that tell about his relationship with God. We are told that Simeon was righteous and devout (v. 25), which speak of his personal walk with God and his integrity among men. He was a man of faith and hope, for he “looked for the consolation of Israel”. Finally, Simeon was a man who was filled by the Holy Spirit.
The Announcement of Anna (2:36-38)
Anna is a truly remarkable woman. While we are told less about what she actually said, we are given more information about her background than Simeon’s. Anna was an Israelite, of the tribe of Asher, one of the ten “lost tribes” of Israel, which were scattered in the Assyrian captivity. She was also a prophetess. She was a very aged woman, at least 84 years old. She was married for 7 years before her husband died, and had lived the rest of her life as a widow. Day and night she was in the temple, praying and fasting.
For what was she praying and fasting? Luke does not tell us, but it is obvious that she, like Simeon, was waiting for the coming of the Messiah. Anna understood from the Old Testament that the “day of the Lord” was a day of divine judgment, and that Messiah would come to deal with Israel’s sin. Thus, her prayer and fasting was evidence of her mourning for the sins of Israel.
The details of Anna’s life are not given to satisfy our curiosity, but as clues to her character.
Simeon had been divinely guided to the temple; Anna was nearly always there. Thus she “happened” to come upon the scene of Mary, Joseph, the Baby Jesus and Simeon, just at the time Simeon was identifying the child as God’s Messiah. She, too, began giving thanks to God.
In an attitude of simplicity, I stand in front of God’s Word in awe and praise.
As I ask God to place His merciful eyes upon me, I praise Him for His loving kindness for having called me to be a disciple to listen to His Word.
“Lord, God, who willed to reveal your Son Jesus
to the faithful people of Israel who were ready to
recognize and welcome Him as an infant in the
hands of Mary and Joseph as they presented Him
in the Temple, grant that I may see you present
in the circumstances of life and in the persons
you pleased to put on my way”.
The Meaning and Message of Simeon and Anna
Luke chose the presentation of Jesus and the proclamations of Simeon and Anna among many other events.
(1) The incident takes place in the temple.
· The Old Testament prophets had spoken of the appearance of God’s Messiah at the temple (Malachi 3:1).
· Jesus’ first visit to the temple in Jerusalem, as recorded by John’s gospel (John 2:13-25), commenced with the cleansing of the temple.
(2) The inspired words of Simeon and Anna overshadowed the ceremony of Christ’s presentation, nothing is actually said about this ceremony.
(3) While the primary intent of Joseph and Mary was to fulfill the requirements of the Law pertaining to the birth of Jesus (cf. Luke 2:39), the purpose of the passage is to disclose two more divinely inspired proclamations of the identity of this child as God’s Messiah.
(4) Simeon and Anna are highlighted are described as model disciples, whom we should seek to imitate so far as their goals and priorities are concerned.
Contemplate Mary and Joseph
In the account of Luke, this is the first time Mary and Joseph hear of the sufferings the Child Jesus is going to bring to their life and the life of many in Israel, in humanity.
Very much like in our life, coming to know Jesus is an amazing experience. We may taste the sweetness of God’s love in the first place, but only later in life the significance of this choice is fully revealed.
We can imagine the impact which the words and actions of Simeon must have had on Joseph and Mary. Luke simply summarizes this with the words, “And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him” (Luke 2:33).
Like Joseph and Mary, we ponder in our hearts what it means to have a heart pierced by a sword.
Luke brings out the contradictions in our own soul. We too, experience God as the one who delights our hearts, but also as the incomprehensible God, the God who provokes conflict in us and expects us to make a painful change. For us Jesus is peace and light but He, too, brings a sword and suffering.
We Contemplate Jesus Calling Me to His Service
For Luke, Simeon was set apart. Simeon placed his trust in God, and obeyed His Word. He looked for His Kingdom, and was led by the Holy Spirit.
On the other hand, what ultimately mattered in Anna’s life was not marriage or family, but faithfulness to God. The seemingly unproductive activities of prayer and fasting, proclamation and praise were most important for them.
The highest priority for Simeon and Anna was loving and serving God, and so they were enabled to recognize and proclaim God’s Messiah.