“Jesus Is Presented In The Temple”
Lesson Text:Luke 2:21, 22, 25-38
Background Scripture: Luke 2:21-40
Devotional Reading: Isaiah 49:8-13
Luke 2:21, 22, 25-38 (KJV)
21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord.
25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;
35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
To know that God continues to use those who are faithful for His glory. To know that salvation is for all.
To demonstrate both Simeon and Anna’s hope and joy when Jesus was brought to the temple.
To encourage faithful livingin expectation of Jesus’ return.
What Do You Want to Be?
"What do you want to be when you grow up?" is a question children become accustomed to from adults. Some of us were annoyed by that question when we were younger. Most of us will admit that we have inflicted it on children ourselves.
When we see a child, we naturally think of the child's potential. What might she or he be in the future? The possibilities are intriguing and hopeful: an entrepreneur who starts a successful business, a scientist who makes a breakthrough discovery, an influential leader who shapes public policy—the list is endless. But with a few notable exceptions in the Bible, a child's future is uncertain, not yet written. It may be filled with greatness, tragedy, or both.
When Jesus was born, His parents already had an authoritative statement about His future (see Luke 1:32, 33). But how would that future as the ruler on David's throne take shape? A first glimpse at the answer comes in today's text.
Time:6 or 5 B.C.
Place:temple in Jerusalem
Our lesson is set in the Jerusalem temple against the background of the requirements of the Law of Moses. The temple was the center of ancient Israel's worship. In the wilderness just after the exodus from Egypt, God instructed Israel on building a tabernacle (in effect, a portable temple) for worship. The tabernacle and its successor, the temple, represented God's presence with His people. But as the Israelites descended further and further into sin, no king proved to be the one whose throne God would establish forever.
Finally, the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians when they sacked Jerusalem in 586 B.C. and took the people captive. The Jews were allowed to rebuild Jerusalem and its temple after that exile ended several decades later. That second temple was far less grand than the first. Yet God promised that the one who would build the true temple was still to come, and the glory of the ultimate temple of fulfillment would far outshine that of the one built by the returning exiles (Haggai 2:6-9).
Herod the Great, the client king who ruled Judea on Rome's behalf, began a massive project to rebuild the temple about two decades before Jesus' birth. No doubt Herod wanted to legitimize himself as the promised temple-building king, but few took that idea seriously. The faithful still waited for God to send the true king. It is in that context that the infant Jesus is presented at the temple in today's text.
Obedient Parents (Luke 2:21, 22)
1. What was the purpose of the Law of Moses concerning circumcision? How did this law affect Joseph and Mary upon the birth of their child? (Luke 2:21, 22)
One purpose of the Law of Moses, as given by God, was to establish Israel's identity as distinct from its pagan neighbors. A key command in this regard is circumcision. This was a sign of God's covenant, His pledge of blessing and terms of obedience, with Old Testament Israel. Centuries before God gave that law, He had commanded Abraham that his male descendants should be circumcised eight days after their birth (Genesis 17:12). Luke specifies that Jesus' parents fully obey this requirement.
Furthermore, the parents also obey the angel’s instruction in naming Jesus (Luke 1:31). We are reminded of Zacharias and Elisabeth's similar obedience regarding the circumcision and naming of John (vs. 13, 59, 63).
But circumcision was only the beginning. When the child was forty days old, Mary and Joseph had to come to the temple for the purification rites described in Leviticus 12.
The Mosaic Law features commands regarding things that are “clean” and “unclean.” Some of these commands have a relationship to hygiene, but most have symbolic significance. Certain common events can make a person unclean; for women, these include childbirth. At the end of a specified period of time, a woman who has given birth is to offer a sacrifice to mark the end of her uncleanness (Leviticus 12).
The Law also specifies that every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord, and that a special gift is to be made at the birth of a firstborn (Exodus 13:2, 12, 13, 15; Numbers 18:15, 16; Luke 2:23). Mary and Joseph are careful to obey this requirement as well (see Luke 2:23, 24, not in today's text).
Note that the word law is used five times in Luke 2:21-40. Though He came to deliver His people from the bondage of the Law, Jesus was “made under the law” and obeyed its commands (Galatians 4:1-7). He did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17-18).
It is obedience to the Mosaic Law that brings to the temple for the first time the One who will fulfill God's promise to build the true temple. The stage is now set for the appearance of two other people who are lowly and righteous.
What Do You Think?
What more can your congregation do to stress to new parents the importance of honoring God as they welcome their new arrival?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Special presentations (parent dedication, etc.) | Support groups | Sermons and lessons |
Simeon’s Faith (Luke 2:25-28)
2. What do we know about the character of Simeon? (Luke 2:25)
A certain man named Simeon now comes on the scene. The description of his being just means that he carefully observes the Law of Moses; devout means that he is carefully respectful of God.
Simeon’s faithfulness and sincerity in keeping God’s ordinances is especially seen in his “waiting for the consolation of Israel” (v. 25). This phrase refers to Simeon’s hope that the Messiah would come and deliver the nation (see Isaiah 40:1; 49:13; 51:3). Indeed, Simeon loved God so much that he looked with eager anticipation for the comfort the Redeemer would bring to all people. God's promises are centuries old, yet Simeon lives in hope that God will nevertheless fulfill them.
What Do You Think?
Which promises of God (and Scripture to support them) are especially important to you at the present time? Why?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
For avoidance of temptation | For guidance in making an important decision
For a crisis involving a family member | Other
Simeon was also filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 2:25b). The Holy Spirit's work in the Old Testament was primarily to empower the prophets to speak for God. The same is true of Simeon, as it is for others in Luke's Gospel. When Simeon speaks, we will listen to hear God's message.
3. How did God reward Simeon for his faithful expectancy (Luke 2:26, 27)?
God has responded to Simeon's faithful expectancy with a personal promise. The time of fulfillment is indeed near, and God has pledged that Simeon will live to see the One who will bring that fulfillment (v. 26) This means Simeon had been given special insight by God’s Spirit to recognize the Redeemer. The word Christ means "anointed," therefore the Lord's Christ is the Lord's anointed one. This is none other than the king whom God has promised to His people, the great Son of David who is to build God's house, the true temple, and whose throne God intends to establish forever.
God's Spirit, having promised Simeon that he is to see God's king, instructs that man to go to the temple on this particular day. It must be with a sense of expectation that Simeon receives this instruction! While there, Simeon sees Jesus' parents, with Jesus, arrive to perform their duties under the Law of Moses as previously discussed.
What Do You Think?
Have you ever had an experience of being led by the Holy Spirit to be in the right place at the right time? What happened? How do you know that the experience was not due to random chance?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
To be a blessing to someone | To be blessed by someone | To witness to someone | Other
Simeon’s Statement of Praise (Luke 2:28-33)
4. What did Simeon do when he saw the child Jesus? (Luke 2:28, 29)
Simeon not only sees the king, he also holds Him in his arms. If Simeon expects that God's king will appear in might and glory, he is surprised: what he witnesses is an infant-in-arms, the child of impoverished parents. Yet the perhaps aged prophet is more than happy to hold the baby. What can Simeon do but offer God praise, or bless God?
In Luke 2:29-32 we find Simeon's response to seeing Jesus. Simeon’s brief prophetic declaration in verses 29-32 is sometimes called the Nunc Dimittis, which comes from the opening phrase in Latin, “now lettest thou thy servant depart” (in other words, “now permit to die”). This is the fifth and last of the "Christmas songs" in Luke. (Elizabeth, 1:42-45; Mary, 1:46-56; Zacharias, 1:67-79; the angels, 2:13-14). In this short refrain, we see the heart of a humble and godly man. It is first of all a worship hymn as he blesses God for keeping His promise and sending the Messiah. He joyfully praises God that he has been privileged to see the Lord's Christ. The long-awaited time of fulfillment has come. That means peace for Simeon, as he can now die (depart) with renewed confidence that God's work will come to its climax.
5. From what Scriptures did Simeon know that the Messiah would be a light to Gentiles? (Luke 2:30-33)
Simeon’s song is also a salvation hymn: “For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation”(Luke 2:30). Here we see Luke reminding the reader that God's promise is for “all people” (v. 31). Again, see Luke 3:6, which affirms the same thing with the phrasing "all flesh." God's plan for the salvation of the nations is not a last-minute idea. It has been His central purpose for the world from the very beginning. He has prepared for this salvation throughout biblical history—through the times and events of the patriarchs, the exodus, the conquest of the promised land, the judges, Israel's united and divided monarchies, the Babylonian exile, and Israel's partial return to its land. What Simeon sees being fulfilled is what his people for generations have anticipated in preparation.
Using phrases from the prophet Isaiah, Simeon underlines the fulfillment of God's ancient promises. “Light to lighten the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32) is the fulfillment of God's pledge to bless the nations (Genesis 12:1-3; Isaiah 42:6; 49:1-7). That is the ultimate purpose of His call to Israel, and so salvation that brings light to all nations is Israel's true glory (Isaiah 46:13).
Simeon's song is a missionary hymn, which is something unusual for a devout Jew standing in the temple. He sees this great salvation going out to the Gentiles! Jesus has restored the glory to Israel and brought the light to the Gentiles so that all people can be saved (see Luke 2:10). Interestingly, both Mary and Joseph were amazed at what Simeon had said about their infant son (Luke 2:33). Simeon’s words tell us that in the birth of Jesus, the next stage of redemptive history has begun. Gentiles would experience the same deliverance promised to Jews. Indeed, for all who put their experience the same deliverance promised to Jews. Indeed, for all who put their faith in Messiah, God promised to give them eternal life.
Simeon’s Blessing and Prophetic Declaration (Luke 2:34-35)
6. What prophetic declaration did Simeon make about Jesus’ future? (Luke 2:34, 35)
After invoking God’s blessing upon Joseph and Mary, Simeon prophesied concerning Mary and her son (Luke 2:34), and in his message used three important images: the stone, the sign, and the sword. Here we find the first hint in the third Synoptic Gospel that Jesus’ advent would be accompanied with great difficulty.
Because of “this child” (Jesus Christ), many in Israel would fall (or be judged) and others would rise (or be blessed) because of how they responded to the Messiah (see Isa. 8:14-15; Mal. 4:2). The Messiah would be a “rejected cornerstone” (Ps. 118:22; Luke 20:17-18; Acts 4:11), and the nation of Israel would stumble over Him (Isa. 8:14; Rom. 9:32). Even today, God's people Israel stumble over the Cross (1 Cor. 1:23) and do not understand that Jesus is their Rock (1 Peter 2:1-6). The stone is an important Old Testament image of God (Gen. 49:24; Ps. 18:2; 71:3; Deut. 32:31).
The word sign means “a miracle,” not so much as a demonstration of power but as a revelation of divine truth. Our Lord's miracles in John's Gospel are called “signs” because they reveal special truths about Him John 20:30-31. Jesus Christ is God's miracle; and yet, instead of admiring Him, the people attacked Him and spoke against Him. His birth was a miracle, yet they slandered it (John 8:41). They said His miracles were done in the power of Satan (Matt. 12:22-24) and that His character was questionable (John 8:48, 52; 9:16, 24). They slandered His death (Ps. 22:6-8; Matt. 27:39-44) and lied about His resurrection (Matt. 27:62-66). Today, people are even speaking against His coming again (2 Peter 3).
The image of the sword was for Mary alone, and it spoke of the suffering and sorrow she would bear as the mother of the Messiah. The pain that Jesus will endure will be pain to Mary as well, like a sword that cuts through her inmost being. Perhaps God revealed to Simeon that Joseph would not be alive when the sorrows foretold would come to pass. Even though the Scriptures do not give an account for the death of Joseph, no mention is made of him after Jesus began His public ministry thirty years later.
The revealing of what is inside “many hearts” (Luke 2:35) will be a result of Jesus’ mission. God knows what is in a person's heart (Psalm 139:2), and we see that Jesus knows the thoughts of others in the gospel story line. As God through the gospel reveals the hidden, rebellious thoughts of humanity, we face a choice: to continue a masquerade of self-sufficiency or to cast ourselves on the mercy of the God who lays bare what is inside us. The broader truth is that no one would be able to remain neutral about the Messiah, and it’s still the same today. We must have an opinion about Jesus. Either we are for Him or we are against Him. Either we surrender our lives to Him or we are at war with Him.
The Prophecy of Anna (Luke 2:36-38)
7. What do we know about Anna the “prophetess?” (Luke 2:36, 37)
Like Simeon, Anna is distinguished by her devotion to God and a prophetic empowerment by God's Spirit. Anna (whose name means “grace” or “favor”) was an aged widow, having been married to a man who lived only seven years after the wedding. A woman without a husband in biblical times is often destitute.
Mention of the tribe of Aser (or Asher) identifies her ancestors as those who originally occupied the far northwestern part of Israel’s territory (Joshua 19:24-31). Her continual presence in the temple (see the next verse), which is 75 miles or so from her ancestral territory, speaks to her devotion. The name Phanuel means “face of God.”
Anna is now about 84 years old or, has been a widow for about 84 years. Either possibility fits the description of her being “of great age” in verse 36. Widows didn't have an easy time in that day; often they were neglected and exploited in spite of the commandment of the Law (Ex. 22:21-22; Deut. 10:17-18; 14:29; Isa. 1:17).
However, Anna was an exceptionally committed elderly woman. She devoted herself to serving God by worship through “fastings and prayers.” Anna spent most of her waking hours (“night and day”) at the temple (Luke 2:37).
What Do You Think?
What inhibits your congregation’s “senior citizens” from active participation in ministry? How can you help change the situation?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Identification of opportunity | Accommodation to physical limitations
Attitude of being "retired" from work and church | Other
8. What was Anna’s response when seeing the infant Jesus? (Luke 2:38)
Anna, like Simeon, immediately recognizes that Jesus is the very one whom God has promised. As we remember that Anna is a prophetess (Luke 2:36), we understand that it is by the Holy Spirit's power that she, like Simeon, recognizes the role Jesus is to have. She cannot help but share this message with those who are waiting expectantly for redemption in Jerusalem (v. 38). That redemption involves the arrival of the great king who is now at the center of attention. We are led to understand that among the temple worshippers are others like Simeon and Anna who are fervent in their expectation that God will do what He has promised for His people. God's timing is always perfect!
Having obeyed the Law in everything, Mary and Joseph returned to Nazareth (v. 39), which would be our Lord's home until He started His official ministry. During Jesus’ childhood years, He physically matured and became strong (Luke 2:40). Luke also noted that the Father’s grace was upon His Son. Because Jesus was human as well as divine, during His earthly life He depended on His heavenly Father for all things, just as we do. Nonetheless, Jesus was sinless. In His incarnation, the Son of God set aside the independent use of His own divine attributes and submitted Himself wholly to the Father (Phil. 2:1-11). God’s favor upon Him was for reasons unique to His earthly life and ministry (Luke 2:40).
POINTS TO PONDER
1.Be obedient to the will of God. (Luke 2:21, 22)
2.God will reward your faithfulness when you diligently seek Him. (Luke 2:25-32; Hebrews 11:6)
3.We, like Mary and Joseph should often reflect on the life and sacrifice of Jesus so that His love may be revealed to the hearts of many. (Luke 2:33-35)
4.Isn’t it a blessing we don’t have to wait to come to know Jesus as our Savior! Are you holding someone else back from getting to know Him? (Luke 2:36-38).
Our Hopeful Expectation
What would it have been like for us to have heard Simeon and Anna personally? Would we have received their messages with enthusiasm? Would we have reacted with skepticism, wondering "why now?" after so many centuries of waiting? Seeing God's plan with the benefit of hindsight, we now have more information than did either Simeon or Anna. This allows us to recognize what it means to follow Jesus in a life of surrender. And so we do, in hopeful expectation of the eternity with Him that awaits.
Heavenly Father, in Your Son You show us the only way to eternal life. Teach us to take up our crosses daily and follow Him. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
Be like Simeon. Be like Anna.