Jesus grew in wisdom and stature. 2:22-40
The naming of Jesus and the presentation of Jesus in the temple, introduce the witness of Simeon and Anna. Anna makes no specific prophecy, but her thanksgiving implies she has knowledge of Jesus' real person. Simeon, in the power of the Holy Spirit, witnesses directly to Jesus' messiahship.
v22-24. In Jewish custom, a woman was unclean for seven days after the birth of a son. Then for 40 days she cannot visit or take part in any religious activities (80 days for a girl child). After this period she is expected to offer a sacrifice to wash away her uncleanness (a pair of doves for a poor family). The firstborn child belongs to God. The Levites were set aside for this role and so members of other tribes can "ransom" their child with a payment to the priest. Being close to Jerusalem, Joseph and Mary performed their duty at the temple.
v25-27. At the temple there was a godly man named Simeon. He was waiting for the dawning of the kingdom of God ("consolation of Israel"). He was touched by the Spirit in three ways. First, the Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he saw the messiah. Second, he knew that Jesus was the fulfillment of this promise. Third, in the power of the Spirit he uttered a prophecy concerning Jesus.
v28-32. The words of Simeon's prayer are filled with joy. He thanks God that in his old age he has seen the fulfillment of God's promise to him; he has seen the messiah and so now his watching for the Lord is at an end. The Messiah will save his people, but not only will this salvation be for Israel, it will be for the Gentiles as well, Isa.49:6, Ac.1:8, Rom.15:8ff.
v33. Joseph and Mary are naturally perplexed by all the attention. Some manuscripts replace "father" with "Joseph". The original is probably "father" since Jesus takes his Davidic heritage from Joseph's line. The gospel writers, following Semitic thought, did not find this inconsistent with a virgin birth. Even an adopted son takes on the full privileges of a natural son.
v34-35. The prophecy of Simeon is in stark contrast to his prayer. Although messiah will bring "glory" to Israel, he will not be welcomed by all of Israel. He will bring division such that some will fall and some will rise - not all will stand with him. Those against him will attack him such that he will be a suffering messiah. This conflict will produce two results. First, it will drive people to a decision. The real self, the hidden self, the heart, will be exposed in Jesus' presence. Second, the conflict will bring anguish to Mary.
v36-38. Anna, a prophetess, devout in her service to the Lord, in prayer and fasting, "gave thanks" to God on meeting Jesus. To those waiting for the coming of the kingdom ("looking forward to the redemption of Israel"), she spoke about Jesus, obviously in the context of the kingdom's coming in Jesus.
v39-40. Joseph and Mary complete "all their duties under the law" and return to Nazareth. The implication is that they have called into Jerusalem while travelling from Bethlehem to Nazareth. Luke seems ignorant of the flight to Egypt. For Jesus, life went on under God's favour ("grace") and he became "strong and wise."
"The thoughts of many hearts will be revealed."
The human condition complicates our psyche. We are made the way we are through our genetic inheritance. We inherit our parents inclinations, both mental and emotional, as well as physical. "Like mother like daughter; like father like son". The circumstances of life also shape us. We learn behavior-patterns from our parents and friends. We learn to gain favour by kindness, or violence. And we learn that there are different kinds of violence. The weak and powerless can violate others through psychological guilt-manipulation. Very soon our ways are set; our hearts defined. The older we get the more defined are our ways.
The scary part of all this is that we rarely see ourselves the way others see us. We assume our own balance, while easily observing the imbalance of others. We may dislike someone, but the problem is their's not ours. They are responsible for making us feel the way we do, and as for others who don't see things the way we do, then obviously they have a perception problem.
How can we know ourselves and to ourselves be true? When Simeon spoke of the coming messiah, he defined his role in the terms of the "suffering servant". Jesus' presence will cause action and reaction. Some will come to him and others will reject him. The messiah possesses a divine quality that forces us to open up the hidden self. In his presence the buried psyche is exposed for good, or evil.
In knowing Jesus we can know ourselves. A constant confrontation with Jesus through his Word, particularly in the gospels, enables us to "think Christianly." In this constant confrontation with Jesus, the hidden thoughts of our hearts are revealed, and it is then we can apply God's grace for the healing of our inner self.
1. Detail the prophecy of Simeon.
2. Explain how our confrontation with Jesus exposes our true self, and how that can be used to advantage ourselves and our church fellowship.
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