33Jesus' parents were surprised at what Simeon had said. 34Then he blessed them and told Mary, “This child of yours will cause many people in Israel to fall and others to stand. The child will be like a warning sign. Many people will reject him, 35and you, Mary, will suffer as though you had been stabbed by a dagger. But all this will show what people are really thinking.”
Anna Speaks about
36 The prophet Anna was also there in the temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. In her youth she had been married for seven years, but her husband died. 37And now she was 84 years old. Night and day she served God in the temple by praying and often going without eating.
38At this time Anna came in and praised God. She spoke about the child Jesus to everyone who hoped for Jerusalem to be set free.
We have not finished with Simeon. As he blessed the young family he also, under the inspiration of the Spirit, added words that introduce the first ominous hint into Luke’s story. Jesus is the promised Messiah, yes, but the light of his truth introduces a foreshadowing of conflict. Mary will suffer, beyond anything we can imagine, as she watched her own dearly loved son, crucified. The blessing comes with unspeakable pain.
I love Luke’s gospel, and one of the reasons is that Luke pays particular attention to people marginalized by society. So he couples the story of Simeon with that of the widow Anna. She must have been desperately poor, having lived as a widow all those years (no husband’s pension or government benefits to help her make ends meet). Presumably she had no support from children, either, as she lived at the temple, where she could at least beg for money. Luke does not record her exact words, but she obviously understood that this child had come to fulfill the many prophecies in Isaiah (e.g. 46:13, 52:10, 56:1) which foretold how Jerusalem would be set free (v 38). Free, not so much politically, but spiritually. Jerusalem (and, by implication, Palestine and the whole world) would be freed (“redeemed” NIV) from its captivity to sin.
How real in your life is this freedom that Jesus brought? Is this deliverance part of your ordinary, everyday life? The Holy Spirit who inspired so many of the people in this story of the first Christmas – Zechariah, Mary, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Simeon – has been poured out on all Christians, not just so we can prophesy and understand what God is up to, but to bring Jesus to us personally. Too much to explain here, but it will become clear as we read the rest of the New Testament.
“God’s Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. . .And because we belong to Christ Jesus, we have killed our selfish feelings and desires” (Galatians 5:22, CEV). Lord Jesus, I renew my commitment to you, and thank you for giving me life, real life. Amen.