Luke 2:22-40 – Back to the Fut… I mean, Temple
One of my favorite movies is Back to the Future. I think there may be some reasons I liked it so much:
- I love cars… growing up I had a collection of Micro Machines cities and cars. I loved playing them and imagining car chases and the lives that people were living in the cities I constructed.
- The idea of time travel is fun to think about, and the way the movies portray it as an experiment of Doc Brown provides a context in which to consider what the implications of traveling through time might be.
- I like seeing bullies end up in a pile of manure…who doesn’t?
For as much information about Back to the Future as you could ever want, visit here.
Back to the Passage… as with many of the passages we have studied in Luke so far, the opening verses of this week’s passage give us the setting of the events that will follow. In Luke 2:22ff we are Back to the Temple where Luke started the infancy narrative. Here Joseph and Mary are continuing in obedience to complete everything required by the Law of the Lord (Luke 2:39), but while they are there they encounter two prophets who will speak to them about Jesus’ future.
Luke 2:22-24 – At the Temple
When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
Joseph and Mary are at the Temple for a number of ceremonies. First, Mary has completed her time of purification after child birth (Numbers 12), and has come to give the offerings required by the law after child birth; one burnt offering and one sin offering. The burnt offering, as the name suggests, is completely burnt up. This is an act of worship to God expressing your desire to serve Him completely. The sin offering is to cleanse the individual from ceremonial defilement. The uncleanness of the individual is transferred to the animal sacrificed, then the meat from the offering is given to the priest to eat. We see from this passage Joseph and Mary are not wealthy since they give the alternative burnt offering of a pigeon or dove rather than a year old lamb. The Second ceremony they perform is to present their firstborn son to the Lord according to Exodus 13. This consecration was inaugurated to commemorate God passing over the firstborn sons of the Israelites while they were in Egypt. Finally, as Bock points out in his commentary, we would expect Joseph and Mary to pay the redemption price of five shekels according to Numbers 18:15-16, but there is no mention of this. This would lead us to believe Joseph and Mary have dedicated Jesus into service of the Lord.
Luke 2:25-35 – Encounter with Simeon
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
The encounter with Simeon makes up the largest portion of the passage this week, and the first thing that impresses me is Simeon’s interaction with Holy Spirit. As we have mentioned before, there has been prophetic silence for 400 years, and yet there are those who have remained devoted to God. These include Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1:6), Joseph (Matthew 1:19) & Mary (Luke 1:28), Simeon (Luke 2:25) and Anna (Luke 2:36-37), each of whom was given a word about how God’s plan was unfolding in their time. We find Holy Spirit has revealed to Simeon he will not die before he sees the Messiah. And on this particular day when Joseph and Mary were headed to the Temple to present Jesus to the Lord, Simeon is “moved by the Spirit” to go to the Temple as well. Upon Joseph and Mary’s entrance to the Temple, Simeon is there and takes Jesus into his arms. He then tells these new parents and those who are around some amazing things about this child.
Simeon first gives praise to God because the child he is holding in his arms is the Messiah he was told he would see. He praises God declaring the truth we have learned throughout the infancy narrative: God accomplishes what He promises. Simeon speaking in the Holy Spirit says of Jesus, “my eyes have seen your salvation.” Simeon is at peace because that which was promised to him has come true. He trusted God’s word that he would see the Messiah, I wonder if he expected he would see the Messiah as an infant. Can you imagine holding an innocent child not much over a month old and declaring over that child the things Simeon spoke over Jesus? What a powerful moment. As he continues to speak he picks up on the theme which has developed saying Jesus will be a light (Luke 1:78-79). Simeon indicates Jesus will be light in two ways:
- First, He will be a light “for revelation to the Nations/Gentiles.” While non-Israelites were always welcomed to join Israel in the service of the one true God (Caleb, Rahab, the men of Gath, etc.), Jesus will markedly increase revelation unto the Gentiles. This is of particular importance to me having no trace of Judaic heritage… I can approach the one true God, I AM (Exodus 3:14), because of what Jesus has done (Hebrews 4:16). Praise the Lord!
- Second, Jesus will be a light “for glory to [God's] people Israel.” Notice that he says, “your people Israel.” As many of the prophets pointed out and as John the Baptist will point out (Luke 3:7-9), being born of Abraham does not make you a part of God’s people. The glory for the people of Israel is that salvation for all humankind comes through Israel. Paul in Romans 9:1-5 laments that many of his brothers did not accept Jesus as Messiah because the foundation of salvation in Christ is found Israel. He says starting in verse four, “theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.”
After giving praise to God for His plan which has been set in motion through Jesus, Simeon blesses Joseph and Mary and then shares a prophetic word with Mary concerning Jesus’ ministry. He first says Jesus will cause the “falling and rising of many in Israel.” This statement is proved true as Luke’s Gospel plays out. We will see Pharisees and teachers of the Law stumped by Jesus’ teaching while the downcast are healed of their afflictions. He also says Jesus will be “a sign that will be spoken against,” This is illustrated throughout the book of Luke, for instance Luke 19:47 says, “Every day [Jesus] was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him.” Jesus’ teaching would bring division and serious opposition because it was upsetting the established order of the society. As Simeon goes on he gives the reason Jesus’ ministry will 1) cause falling of many in Israel 2) cause rising of many in Israel and 3) be a sign to be spoken against. He says the reason is “so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” Jesus’ ministry is not without purpose; it exposes the intentions of people’s hearts. The Pharisees, Sadducees and teachers of the law while appearing righteous were clean on the outside, their hearts are shown to be full of greed (Luke 11:39). By contrast, the Shepherds we read about last week did not have any religious notoriety, yet they were the ones who were told of Jesus’ birth by an angel and saw the heavenly host worshiping as they watched over their flock.
How is this encounter with Simeon apply to us today?
- First, as a Christian, I must be reminded Holy Spirit lives in me (Ephesians 1:13), and just as Simeon was moved on that particular day to go into the Temple, I too ought to yield to the things which God speaks to me by Holy Spirit. When we do not listen Holy Spirit, we miss out on the tremendous plan God has in store for us.
- Second, Jesus is God’s plan of salvation. When Simeon took Jesus into his arms he said, "my eyes have seen your salvation!" God’s plan of redemption was to send His Son to the cross to bear the penalty for our sin. He is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). We must place our faith in Christ alone, not in ourselves or in some other human or some fabricated deity, but in Jesus alone..
- Finally, we ought to lay our hearts before the Lord. We ought to be genuine about who we are and what God is doing in our lives. We ought not puff ourselves up by the good things we do. We also ought not wallow in self-pity. We must allow Jesus' Word to pierce our soul as it did Mary’s (Luke 2:35; Hebrews 4:12).
Luke 2:36-38 – Anna the Prophetess
There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
After Simeon finishes speaking with Joseph and Mary, we are introduced to Anna the Prophetess. God has spoken through Shepherds in the field, a devout man of Jerusalem and now He will speak through a woman of God from Jerusalem. Anna was married for seven years, but lost her husband. Since she lost her husband she has been living at the temple, fasting & praying and worshipping God day & night. She is a faithful Israelite from the tribe of Asher. Unlike with Simeon we do not get to hear the exact words Anna spoke, but simply a description of what she had to say. Apparently her words included thanksgiving to God for Jesus and she spoke of the redemption of Jerusalem through Jesus.
Luke 2:39-40 – Jesus grows
When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.
As we mentioned earlier, Joseph & Mary do everything required by the Law on their trip to Jerusalem. It is evident that their desire is to please God with their lives. Once they complete these things, they return to Nazareth. This is a place in the narrative which differs from Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth story. In Matthew, after Jesus’ birth the three kings come to visit, then Joseph and Mary go to Egypt to flee Herod, and after Herod dies they return to Nazareth. The details shared in Matthew and Luke all seem important to us and it is hard to understand why they wouldn’t both have exactly matching accounts, but we must remember these books are written with an authorial intent. Matthew and Luke have different reasons for writing and as a result include different information about Jesus’ life. So, while it is difficult to reconcile the differences, the differences do not amount to contradictions.
Finally, in verse 40 we see that Jesus grew and became strong. We also see He was filled with wisdom and God’s grace was on him. Jesus was a kid like all of us once were, and he grew just as we all grow. Despite all the amazing things declared about Him throughout the infancy narrative (Luke 1:5-2:40), this passage reminds us that Jesus experienced our world as we do. This reminds me of Hebrews 4:15 which says, “for we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are– yet was without sin.”
Jesus struggled with all that we struggle with in this life, yet he did so in perfect holiness. It is only because of this that He could be the perfect sacrifice redeeming us from our sin and giving us victory over the grave. Praise God!
I pray you are encouraged by the text this week. As always we would love to have you join us as we continue to study through the book of Luke. For more information about when and where we meet, email me at email@example.com.