This morning we’re going to be going back to Luke chapter 2, looking at verses 22 through 40. So, Luke 2:22-40. And this can be considered by some to be kind of like the wrapping up of the tip—of the traditional Christmas story. But we’re going to see some things in this passage that go beyond just “Jesus is born,” that go beyond just the birth of Messiah; we’re going to see some things being said that have prophetic implications (and I don’t mean as the word’s used or abused today when we’re talking about prophetic implications). I mean prophetic implications about who Jesus is and what he will do. And we see those prophetic implications actually fulfilled later on in Luke (but also in Matthew and Mark and John, and talked about in Acts and, well, throughout all the rest of the Bible). So, we’re going to be looking at, again, Luke 2:22-40. And before I read this text, let’s have a quick word of prayer.
Father, as we read this word, I pray that you are honored and glorified by the reading of your Word, and I pray and ask you to open up our ears—and I think I often say I pray that we, our ears are open. God I ask you to open up our ears. I ask you to open up our hearts. I ask you to open up our eyes and our minds to see what you are telling us about yourself. And God, Holy Spirit, work in us to apply what we see in your Word to our lives so that we are transformed, renewed, whatever needs to happen whether it’s conviction or celebration. And again, God, please be glorified as we read. And I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Beginning in verse 22, Luke writes:
22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
Now, there are some things in this passage that allude to or even directly state who Jesus is, and there’re some things in here that are often, by some, misunderstood, and so I want to try to explain what’s actually being said here in this word so that we have a right understanding of who Jesus is. The first thing we’re going to see, in verses 22 to 24, is that Jesus’ life began in obedience to God.
Jesus’ life began in obedience to God (vv. 22-24)
Now, we’re going to get back to that at the end of this section, so this—the idea is going to bookend this entire passage. But we begin by seeing that Jesus’ life began in obedience to God. Check this out: “the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, [Mary and Joseph] brought [Jesus] up to Jerusalem, presented him to the Lord (as it is written,” verse 23, “(as it is written in the Law of the Lord).” So, so far, we’ve got the Law of Moses, the Law of the Lord, which are really the same thing, and he explains what it is: every male who—everybody, every firstborn son—will be called holy to the Lord They made a sacrifice according to the Law of the Lord (we got, again, another mention of the Law of the Lord), a pair of turtle doves, two young pigeons. What this tells us is that Jesus’ mother and his earthly father—Joseph was not his biological father—but his earthly father and his mother were dedicated to God. They had a genuine faith in God. They did everything they could to live out what God had told them to do. They had the Word of God, they were taught the word of God, and then they said, “We’re going to live this Word of God.” Why? Because they loved God. Their faith was genuine. Their faith was real. Their faith was not mere words; their faith was lived!
Can we say the same of ourselves, that our faith that we profess is a faith that we live out throughout the week, or is it a faith that we just simply proclaim but don’t really do anything with? You see, if we believe something, it’s going to impact our lives. If we truly are convinced that something is true, or if we truly love something or someone, we’re going to see an adjustment in our lives so that we can live out that which we love and believe.
If a gentleman is on a boat and that boat is heading to the waterfall and he’s about to go over, if he believes that waterfall is actually there, he’s going to want to get off the boat (unless he’s weird). There are some people that would love to go down the waterfall. I’m not one of them. But if he says, “Nah, there’s no waterfall,” he’s not going to be concerned. Why? Because he’s convinced that something doesn’t exist, in this case the waterfall, and so he adjusts what he does according to his beliefs. But if he really believes that waterfall is there, oh he’s going to adjust his life according to that.
As a spouse, if we truly love our spouse—and to love means to serve the other person and put them before ourselves—if we love our spouse, we’re going to change our behaviors to show that love to our spouse. If we truly love God, if we have faith in God, our lives should reflect it. And with Mary and Joseph, their lives did reflect it.
But what does this have to do with Jesus? This tells us that the people who were raising him loved God and that Jesus was raised in obedience to God. You see this was important because Messiah, in order to be Messiah, had to be blameless, perfect, and this alludes to the fact that Jesus was raised in a God-fearing home and that Jesus was and is perfect, blameless, sinless.
But then we get to verses 25 to 38 which are the meat—you could say—of this passage. And in 25 to 38 what we see is two prophetic statements that declare that Jesus is redeemer, and this is actually seen through Simeon and a lady named Anna.
Prophetic statements declare Jesus is redeemer (vv. 25-38)
Now, first we have Simeon beginning in verse 25. It says of him, he “was a man in Jerusalem,” name is Simeon (verse 25), “and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel.” That means he was waiting for Messiah. Simeon: some say he was a prophet, some say he was a priest, we don’t know. All we know from Scripture is that Simeon was a man at the temple who loved God and was waiting for Messiah.
Well, as he’s there, in walks Mary and Joseph with their baby, Jesus. Now, Jesus, as we know from Isaiah, was not exactly the type that would show up on a magazine cover because of his, just, ultimate beauty. Here’s a mom, a dad, and a baby like any other mom, dad, and baby. They’re just coming into the Temple. This happened every day throughout the year. Simeon would have seen a baby being brought in over and over and over. Just another baby. Except God had made a promise to Simeon. It says here in verse 25, “it had been revealed to him”—I’m sorry, verse 26—“revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (or the Lord’s Messiah, Christ is Greek for Messiah). In other words, God had told Simeon, “You will live until you see Messiah.” And so, what happened?
Well, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are come in, and it says in verse 27, “[Simeon] came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law,” verse 28, “[Simeon] took [Jesus] in his arms and blessed God.” Simeon looked at this baby and he knew there was something different about this baby. But more than that, he knew this baby is Messiah.
How? Why this baby over all the others? What was so special about Jesus? From a worldly, human standpoint, nothing. But check this out. This is, this is really good. Going back to verse 26: “it was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit,” So, God himself told Simeon that he would not die until he had seen Messiah, “and he came in the Spirit into the temple” and looked upon the child, and then verse 29, “Lord, you are now letting your servant depart in peace,” verse 30, “for my eyes have seen your salvation.” What this means is this: God told Simeon, “That is Messiah. That child, Jesus, is Messiah.” The Holy Spirit revealed Messiah to Simeon. That’s the only way he would have known.
How many times do we pass people on the streets or see people in their cars as they pass them or we pass them on the road, and they’re just another person? God said to Simeon, “This is Messiah.”
As Christians, we can bring Messiah to someone, we can introduce them to Jesus, but he’s just another man from history unless God reveals it to them. God revealed to Simeon, and God reveals to people today that Jesus is Messiah. It is not up to us to convince them that Jesus is Messiah; we just simply tell them the truth, and God is the one that opens up their eyes to see the truth of who Jesus is. And, by the way, Simeon’s response when he was shown who Messiah is by the Holy Spirit: he praised God. He had faith. When God opens up the eyes of someone to see who Jesus is, they respond. Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into the Temple, but it is God who revealed Jesus’ identity.
And so, he then gets into his prophecy, verses 29 through 32 and then picking up into verse 34. And there’re some things in here that he says about Jesus. First, he says, “Lord, you’re—now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation.” We see here that Simeon’s recognizing God keeps his promises. God promised Simeon, “You will not die until you see Messiah.” “I’ve seen Messiah, you kept your promise God.” But it was more than just a promise for Simeon to see Messiah; it was also the promise for God to even send Messiah.
God promised, “I will send a savior,” and he did. He says, verse 30, “for my eyes have seen your salvation.” Here, Simeon is declaring Jesus is salvation. It wasn’t Simeon’s works that made him righteous or saved him; it definitely was not his rituals (and yes, he went through the rituals and all the religious requirements), it wasn’t those that saved him. No: “my eyes have seen your salvation,” looking at Jesus. Jesus alone is salvation. If we want to have a message for the world about how to be saved, about how to get to heaven, that message is—can be summarized in one word: Jesus.
But the world says, “No, I can somehow do it on my own.” Well, here’s the bad news: if you want to try to get to heaven all by yourself, all on your lonesome, all on your own efforts, you have the right to try it, but it’s going to fail. It is—it is going to fail. We cannot earn salvation by our works. No matter how many good things we do, we cannot earn it. Jesus alone is salvation, and the only way to be saved is by repenting of our sins (for which we are guilty and deserve the wrath of God) and believing in Jesus the Messiah who died on the cross, shed his blood, paid for sin, satisfied wrath and justice. That is how we’re saved: by faith alone in Jesus alone, not by what we do. And Simeon is indicating Jesus is salvation.
But not just that he’s salvation, you see there’s often an understanding—especially at the time, and you’ll see it among many Jews today—in this Israel alone Jews, on Jews alone. What does Simeon say? He said, “I’ve seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, for the glory of your people.” We see here that the gospel message of Jesus’ salvation is not just for the Jews, it’s for Gentiles (that means everybody who’s not a Jew), which means we must proclaim the gospel to everybody no matter who they are, no matter where they’re from, whether they’re from Iraq, Iran, South America, Pakistan, Indonesia, Soviet—don’t say Soviet Union, just aged myself—Russia, or whether they’re from Alice, Texas. Yes, there are people in this town who don’t know the gospel. They may go to church, they may go to mass, they may go to some religious service, but they don’t know the gospel, and they need to hear it, which means we must tell them. This message is for everybody. And also indicates that Jesus will be saving people regardless of their race, regardless of their heritage, regardless of their culture, regardless of their nationality, regardless of their gender. Anybody and everybody who repents of their sins and believes in Jesus is saved.
So, what happens if someone comes into here who doesn’t look like us, doesn’t act like us? Maybe they’re—maybe they come in with a political agenda trying to disrupt things. My answer is this: they need to hear the gospel of Jesus, they need to know God loves them, they need to see God’s love expressed through our actions. If they get mad and stomp out, that’s up to them, but we need to pray that they will repent and be saved, and then we can celebrate with the angels that another soul has been saved. But this message—this salvation—is for not just Jews, it’s for people all around the world.
But he continues (verse 34), goes from the direct prophecy to a message specifically to Mary. He says, “this child is appointed for the fall,” verse 34, “appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is oppressed”—I’m sorry, not oppressed, that is opposed—“a sign that is opposed.” This is not exactly cheery news: telling a mother, a new mother, “Your child will be opposed.”
But then he tells her, “and a sword will pierce through your own soul also”—“You, Mary, will be emotionally devastated.” Not exactly the news a new mother wants to hear about her better child—“so that the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” What Simeon is alluding to here—I don’t know if he knew it or not—but what he’s alluding to here is the death of Jesus. Jesus’ own people will demand Jesus’ death. For what? Nothing. He did nothing wrong and yet they will demand he be crucified, and the Romans obliged, and Jesus was killed, and Mary was there watching, seeing her son hang on that tree, and her heart most certainly was broken. But on the third day Jesus physically rose again and mourning was turned to rejoicing. Jesus is Messiah. Jesus is redeemer.
And Mary and Joseph what was their answer? Verse 33: they “marveled” at this. Now, it says “his father”; don’t misconstrue that to mean that—some people say that means that Joseph was his biological father. He’s just using shorthand, basically, instead of saying “stepfather,” “earthly father,” “adoptive father.” But Joseph was not biologically Jesus’ father. This, like I said, his adoptive or earthly father works in this case. But they “marveled” at what was said about Jesus (verse 33). Now the word “marvel” is interesting. It can mean either “taken aback” or the idea of “wow, really; that’s what you’re going to say,” or it can mean this: “highly impressed.” In the context, what it’s saying is Mary and Joseph were very impressed with what Simeon said, that Simeon had declared that Jesus—the baby she had just given birth to—is the redeemer. They were very impressed with that.
And so, Simeon had declared Jesus is redeemer. But not just him, we have this woman, Anna, verse 36. Anna. Now, some interesting things about Anna. Why would Luke throw Anna in there? She almost doesn’t need to be in this story just to tell that Jesus is redeemer; Simeon took care of that. Why throw Anna in there? One, it shows that both men and women are recognizing who Jesus is. But also, Anna has connections with someone from the Old Testament. Let’s take a look at Anna.
First, some of her characteristics. In verses 36 to 38 it says Anna was “a prophetess”—so, first characteristic, a prophetess—a “daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher”—so, she’s a Jew—“advanced in years”—so, she’s up in age—“having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin”—this indicates that she was without child, she was barren (that’s important)—“and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping and fasting—and worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day”—she was dedicated to Jesus, she was a devout follower of—not dedicated to Jesus, she was dedicated and a devout follower of God. So, these are the characteristics. This Jewish woman who was without child (which, by the way, in that culture was a dishonor, this was an affliction, a burden) and yet she was so devoted to God. And what was she doing day and night? Praying to God for redemption, praying to God for rescue.
Jump back to First Samuel—you don’t have to turn there—First Samuel verses 1 through 20. We have the story of Hannah; not Anna, Hannah. Hannah was a woman who was favored by her husband. She was without child. She went and prayed and begged to God for rescue, for salvation, for redemption from this, this affliction—like Anna.
Well God told Hannah (in First Samuel), “Salvation for you, redemption will come, in a son.” Jump a few years to Luke 2: Anna is shown by God this child—this son—and what does it say she did? Verse 38: “And coming up that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him”—Who? Jesus—“to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” God, like with Hannah, told Anna, “You’re looking for redemption? There it is, he is redemption.”
And Hannah’s—not Hannah—Anna’s response was she told other people. She praised God and told others, “This is Jesus! He is redemption! He is Messiah! He is the one!” Do we do that or do we [motions for keeping quiet]? God showed Simeon and showed Anna, Jesus is the redeemer. And Jesus—as I said at the beginning and indicated—that he was raised in a family that was devoted to, truly loved God. And we see that re-emphasized in verses 39 to 40 where we see that Jesus grew up in obedience to God: “And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord,” Mary and Joseph here, “they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth,” which we know from chapter 1 they had come from, “and the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.”
Jesus grew up in obedience to God (vv. 39-40)
Now, this is where there is often some misunderstanding with who Jesus is. Some people point to verses like this and say, “See, Jesus was a mere human because he had to gain knowledge, he had to gain wisdom, and so he was not fully divine.” Some people say that, but that’s not what this text is saying. You see, Jesus has two natures (a human nature and a divine nature) and Luke here is referring to the human nature, not the divine nature. From infinity past to infinity future, Jesus is fully God. At this point as a baby, Jesus was fully God, never stopped being fully God. And Je—but Jesus also is fully human, and he is fully human, and it is his, it is his human side that grew up physically and learned as he grew. So, he’s referring to his human nature, not his divine nature.
Now, we know that Jesus was fully God, but we also know that Jesus in his first coming suppressed his divine nature. It was still there, but he didn’t express it, and we know that from Philippians 2 verse 8. However, there are some that say, “No, Jesus got rid of his divine nature; he stopped being God,” and I’m here to tell you that is a heresy that is very popular among people calling themselves Christians. And someone who says they are Christian and advocates that Jesus was in any way, in any capacity, at any moment not God is not a Christian, and you should reject anybody who denies the deity of Christ. Jesus has always been and always will be fully divine. He may not show it, but he is. But Jesus was also fully human, and we see that in the fact that he “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom.”
Jesus is redeemer, but in order to be redeemer, Jesus had to be perfect and blameless, and we see from the beginning and the end of this, Jesus is perfect and blameless. And from the prophecies given by Simeon and by Anna, Jesus is redeemer, and the way they know that: the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit.
But when Jesus was presented to them, Mary and Joseph’s life is never the same again. After this event, we know very little of what happened to Joseph, but we do know more about what happened to Mary. Her life was never the same. Simeon, although it doesn’t say he passed away, the implication is he shortly after this passed away. His life was never the same again after he encountered Jesus. Anna was never the same again after encountering Jesus.
We need to introduce people to Jesus and pray that God gives them an encounter with the redeemer, the redeemer who looked down—from before the incarnation—looked down on us, on the world, and said, “This world has fallen. This world is sinful. This world is corrupted. This world is condemned. This world is going to hell because this world has rejected God and, instead, they are serving themselves.” We were enemies, dead in our trespasses and sins, enemies of God, and yet Jesus humbled himself, was born, and shed his blood, hanging on a tree (which the Old Testament tells is the most dishonorable way to die, to be hung on a tree). And Jesus shed his blood because the only way to overcome sin is through the shedding of blood, and our blood is not good enough, it’s too tainted by sin. But Jesus’ blood is perfect and holy, and Jesus died on that cross. But on the third day, he rose again and revealed himself to hundreds—hundreds—of people.
Jesus is redeemer. Jesus is salvation.
And so I’ll simply close with this: many sit in here on Sundays, acknowledge that, praising God for that, celebrating Jesus, but then leave here, go out, and live for ourselves, for our own satisfaction, for our own pleasure, for our own timetables and say, “Mm, yeah Jesus is redeemer, but not for most of the week for me.”
If we have had an encounter with Jesus, that should change how we live. Has it? Has it? Our faith that we profess will be evident in the fruit of our lives. What does your fruit say of your faith?