VCCA bible class on Luke 2:25-52
I am the pastor of a church and we are so blessed to have many marriages that have stood the test of time. We have many couples in our church who have been married around 50 years or more. We have some that have been married over 60 years. This past summer I went to my nephew’s wedding and something happened that made me realize just how easy it would be to neglect seeing the importance of such faithfulness and longevity in marriage. In our church it seems common but in the world it is not so common.
After the wedding we went to the reception and at one point the MC of the ceremony asked all the married couples to come to the dance floor and dance with their spouse. As the music played he would ask all the couples who had been married less than ten years to sit down. Later he would ask all of those who had been marred less than two decades to sit down. At that point there were only three couples who remained on the dance floor. All of them had been married less than three decades. One couple (my brother and his wife) had been married twenty-nine years. My wife and I had been married for twenty-seven years. And another couple had been married twenty-six years. Since my brother and his wife had been married the longest the MC told them to give the newly married couple any advice about marriage.
I will admit that I was shocked that there were so few people who had been married for such a short period of time. Life is hard and living together with another person is very difficult at times. As I looked around that room I considered how many of these people had probably been in marriages that ended in divorce. I also considered just how different this environment was from the families in my church. In my church my wife and I are the newlyweds when compared to so many of the other couples. I am grateful for their presence in our church and the testimony and encouragement their marriages can be to so many.
I mention all of this because it helps to appreciate what we see in our text today. In Luke 2:25-52 we see two older saints who have lived faithful lives to the LORD. As a result, they are some of the first people to be filled with the Holy Spirit and who testify as to the person of Jesus Christ and all that He would accomplish among us. As we have seen already, we can find faithful people anywhere, like the shepherds at the beginning of this chapter; however, it should not surprise us that faithful people are most often found consistently coming to the place of worship where the Word of God is taught, prayers are corporately offered, and Christian fellowship happens. We have two examples of this today in Simeon and Anna who lived long faithful lives unto the LORD.
We also get to see Jesus as a child when He is compelled to be in His Father’s House hearing and speaking about the Word of God. One commentator has rightly said that in Luke’s gospel ‘we get our first glimpse of spiritual greatness’. I am grateful for the testimony of these faithful older witnesses that we are given in Simeon and Anna; however, I am more grateful for the glimpse we get to see of Jesus Himself! In Luke’s gospel we get our first glimpse of spiritual greatness and by the grace of God that comes through Jesus I want to be more like Him!
The first person that we are introduced to is a man named Simeon in Luke 2:25-35. The first historical fact about Simeon is that he was a ‘man’, “Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout.” When the LORD first announced the birth of His Son he came to ordinary people- shepherds. Now we see that God does not reveal His Son to a priest, a Pharisee, the High Priest, or to one of Israel’s religious leaders, but to an ordinary man.
This man is described in several different ways. First, he was a righteous man. What does this mean? Well, in the scriptures a righteous person is a person who has faith in God and what He has said. A righteous person is a person who through faith receives salvation and bears fruit of that righteousness in their lives.
Secondly, Simeon is described as a ‘devout’ person. This is a rare word that speaks of a fact that he had a great reverence for God and His Word. Simeon was a man of faith whose heart was consecrated to the LORD and His will.
Thirdly, Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel. This means that he was looking for the Promised One who would come and deliver His people from their suffering. Simeon was an older man who was righteous by faith and devout in heart and because of this he kept himself from being destroyed by sin. And yet, as a sinner in need of a Savior Simeon longed for Israel’s consolation to appear who would deliver His people from their greatest enemy sin. Other than Christ there is no person who does not suffer because of sin. No, all creation is groaning because of sin. Simeon knew this suffering and looked expectantly for the Promised Savior.
Fourth, the Holy Spirit was upon him. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit would come upon certain individuals to fulfill specific callings. The Holy Spirit would come upon the prophets, the priests, the kings and other individuals that God was using for His purposes. In this case, Simeon was enabled by the Spirit in four ways. First, he was given a promise by the Spirit that he would not die until the Promised One had come. Secondly, Simeon was compelled to come to the Temple when the LORD Jesus was brought there by His parents. Third, the Holy Spirit also made Simeon aware of who Jesus was when he was brought into the Temple. Fourth, the Holy Spirit spoke through Simeon as he took up the child and blessed God.
By the Spirit Simeon says, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all the people, a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (29-32) After this he turns to Jesus’ parents and blesses them and says to Mary, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from the many hearts will be revealed.” (34-35)
In Luke 2:36-38 we get to read about the faithful testimony of Anna concerning Jesus. In the scriptures one of the things that is done to emphasize certain important things is to put these things first. That is what happens here. The very first thing that the scriptures want us to know about this woman is that she declared the Word of the LORD and loved the scriptures, “And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.”
Anna is one of the rare instances where God gives her direct revelation. The fact that she spoke the Word of God is emphasized first and foremost over her family ties and her tribal ties. It seems to me that this is almost the exact opposite of what happens today. The first thing that we emphasize about people is their family background, their ethnic background, their cultural background, their gender, etc. Anna was a woman who was known for having spoken the Word of God. People like this are rare and they are quite valuable. She was a woman of the Word, she was a woman of prayer, she was a widow who fully devoted herself to the LORD and honoring Him.
Anna was of the tribe of Asher which was one of the ten northern tribes but she lived in Jerusalem in the south. She lived there for one simple reason. It was because she wanted to be by the Temple and to worship the LORD there at all times. We are told that she ‘worshiped with fasting and prayer day and night’.
There are still people like this today. In our congregation we have a couple who moved from Wisconsin Rapids to Stevens Point to live by our church. They made this big change because they wanted to invest their lives into this particular church as they serve the LORD with their time, their talents and their grace gifts. I am so grateful for people like this!
When Joseph and Mary brought their infant son into the Temple Anna gave thanks to God and began to speak to everyone who was waiting for the redemption of Israel. These words, “spoke of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Israel”, are interesting. Anna is like a street preacher who calls out the gospel to everyone as they walk throughout the busy city streets. And yet, there are really only some of the people who really hear and understand and appreciate the significance of what is being said. So too, Anna spoke to everyone but only those whose hearts had been prepared through the waiting and anticipation of being redeemed heard and payed attention to her. No doubt, there were many who did not listen for many reasons, but those who were waiting for redemption listened to her.
Question, do you listen to the message of redemption through this one man Jesus Christ? Some are drawn to Christianity because it provides religious structure. Others like it because they grew up in the church. Still others are connected to it because it provides friends and a social network. There are some who only go to a church that discusses end times, or the prosperity gospel, or because their church is a social and political force to be reckoned with. Anna, however, spoke about Jesus and the redemption that comes only through him. Those who knew their sin, those who were willing to repent of their sins, and those who looked for salvation from the LORD by faith in Christ alone paid attention to her words.
While they were there they met two faithful older saints who encouraged them in the faith. Church should encourage us in many ways. The Word encourages us, prayer encourage us, fellowship encourages us, carrying eachothers burdens helps us, etc. And yet, we see in vs 41-42 that Joseph and Mary did this primarily out of obedience to the LORD. They went to do this according to custom. Their devotion is far different than you see in so many today. So many people today won't go to church if they don't get something out of it.
After they did all that was required by the Law they did not stay in Jerusalem. No, they returned to Nazareth. While they were there the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom and the favor of God was upon Him. One commentator said this, “Jesus grew up like any other child in Nazareth, He grew up in a very normal way physically, He grew up abnormally mentally, and Jesus grew up abnormally spiritually.”
In other words, Jesus looked like any other child. To see Him you would say He was like any other boy. However, to get to know Him and to hear Him speak you would soon discover that He was very smart and very spiritually mature beyond His years. He was growing in the grace and favor of God. We too receive this grace and can reflect the same spiritual growth and growth in wisdom through Christ. We have been adopted into God’s family through our faith in Christ. We are not only legally God’s children but we are also given His nature, the Holy Spirit and His wisdom to grow in the grace of God.
In Luke 2:41-52 we now get a glimpse of Jesus’ spiritual greatness as He visits Jerusalem with His parents for one of the feasts according to the custom (42). We read in verse 41 that His parents went to the feast every year. Only the men of Israel were required to go to these feasts but very devout families would all come. To attend these feasts Mary and Joseph would have to travel around 100 miles which would have taken three or four days to make. At this time Mary and Joseph had other kids so this journey would take a lot of effort but the payoff for people of faith was worth the effort.
One of the interesting things to consider about Jesus while He was in Jerusalem was that He had probably been there for a week and during that time He probably often could be found in the Temple where He loved to be. At this time some of the greatest teachers of the day could be found reading the scriptures and speaking about them. After this time Jesus was in not hurry to leave. He longed to be in His Father’s house growing in wisdom and understanding. Perhaps this is why later Jesus will say to His parents, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Jesus appears to have made his affections for being at the Temple very clear when they would be in Jerusalem. Anyone who knew this boy would have come to realize that He loved being there.
After the feast the family was returning home and they did not realize that Jesus had not come with them. His parents return to Jerusalem and find Jesus in the Temple. Here this twelve year old was amazing the religious scholars with His questions and with His responses.
His parents, though relieved that Jesus had been found, nevertheless were in great distress. Yet, Jesus was honoring God in all these things. His mother and father simply did not yet understand their Son and what drove Him at all times. Yet, in the end Jesus submitted to them and returned to Nazareth. We are told again that Mary treasured all these things in her heart and that Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
This morning we have seen two faithful saints in Simeon and Anna. They ought to encourage us that it is possible for our faith to endure and remain strong throughout our lifetime. Anna experienced the death of her husband as a young woman but after this she dedicated herself to a life time of dedicated service to the LORD. We have also seen the greatness of Jesus’ spirituality. In Jesus we see how the first Adam should have lived as He honored the Father and believed His Word. Hopefully as we consider Jesus we are drawn to love the things He loved.
If we want to be distracted in life from these things there are limitless opportunities. We can spend hours on the computer, in front of the television, doing our hobbies. And yet, we don’t expect that our kids can learn to crave pure spiritual milk when their parents raise them in godly homes that seek to honor the LORD and do the things that please Him. As a pastor I have heard every excuse as to why we don’t believe our kids can love church, reading the Word and prayer. I like being at a church where we have our kids in with the parents on Sundays. In this I think we reflect the way Jesus was brought up and our kids will be the better for it.