In keeping with the law of Moses, just forty days after Jesus’ birth, Joseph and Mary made the five-to-six mile journey to Jerusalem for Mary’s purification and to present their firstborn to God. This would not have been an unlikely scene in Israelite culture, but the person the young family met upon arrival at their destination makes this trip to the temple stand out.
Simeon and Anna Encounter Jesus
Endearing as infants are, it isn’t hard to imagine many a smile and adoring glance being thrown Mary and Joseph’s way as they carried their new babe to Jerusalem. When they arrived at the temple, though, the young family was approached by a “righteous and devout” man named Simeon, who wasn’t coming to them with just a simple smile. We know that Simeon was elderly, and the Spirit—the same one that revealed to him that he would see the Messiah before his death—was upon him and led him to the temple grounds that very day, into Jesus’ presence. As Jesus’ parents brought their newborn to present him to God, Simeon took the infant Jesus in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:28–32 NRSV).
Simeon had waited for many years, patiently, to meet the Messiah, and he remained righteous as he grew older. But undoubtedly he grew weary at times during his waiting. It’s hard to miss his exuberant tone as he absorbed his current reality: the Messiah he had waited for, was finally there, in his own arms. What the Spirit revealed, the Spirit led him to see in the flesh. Mary and Joseph marveled at Simeon’s words (and his actions, no doubt—can you imagine?!) and he blessed them (vv. 33–34).
Having encountered Jesus, old Simeon was full of praise, was at peace, and was prepared to die.
Anna’s reaction to recognizing Jesus as Messiah at the temple was a little different. “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.” (Luke 2:38). According to Luke, she was an eighty-four-year- old widow, and unlike Simeon, she was not prepared to die. Rather she was a driven woman, ready to bear witness to what she had seen. Luke doesn’t tell us much more about her aside from the names of her tribe and father, but we know Anna was the first woman to understand fully and proclaim the good news, and the only woman explicitly described as “prophetess” in the New Testament. She “did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day” (Luke 2:37). Night and Day! Such devotion to spend her waking hours in spiritual discipline! Yet this lifestyle evidently invigorated her, for she was mobile, articulate, alert, spiritually savvy, and unselfish.
Having encountered Jesus, Anna was full of praise, was ready to speak, and was driven to make Jesus known in her community.
The response of godly people toward encountering the Messiah in the New Testament was praise. We see this response in Simeon and in Anna, and we in turn must ask if we see this response in ourselves. In this season, let your response to Him be praise, whenever you encounter Him. How do Simeon’s and Anna’s encounters with Jesus inspire you?
How do Simeon’s and Anna’s encounters with Jesus inspire you?
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