Monday, December 28, 2015

Simeon and Anna at the Temple with Jesus (Luke 2:21-40).

God had promised Abraham a homeland and multiple descendants to bless the world. His descendants multiplied but ended up enslaved in Egypt. Then God delivers them from Egyptian slavery and calls them to be a ‘holy nation’. They began to take possession of their land, but the chaotic period of the Judges showed that they would need a king to be a ‘kingdom of priests’. God found a king after His own heart in David and David’s son, Solomon, developed the ‘Nation of Israel’ into an Empire. But, Solomon introduced an idolatry that split Israel and the ‘Northern kingdom’ was scattered by the Assyrians and the ‘Southern Kingdom’ was carried into ‘Exile in Babylon for 70 years’. The Persians conquered the Babylonians, allowing the Jews to return to their land. But Israel remained dominated by various pagan empires and at the time when Jesus was born God’s people were waiting for 'God’s King' to restore the kingdom and deliver God’s people.

Caesar Augustus ordered a census throughout the Roman world, so Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem in Judea to register. They went to Bethlehem, the town of Israel’s King David, because Joseph was from the line of David. In the Bethlehem Mary gave birth to a son who she wrapped in cloth and placed him in a manger. Then shepherds came saying that an angel had told them the child was ‘Christ the Lord’. The people there were amazed and Mary treasured the news in her heart. You can watch and or listen to the story of 'Simeon and Anna’ that happened after Jesus’ birth below. The story is coming from Luke 2:21-40.  
As faithful Jews, Joseph and Mary showed they trusted God by doing what was required in the ‘Law of Moses’. But they also had to submit to the ‘Roman Empire’. Their trip, prompted by Caesar’s census, took them from Nazareth in Galilee up to Bethlehem in Judea. They went to Bethlehem, the city of David, because Joseph was from the line of David. While in Bethlehem Mary gave birth to her firstborn, a son, and she wrapped him in cloth and laid him in a manger. When the shepherds found the newborn wrapped in cloth and in a manger, they knew they had found ‘the Christ’. So the shepherds told everyone the ‘good news of great joy’ about the child. Later when Mary and Joseph had the child circumcised, they named him Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived. When the time of preparation after childbirth was over they took Jesus to Jerusalem to consecrate their firstborn to the Lord and to offer a sacrifice acceptable to the Mosaic Law. Then after fulfilling their obligations the family returned to Nazareth in Galilee where Jesus grew strong, became wise and the grace of God was upon him.

The parents of God’s coming king, Mary and Joseph, were faithful to give the child the sign of the Abrahamic covenant. They were also faithful to give him the name Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived. They observed the period of purification after childbirth and they faithfully took Jesus to the temple to present him to the Lord. They also offered a sacrifice of either “a pair of doves or two pigeons” 
acceptable for the poor. In Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph met a righteous and devout man, Simeon, who was waiting for the consolation of Israel. The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die before he saw the ‘Lord’s Christ’. The Spirit led Simeon into the temple where he met Mary and Joseph. There Simeon took the baby in his arms and told the Lord that he was ready to depart this life in peace for he had seen the Lord’s salvation. The Holy Spirit led Simeon to recognize the child as the long anticipated Christ of God, and the fulfillment of Israel’s story. Moreover the Holy Spirit enabled him to see beyond his own salvation and that of Israel for he saw the child as a light of revelation to Gentiles.

God had chosen Abraham and Israel to bless the world and this is what Messiah Jesus came to do but not in way that most Israelites expected. Simeon spoke of Jesus as a sign to be spoken against and he told Mary that a sword would pierce her heart also. Mary would see her son rejected by the nation he came to console and be crucified in the Jerusalem he came to redeem. The child who would cause the falling and rising again of many in Israel would himself fall at the hands of the political and religious leaders. He would be defeated, put to death, and in so doing he would bear the penalty for sin. Then he would rise again from the dead and bring comfort and redeem his people. Joseph and Mary marveled at what Simeon said about their child. The child was the long anticipated Messiah but he would cause the falling and rising again of many in Israel. Ironically, Israel was living under Gentile domination but Messiah Jesus would be a light to the Gentiles. Also in the temple Mary and Joseph also found an elderly widow, a prophetess, named Anna. Anna had lived with her husband seven years but her husband had died. So Anna lived as a widow and she was now 84 years old. She stayed in the temple area where she worshiped God with fasting and prayer on a regular basis. When Anna saw the child she gave thanks and spoke about the child to those who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

God’s ‘coming king’ would bring about God’s reign in a most unexpected way. The Messiah would deal with the oppressive forces of this world and turn the tables on human evil. But he would do this by taking it upon himself in order to break its power in our lives. He would embrace the consequences of sin and evil without participating in it and would suffer its penalty. This was not what most expected but the story tells us that some did recognize and embrace Jesus as God’s ‘anticipated but unexpected’ king. The shepherds responded to the message of the angel by seeking the Christ child in Bethlehem. When they saw the child in a manger they told everyone about him. When the shepherds told everyone the people were amazed and Mary treasured and pondered the news in her heart. Simon had been promised by God that he would not die before he saw the ‘Lord’s Christ’ and he was led into the temple where the Spirit enabled him to embrace the child. Moreover Simeon saw the child as his savoir but also as the savior of the world. Anna, a prayerful 84 year old widow, saw the child andtold everyone who was waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem about him. Simeon and Anna were led by God to speak of the child and Mary and Joseph marveled at what was said about their child. All of these lived lives of faith and hope at a time when God would have seemed distant and unconcerned. They heard the ‘good news which God had prepared in the sight of all people’ and the Holy Spirit enabled them to recognize and embrace the child as God’s king and the world’s true Lord

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