Lesson 7: Purification at the Temple / Return to Nazareth
Luke 2: 22-40
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A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. Lesson #7. Welcome again. We're ready to read Luke 2:22-38. Have you found that? Let's read! Iread, you read, we both read. So, let's read! "And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now letest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou has prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. And Joseph and his mother marveled at those things which were spoken of him. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (yea, the sword shall pierce through thy own soul also;) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher: she was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem."
Now, as I mentioned before, the text clearly states: THIS took place in Jerusalem, at the temple. Not only is this stated in v.37, the temple was the appropriate place according to that short chapter in Leviticus...i.e. Lev. ch. 12 (part of the O.T.). The book of Leviticus was more or less a handbook used by the priests. And, according to Lev. 12:4, Mary's purification (v.22 here in Luke ch. 2) and the sacrifice offered (here in v.24) was to take place on the 40th day of Jesus' life, i.e. 33 days after circumcision. Study Luke's expression "days were accomplished;" he uses these words in v.21, again in v.22. That's one of Luke's favorite expressions (take a look up in v.6). The parenthesis which makes up v.23 here was a quotation from Exodus 13:2, which applied to the first born male child. The sacrifice mentioned in v.24, "A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons" is discussed (for the priest's benefit) in Lev. 12:6. Actually, the sacrifice mentioned there was a Lamb of the first year AND a young pigeon. But down in v.8 of Lev. 12, an alternative was given for poor people. That alternative is the statement given here in Luke 2:24. Thus, this confirms that Mary and Joseph were dirt poor, a fact you undoubtedly suspected before.
The incident described in v.25-38 is very interesting to me. These characters that Mary and Joseph met in the temple that day: Simeon and Anna. Notice (v.25) "the Holy Ghost was upon" [Simeon]. AND, Anna was a prophetess (v.36). That's two ways of saying the same thing. Both were inspired of God, we would say. Now, take just a minute to get a handle on this. Maybe, I'm jumping the gun; but, there's something I want you to see here. I don't know how many times you have read the N.T.; but, John the Baptist and Jesus came into the world at a time when the Jewish people were divided and subdivided, split and resplit. It reminds me of today with all the denominations of Christendom, so-to-speak. It's not uncommon (today) to find four denominations all located at one intersection. One may be called the "First something or another." Another will be "The United Blankety-blank." Then another will be the "Church of Saint so-and-so". The one that says "first" was not first at all! The one that says "United" may be the most divided group on the block. And St.. so and so may have been an atheist. Yet, every group has their own little loyal crowd, their own creed book, and their headquarters some place-or-another where the send their money. In Jesus' time there were the Sadducees, the Pharisee, the Herodians, the Essene, the Zealots, and the Lord knows what else. Jesus and John condemned them all. Now, as I said, we haven’t got to all that yet. But, let me ask you a question? What was the religious affiliation of Simeon, Anna, Joseph, Mary, Elisabeth and Zechariah? Well, they were all Jews. Mary and Joseph were of the tribe of Judah through David. Zechariah and Elisabeth were of the tribe of Levi through Aaron, we learned up in Luke 1:5. Anna was of the tribe of Asher, (v.36). Simeon was a Jew; I don't Know which tribe. He very well could have been the priest, and thus of the tribe of Levi. But, that was their ancestry! That was not a religion sect. But, my question is, which one of these Jewish splinter groups did they belong to? Have you got my question? Now, it's a good question, and I want you to hang on to my question and give it a lot of thought. What WERE THEY religiously? V.25 here says, Simeon "was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel? and the Holy Ghost was upon him." Zechariah was "filled with the Holy Ghost" (Luke 1:67). "Elisabeth was filled with the Holy ghost." (Luke 1:41). Up in Luke 1:6, it said Zechariah and Elisabeth, "were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." i.e. they were keeping the Law of Moses the way it was supposed to be kept. Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit. God sent an angel to Joseph. These were righteous people. God's people! People living according to God's instruction. "Blameless" they are describe up in Luke 1:6. But, my question is: With which, religious sect of the Jews should they be classified? Now, I hope you're catching on! My point is simply, they were NOT. They were NOT of this sect or that sect. They were just plain Jews, simply keeping God's 10 commandment law, as all good Israelites were supposed to do! They were NOT hyphenated Israelites, they were just plain God-fearing Jews. Yes, but Bro. Horsley, they have to be something. Have you run into that mentality? Why did God select these people, Zechariah, Elisabeth, Anna, Simeon, Joseph and Mary, to break that 400 years of silence? Why did he not go to the sect of the blankety-blanks? There's a great lesson here! I don't want to overdo; but a lot of people never see it. If the Lord came today, which of the modern sects would he claim? Have you ever thought about it? There's that sectarian mentality today which says, you've got to be something/ this sect or that sect If they can't pigeonhole you any other way they'll classify you as Catholic, Protestant or Jew. And, MANY in our creed-bound, denomination-divided age today don't even realize it's possible to be just a plain God-fearing, Bible obeying Christian. They go around trying to select a sect that is compatible with them. If they're divorced, they want to identify with a group who says divorce is all right. If they don't want to attend the services, they want to find a group who says it's not necessary. If money is their god, they want to identify with a sect who says giving isn't important. They think God will accept ANYTHING, if they will just find some sect (or some group) who will endorse their sin. Study those verses and these characters very thoroughly. You won't find that mentality with these people. Mary said (Luke 1:38), "Behold the handmaid of the Lord!", i.e. if that's what the Lord wants, that what the Lord gets. She didn't say, (she didn't even think): Gabriel go find someone else. Gabriel, this might be embarrassing to me. Gabriel, this would up-set Joseph, my fiancé. You see, these people were "walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the lord blameless." (Luke 1:6). To put it simply, God came first in their lives. Now, someone is going to say I've quit studying and started meddling. You can say it any way you like. But, observe what the book is REALLY saying.
Now, why did Luke introduce Anna and Simeon here? You see, Luke wants us to see, that even in the middle of all that Jewish sectarian competition back there at the time of Herod, there were some (even then) who were just plain servants of God. OH! They were hard to find. And their hard to find now! But, there WERE SOME then, and there ARE some now. They're not the headline makers. Zechariah and Elisabeth lived back in the hill country of Judea where you couldn't found them with a compass. Mary lived in a little obscure hill-side town called Nazareth. Anna was an old lady, 84 years old, apparently that what v.37 means. The KJV would imply she had been a widow .for 84 years. If you interpret it that way, she was even older. But, other translations consider it her age. Eight-four years old. She was still serving! She served God with fasting and prayers night and day (v.37). Do you see it? She didn't spend her time defending The traditions of the Pharisees or the doctrines of the Sadducees. Both sects would probably have considered her a kook! But, do you want to know what God's opinion was? Now, that's what counts! God used Simeon and Anna to give Joseph and Mary a little encouragement. Can you imagine what a stressful time that must have been for Joseph and Mary? V.27 says, Simeon came by the Spirit into the temple. Now, take the time to notice, that word "Spirit" is capitalized. And the word is used synonymously with Holy Ghost. Just an observation. So, get it in your cranium now. We're going to bump into it over and over. It has to with behind-the-scenes activity, as we called it before. The behind-the-scenes arrangements are not discussed here; but, Luke is simply making you aware that the Holy Ghost was doing his job, and such arrangements were made.
Did you notice in v.27 that Joseph and Mary are referred to as "parents" of the child Jesus? Is that accurate? Now, Mary was Jesus' mother but Joseph was not Jesus' biological father, both Matthew and Luke go to the extreme to make this abundantly clear, Was Joseph a parent? What do you think? Sure he was! One doesn't have to be a biological parent to be a parent. First of all, I would conclude that Jesus' virgin birth at that time was NOT widely known. It became widely known, later. But, Mary and Joseph didn't go around publicizing it. Do you remember Joseph1 alternatives he was apparently considering when the angel appeared? I'm talking about Matt. 1:19.Then, Joseph was instructed to disregard any qualms he had about Mary. AND, you will remember, Joseph was instructed about the child: what to name the child, AND that the child Jesus was divinely conceived. Thus, it would appear to me the Holy Spirit was trying to normalize the lifestyle and parental duties of Joseph and Mary. Matthew 1:19 says, Joseph was a just man. Now, that's one of the reasons the Holy Ghost picked Joseph, to be Jesus' parent, you see. Thus, the word "parents." (plural) in v.27 is the correct word.
Alright, we're ready to discuss v.28-32. Simeon, I would assume and old man, (although it doesn't really say that), took the baby Jesus in his arms and prayed, v.29-32. You may want to re-read that. Simeon was made aware by the Holy Ghost, (v.26) that he would not die until the messiah had come. He says in his prayer that God has
prepared salvation "before the face of all people." Then in v.32 Simeon said Jesus was "A light to lighten the. Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel." Notice that he referred to Jesus as a "light." (v.32). That was the same figure John used in his prologue (John 1:7-8-9). Who would he enlighten? "ALL PEOPLE", (end of v.31), "to lighten the Gentiles, AND the glory of thy people Israel." Thus, Simeon, very specifically understood Jesus' mission and therefore declares God's purpose in sending Jesus into the world. The word "Gentile" here simply means "non-Jew" so this is saying the mission of Jesus will reach beyond the Jewish people to "all people." (v.31). Joseph and Mary marveled at this, v.33. This simply confirmed what they already knew, really; but, that didn't take the awe out of it. They were still amazed. Then in response to their amazement Simeon made some more inspired comments to them in v.34-35. "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel." How could those things that happened at the time of the cross be paraphrased in symbolic language any better? "...a sign which shall be spoken against." Then in v.35 Simeon reminded Mary how painful it would be for her. And you and I can only imagine how painful it must have been 33 years later for Mary to stand and watch Jesus die such a terrible death on the cross. In a symbolic way this must have been worse than a sword piercing one's soul. .
Then in v.36-38 we are introduced to Anna. Notice the words in v.38, "she...gave thanks likewise." Thus, Anna had some very interesting things to say, very much like Simeon, except those things are not recorded for us. Then it's interesting in the last part of v.38, that Anna "spoke of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem." Now what Anna "spoke of him" we are not told. But, this thought may contain the key to the reason for Luke introducing Simeon and Anna at this point. You see, there were other people in Jerusalem who looked for the coming of the Lord, as prophesied in the O.T. How many, we are not told. But, one cannot read this without thinking of the great question that Jesus asked one day, several years later, recorded in Luke 18:8, "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" SOME, were looking for the redemption of Israel when Jesus came the first time, i.e.. DEVOUTLY looking!
Now, v.39-40, Lets read! "And when they had performed all these things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him."
Alright, these few strokes of Luke's pen cover at least 12 years of Jesus' life, similar to the way lie covered 30 years in the life of John the Baptist back in the last verse of ch. 1. Luke is ready to skip on. "When they had performed these things..." (v.39) has reference to the sacrifice offered up in v.24. There is a lot said in v.40; but, I don't think, you need much explanation to understand it. Just like John was in the desert, Jesus grew up in Nazareth. V.40 simply means, Jesus had a normal human body and the usual development of growth took place and he developed as a normal boy. God's grace was upon him. Wisdom does not mean knowledge. Wisdom means the ability to use knowledge when knowledge is acquired. Thus, we are told in essence, that Jesus was a very practical person in his youth. They returned to Nazareth, and from the broad point of view, as Luke paints the picture, that was it. Now, Matthew (in his account) fills in a few blanks in the story of the wise men that we don't get here in Luke. We'll cover that in Lesson-# 8. Until then, have a good day!