31 December 2012

Luke 2:36-40

"She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day." (v. 37)


Joseph and Mary, as observant Jews, brought the baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (Luke 2:22) and to offer the sacrifice prescribed by the law to enable Mary and Joseph to participate again in the temple rituals following the birth of their child (Luke 2:24).

It is in this context that we have the stories of the recognition of Jesus as the Messiah on the part of Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:25-38). The story of Anna is significant. In Jewish society women were treated as second-class citizens and were not permitted to testify in any legal case. Yet Luke here treats her as a woman of extraordinary piety and her testimony as being just as valid as that of Simeon (verses 37-38). This fits in with a general trend in Luke's writings (Luke's Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles) regarding the status of women.

Luke seems to have been unaware of the stories in Matthew 2 of the visit of the wise men, the flight of the holy family into Egypt, and Herod's slaughter of the innocent children of Bethlehem, and tells us simply that they returned to Nazareth when they had fulfilled their duties at the temple.

The next 12 years of Jesus' life are covered by a single verse (verse 40). Jesus grew up as a normal child at home with Mary and Joseph. His true humanity is presupposed, but there is also a hint of his divine powers in the references to his extraordinary wisdom and experience of the favour of God. This combination is important for Luke and other New Testament writers, because it tells us that Jesus can not only sympathise with us in our humanity, but also help us at our point of need.

To Ponder

  • Anna "worshipped … with fasting and prayer night and day". How seriously do you take the call to worship God in your own life?
  • Anna spoke about Jesus "to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (v. 38). How eager are you to speak about Jesus to those around you who are looking for freedoms of a different kind?

Bible notes author

The Revd Peter Ensor

Peter Ensor is a Methodist minister who teaches New Testament, biblical languages, and Early Church history at Cliff College, Derbyshire. He has also worked as a theological educator in Kenya, Cameroon and Ethiopia, and has served in three english circuits, latterly as superintendent of the Hazel Grove and Poynton Circuit in the Manchester District.