Luke 2:21-40

Study Date -

Study Type - Adult Lesson

Fellowship - Friday Night Salt and Light

Series - Luke 2015-16

Book - Luke

Anna, circumcision, circumcision of Jesus, dedication of the firstborn, prophetess, Simeon

Luke 2:21
And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called JESUS, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.
As we saw when we studied the naming of John the Baptist in Luke 1, the requirement to circumcise male children on the eighth day comes from the Abrahamic covenant…
Genesis 17:12a
He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations
The translators of the NKJV and KJV chose to write the name of JESUS in all capitals here in this verse to emphasize the deity of Jesus, just as the covenant Name of God – יְהֹוָה Yĕhovah – is written in most English language translations in all capitals when it is translated as Lord. The Greek Name is Ἰησοῦς Iēsous. It is the Greek translation for the Hebrew Name יְהוֹשׁוּעַ Yĕhowshuwa` (sometimes spelled יהושע or יהושוע and sometimes pronounced Yĕhshuwa`) meaning יְהֹוָה Yĕhovah is salvation.
As Luke points out here, this is indeed the Name given to Mary by Gabriel when he proclaimed the coming birth of the Savior. But Gabriel, being a created being just like us, did not give Jesus this Name. Jesus never received His Name at all. He has possessed all of His Names – e.g. Elohim, Yehovah, Adonai, Immanuel – to list just a few, since before the beginning. He always was, and therefore always had all His Names. As Paul wrote to the Philippians…
Philippians 2:9-11
9Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
When we studied Philippians, I mentioned that for me, among all His marvelous Names, His Name above every Name must be – The Word of God – but perhaps the Name above every Name is the one that only He knows…
Revelation 19:11-13
11Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 12His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. 13He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
Luke 2:22-24
22Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD”), 24and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
Under the law Mary could not enter the temple for 40 days following the birth of Jesus…
Leviticus 12:1-4
1Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2“Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean. 3And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4She shall then continue in the blood of her purification thirty-three days. She shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled. 5‘But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her customary impurity, and she shall continue in the blood of her purification sixty-six days.
The family apparently stayed in Bethlehem for this time. It is unclear whether they stayed with the animals the entire time, someone took them in, or they were finally able to find a place in the inn after the hubbub of the census taking had died down in the city. Joseph was clearly not financially well off, because when, at last, they did go up to Jerusalem, we see them offering a pair of birds for Mary’s purification, rather than a lamb. Therefore, it is unlikely that the family would have been able to afford to stay in the inn (or even the manger which they no doubt had to rent as well) for the entire time.
After these days of purification, a new mother was required to present herself at the temple with a burnt offering and a sin offering…
Leviticus 12:6-8
6“When the days of her purification are fulfilled, whether for a son or a daughter, she shall bring to the priest a lamb of the first year as a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove as a sin offering, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 7Then he shall offer it before the LORD, and make atonement for her. And she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who has borne a male or a female.
8‘And if she is not able to bring a lamb, then she may bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons—one as a burnt offering and the other as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’
The law concerning consecration and redemption of the firstborn male children is somewhat unclear. Luke says here “they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.” Notice that no sacrifice for Jesus’ redemption is mentioned per se. Immediately after leading the nation out of Egypt following the deaths of all the Egyptians’ firstborn, God had said that all Israel’s firstborn would be His, and that they must be redeemed…
Exodus 13:11-13
11“And it shall be, when the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as He swore to you and your fathers, and gives it to you, 12that you shall set apart to the LORD all that open the womb, that is, every firstborn that comes from an animal which you have; the males shall be the LORD’s. 13But every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb; and if you will not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. And all the firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.
Then, during the wandering in the wilderness, God said that He would take all the children of Levi for Himself instead of the firstborn sons of the other tribes…
Numbers 3:11-13
11Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 12“Now behold, I Myself have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the children of Israel. Therefore the Levites shall be Mine, 13because all the firstborn are Mine. On the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast. They shall be Mine: I am the LORD.”
It is therefore unclear whether this dedication of the entire tribe of Levi relieved the parents of the other tribes (remember that Joseph and Mary were from Judah) of the need to redeem their firstborn males. It is clear, though, that no provision was made for the poor to redeem their firstborn sons with birds rather than a lamb, so the sacrifice Luke speaks of here must have been for Mary’s purification.
Luke 2:25
25And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
Here we see yet another of Jesus’ Names – The Consolation of Israel. The Greek word here is παράκλησις paraklēsis. It means…
  • a calling near, summons, (esp. for help)
  • importation, supplication, entreaty
  • exhortation, admonition, encouragement
  • consolation, comfort, solace; that which affords comfort or refreshment – especially of the Messianic salvation (so the Rabbis call the Messiah the consoler, the comforter)

παράκλησις paraklēsis is the root word for the Name Jesus gave for His Holy Spirit – παράκλητος paraklētos in…

John 16:5-11
5“But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper [παράκλητος paraklētos] will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
παράκλητος paraklētos means…
  • summoned, called to one’s side, esp. called to one’s aid
  • one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant, an advocate
  • one who pleads another’s cause with one, an intercessor – of Christ in his exaltation at God’s right hand, pleading with God the Father for the pardon of our sins
  • in the widest sense, a helper, succorer, aider, assistant – of the Holy Spirit destined to take the place of Christ with the apostles (after his ascension to the Father), to lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth, and give them divine strength needed to enable them to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom

παράκλητος paraklētos is the same word John later uses when he speaks of Jesus’ intercession for us in the presence of the Father.

1 John 2:1-2
1My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate [παράκλητος paraklētos] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
Note that παράκλητος paraklētos is not the same word used in the latter half of Luke 2:25 and elsewhere to refer to God’s Holy Spirit. Ordinarily, when you see the phrase “Holy Spirit” in the New Testament, the original Greek words are ἅγιος hagios meaning holy, and πνεῦμα pneuma meaning spirit or ghost. πνεῦμα pneuma is also used to refer to the spiritual component of a person’s being as in…
Luke 1:47 (from the Song of Mary)
And my spirit [πνεῦμα pneuma] has rejoiced in God my Savior.
…or to a human attitude or mind-set as in…
1 John 4:1-3
1Beloved, do not believe every spirit, [πνεῦμα pneuma] but test the spirits, [πνεῦμα pneumaa] whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2By this you know the Spirit[πνεῦμα pneuma]of God: Every spirit[πνεῦμα pneuma] that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3and every spirit[πνεῦμα pneuma] that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
Note that the phrase which is translated “is the spirit of the Antichrist” reads simply “is Antichrist” in the original Greek.
Luke 2:26-32
26And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, 28he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:
29“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
30For my eyes have seen Your salvation
31Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
32A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”
This prophecy stands fairly on its own. Simeon’s patient faith is a testimony for all of us. Notice that Simeon reiterates the prophecies of Isaiah that Jesus would be the Savior not only for the children of Israel, but for all mankind’
Isaiah 49:6
Indeed He says,
‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob,
And to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,
That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.'”
Isaiah 42:1-7
1“Behold! My Servant whom I uphold,
My Elect One in whom My soul delights!
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.
2He will not cry out, nor raise His voice,
Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.
3A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench;
He will bring forth justice for truth.
4He will not fail nor be discouraged,
Till He has established justice in the earth;
And the coastlands shall wait for His law.”
5Thus says God the LORD,
Who created the heavens and stretched them out,
Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it,
Who gives breath to the people on it,
And spirit to those who walk on it:
6“I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness,
And will hold Your hand;
I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the Gentiles,
7To open blind eyes,
To bring out prisoners from the prison,
Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.
Jesus would later also refer back to this prophecy of Isaiah in answer to the question of John the Baptist – “Are you the Coming One or do we look for another?” (c.f. Luke 7:19). Of course, Jesus’ salvation for the Gentiles is also fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.
Genesis 28:14
Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
Luke 2:33-35
33And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. 34Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against 35(yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
Clearly Simeon had been given a genuine prophetic word from God regarding Jesus. Although, it says here in verse 33 that Joseph and Mary “marveled” at this word, just as the people of Bethlehem “marveled” at the testimony of the shepherds, it is clear they both believed that Jesus is the Messiah. We saw Mary’s profession of faith when we studied the Song of Mary (Magnificat) in Luke 1. Joseph was also clearly a believer. We can discern this from…
Matthew 1:18-25
18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”
22So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
24Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.
Notice that Joseph immediately put his faith into action, trusting in the word of the angel, and taking Mary as his wife despite all the cultural condemnation that went along with her not being (as was supposed by everyone else) a virgin. Surely these young parents must have also been familiar with all the prophecies concerning the Messiah, including Isaiah 53, which foretold His suffering. In response to Simeon’s prophecy, they must have been filled with a maelstrom of conflicting emotions – joy that their Son would bring salvation to His people, but also deep sorrow knowing first that Jesus would not reach the hearts of the entire nation, and second that He would have to suffer and be reviled in order to establish the salvation of the portion of mankind who would believe.
This is the sword that Simeon speaks of here. I have never been a mother, so I can’t even imagine the deep anguish Mary endured, knowing that Jesus would be tortured and killed bringing salvation to His people, just as Isaiah had foretold. Imagine the turmoil in Mary’s heart as she later witnessed Jesus’ ministry, seeing His joyous proclamation of God’s redemption reveal the hardened ears and hearts of the religious establishment, and Hellenized well-to-do class of His people, and knowing that their rejection of salvation in Him doomed them to a deadly fall just as Simeon had prophesied.
Luke 2:36-38
36Now 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; 37and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
We have no way to determine exactly how old Anna was at the time of this encounter with the baby Jesus and His family. Assuming, though, she was married sometime around the age of 15 as was usual in ancient Hebrew culture, she would have been somewhere around 105 years old on this day – She was of a great age indeed!
We are not given the details of her prophecy concerning Jesus, if any, but we can see that she was a person who didn’t simply rest on her faith, but exercised it day-by-day. We see here that she did not allow the devastating loss of her husband at a tender age to deter her from living out the rest of her life energetically. On the contrary, what a tremendous example she set for her contemporaries and for us all. Not only that, we see that she chose the most excellent life possible – one of full devotion to God – rather than a life of remorse about all of her “might have beens.”
Notice also that – like the shepherds, Joseph, Mary, and Simeon – Anna immediately set her faith into action when she encountered the Messiah – Jesus.
Luke 2:39-40
39So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. 40And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
So, about eight weeks (assuming a week’s travel on foot both ways) after leaving Nazareth for the census in Bethlehem, the family finally returned home. The story of this momentous journey must have been told and re-told in their family and among their neighbors, as it has indeed been passed down to us. This makes it all the more incredible that the people of Nazareth did not believe in Jesus, and that his own brothers didn’t come to believe in Him until after he ascended to Heaven. Perhaps that shouldn’t surprise us. After all, even today, we have this story given to us in the pages of Scripture, yet there are relatively few who believe the Gospel.
Luke uses an interesting phrase here in verse 40 – “And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom.” Here we see once again the great mystery of God coming in the flesh of the Child – Jesus. God can be said to be the most learning disabled person in the universe. He has always known all things. He is utterly incapable of learning or experiencing anything new. He cannot be surprised in any way. Furthermore, since God is one – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – it is impossible for Him to grow strong in the Spirit. He is the Spirit! Yet somehow God became the man – Jesus – fully human in every regard so that He might become our great High Priest.
Hebrews 4:14-16
14Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
How Jesus Immanuel – God with us – could be both God for all eternity past and future, yet have come in the flesh to learn and grow, and be tempted, tortured, and murdered as our atoning sacrifice, is indeed a most profound mystery.

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