Offering and Dedication (2:22-24)
After the birth of Jesus, Joseph, Mary and Jesus travel to Jerusalem. The law of Moses prescribed for the mother to perform a purification ceremony forty days after giving birth to a son (Leviticus 12:2-8).
6 "’And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering, 7 and he shall offer it before the LORD and make atonement for her. Then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, either male or female. 8 And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.’" (Leviticus 12:6-8; ESV)
Mary needed to go to Jerusalem and make her offering. Notice that the command was to offer a year old lamb as a burnt offering and a turtledove for a sin offering. However, if she could not afford a lamb, she could offer two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for the burnt offering and one for the sin offering. Notice that Mary is offering two turtledoves or pigeons. In our last lesson we considered that Jesus is a king for the people who knows what you are going through. We see this point enhanced that Joseph and Mary are not rich people. They could not afford the lamb for the burnt offering and so Mary offers two birds instead, as prescribed by the law.
But the greater point in verses 22-24 is that Joseph and Mary are devout, law-abiding Jews. We are seeing that Joseph and Mary are God-fearing people. Further, Jesus had to be presented for the firstborn dedication. The firstborn was dedicated and presented to the Lord as "holy to the Lord." No truer words were said of any infant boy presented at the temple. Jesus is truly "holy to the Lord."
Simeon’s Prophecy (2:25-35)
Now hold this picture for a moment. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus are on their way to the temple complex in Jerusalem. Meanwhile there is a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He is a righteous and devout man. The Holy Spirit is upon him so he receives prophetic messages from God. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel to arrive. Simeon is not waiting for the hope of Israel to arrive simply because he is righteous. Rather, it was revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Simeon is in the temple complex as Joseph, Mary, and Jesus approach. Simeon, through the knowledge and revelation of the Holy Spirit, takes baby Jesus in his arms and blesses God. Verses 29-32 record his offering of praise. There are a couple of points to note from Simeon’s praise.
(1) God keeps his word. Simeon says that now he able to die in peace because God has kept his word. God said that Simeon would not die until he had seen the Messiah, the Lord’s anointed one. God keeps his word. Can you imagine what a strange life that would have been like for Simeon? Each day he woke up knowing that he was not going to die today because death could not happen until he saw the Savior of the world. Now that promise of God has been fulfilled.
(2) Jesus is a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Israel. Isaiah prophesied in Isaiah 42:6 and Isaiah 49:6 that light would be brought to the Gentiles and salvation would go to the ends of the earth. Jesus is not just for Israel, but is for the world. This is a key theme in Luke-Acts: salvation is for all people, including the Gentiles. Here is one of the early markers to establish that point.
With these words, Joseph and Mary are amazed at what was said. But Simeon has even more to say, as recorded in verses 34-35. Jesus is appointed to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel. This was also prophesied by Isaiah in Isaiah 8:14-15. Jesus is going to be a divisive figure for Israel, and for the world. Many are going to stumble when it comes to who Jesus is and what we are commanded to do. Some will understand that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah who has come to save the world. Others will not. So the nation of Israel is going to be divided over Jesus. Some will see him as someone who must be opposed. Remember in our introduction to Luke’s gospel, one of our questions that Luke is going to answer is how can Jesus be the Savior and Messiah when his own people rejected him and killed him. Luke already is setting a foundation to answer this charge. Simeon is predicting that some will accept and others will reject. Some are going to directly oppose Jesus. This is not to be surprise.
Lesson #1: I think this is a challenging point for us even today. I believe we struggle with the notion that people are going to oppose and reject Jesus. They are not going to just reject Jesus, but are going to vigorously and vehemently oppose Jesus. People like Richard Dawkins who describe Christians as mindless, know nothings are going to oppose Jesus. People tried to repeatedly kill Jesus for what he said and did. We are naive to think that the rejection of Jesus will not continue to be strong today. We must not be surprised by the attack against God and Christianity. It is an attack that has been ongoing ever since the virgin birth. Verse 35 reveals that this life long rejection of Jesus, culminating in his death, is going to bring Mary great pain and sorrow also. But notice that this rejection is predicted. The opposition is going to be great. Before Jesus is even two months old prophecy already predicts that rejection is coming. The rejection of Jesus was not an accident. The rejection of Jesus was foreknown by God, against premillennial doctrine to the contrary. This rejection response to Jesus is natural and expected because Jesus was not going to be a teacher who makes people comfortable. Jesus was going to reveal the thoughts of the heart. Jesus’ ministry would show where people’s hearts really are before God. Jesus’ life and teachings expose our unbelief. People will get upset at the word of God.
The Prophetess Anna (2:36-38)
Luke also introduces another righteous and devout person in Israel, a prophetess named Anna. She is completely focused on serving God. She is worshiping with fasting and praying day and night in the temple. She is giving thanks to God and speaking about Jesus to those who were also waiting for the consolation of Israel to arrive.
Lesson #2: I just want to quickly point out that Anna is 84 years old. She did not take a vacation from serving or worshiping God in her old age. I want us to see that she is just as devoted as she was in her earlier years. She is praying and fasting and she is always at the temple. But there she is in the temple complex teaching people about Jesus. Even when we are older, we are not exempt for serving and teaching. We cannot allow the excuse of age to cause us to stop serving. Sure, you can do things that you used to do. But that does not mean you should stop. Keep serving and keep teaching. Paul instructed Timothy to command older Christians to teach younger Christians. Your seasoned faith inspires and prompts faith in others.
Jesus Knows Who He Is (2:39-52)
Luke now moves the story forward 12 years. Jesus is twelve years old and the family is traveling to Jerusalem from Nazareth for the Passover feast, as the Jews did every year. After the feast was completed, the family along with many others from Nazareth form a caravan of people traveling back to Nazareth. But Mary and Joseph did not know that Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. They thought he was with the other kids and in another group in the pack. So they begin searching within this large group of people for Jesus, but he is not there. Can you imagine the intense fear of not finding your child and wonder where he is at? I have had that feeling a couple of times when I thought one of my children was one place and did not know that she had gone with someone else and that person was watching my girl. I would imagine that Joseph and Mary returned to Jerusalem in a panic, asking people if they had seen their twelve year old boy named Jesus. Verse 46 tells us that after three days Joseph and Mary find Jesus.
But the story takes an interesting turn. Jesus was not at a playground somewhere, doing childish things. Rather, Jesus is in the temple complex. He is sitting with the teachers, listening to them and asking questions.
Lesson #3: We need to expect more from our children. We act like they cannot comprehend spiritual things because they are just kids. I want you to consider that Jesus is not even a teenager yet. In our terminology, Jesus would be in 6th or 7th grade. Jesus is not playing with toys but sitting among the teachers, asking spiritual questions and learning. We need to teach our children and challenge our children spiritually from a very early age. Schools begin teaching our children from ages 4-5. By five years old our schools expect our children to be able to sit still for one hour, to be quiet, to listen, do homework, and learn. It is not too much to ask your children to do the same in bible class and in our assemblies. My point is simply this: we can expect our children to perform spiritually to the same level of what society expects for them to perform at that age in the school system. Think about what they are required to do in terms of quietness, listening, projects, homework, and learning and challenge your children to do the same things for God. Further, don’t say, "Well, Jesus was God and that is why he is doing that." Do not ruin the picture of Jesus by thinking that. If we can simply take the life of Jesus and excuse it as different than ourselves because he was God, then Jesus cannot relate to us, was not tested like us, and is not an example we can follow. He must be fully human or he is not the king for all people, a man for the common person.
Not only is Jesus listening to the teachers and asking questions, but notice that Jesus has spiritual understanding. The teachers are amazed at his understanding and his answers. Jesus’ parents have taught him the scriptures and spiritual understanding well. Jesus, at twelve years old, is amazing the teachers in the temple.
Mary and Joseph finally find Jesus in the temple complex. I think their response is exactly the response we would have as parents. "What are you doing! Why weren’t you with us? You gave us a heart attack! We were looking everywhere for you!" But look at Jesus’ answer:
"Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?" What a fascinating response! Why were you looking all over Jerusalem for me? Where else would I be but in my Father’s house. We see Jesus with the awareness of who he is, even at this young age. But he is submissive to his parents, increasing in wisdom, in years, and in favor with God and people.
Lesson #4: Our final lesson comes from the first recorded words from Jesus’ life. The words of Jesus at twelve years old. Where else would I be? Don’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house? It should be obvious that the most important thing in life is God. It should be evident that what matters to us in this world is teaching, learning, and worshiping God.
Could these things be said of us? If people were to wonder where we were or what we were doing, would they think it would be spiritual things? Do they see that worshiping God is the most important thing? Do they see that serving others for the sake of Jesus is the model of our life? Do they see that studying the word is our life guide? Do we communicate to others that God is the most important thing? Do our children see that in our lives? Do we make our children learn that God is the most important? Or is school more important than God? Is sleep more important than God? Is some sport, organization, or recreation more important than God? I hope that people in the world look at us and think that we are always at church, always praying, always helping others, always studying God’s word, always serving the Lord.
- Jesus brings opposition and resistance. Expect the same as you model your life after Jesus.
- Even the elderly can serve and teach like Anna the prophetess. Your seasoned faith is valuable in teaching the lost and other Christians.
- Raise your children with the goal of becoming like we see Jesus in verse 46: desiring God, listening to and learning from the scriptures.
- Life must have one priority: God.