Luke 2:21-38


21 And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

22 And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

We’re given a brief explanation of Jewish customs and law. According to the Law, boys had to be circumcised 8 days after their birth. At that time, it was customary to name the child. The new parents followed the command of the angels and named their Son, Jesus.

Per Leviticus 12, Mary was considered ceremonially unclean for 7 days, and was barred from the Temple or other sanctuaries for 33 days after that. (The idea of childbirth bringing uncleanness and the disparity between the times of being ceremonially unclean for giving birth to a boy verse giving birth to a girl are probably discussions for another time.)

Luke’s quote is Exodus 13:1-2, and the idea behind it was that this was occurring just after the first Passover event, in which the first born of everything had been targeted for destruction, but God passed over those households that sacrificed a lamb and painted the door posts with blood. The idea being that the lamb’s death or blood satisfied God’s judgment against those in the home.

So from that time on, likely as a memorial to this event, this practice was instituted, and partially formalized further later in Exodus on Mt. Sinai when God tells Moses that the firstborn sons belonged to God and had to be ‘redeemed’ by a sacrifice.

Also, as per Leviticus 12, Mary herself would require two sacrifices to ‘purify’ her and restore her to cleanness per the Law. The Law required a lamb and a turtledove or pigeon, which the priest would offer one as a burnt offering and the other as a sin offering. Most commentaries cite this ‘impurity’ as being related to original sin in which we are conceived and born. That’s probably the best explanation I’ve read, but it still doesn’t seem satisfactory.

Joseph and Mary cannot afford a lamb, so they take the option given to the poor of sacrificing two pigeons instead.

25 And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, 28 then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,

According to Your word;

30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation,

31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

32 A Light of revelation to the Gentiles,

And the glory of Your people Israel.”

While they were fulfilling their obligations under the Law, they run into an older man, Simeon. Described as righteous, devout, looking for the Messiah, and one upon whom the Holy Spirit rested. The old man is said to be in communion with God to the point where the Lord reveals to him that Simeon will set eyes on the Messiah before God takes Simeon in death.

So when the Holy Family arrives, Simeon takes Jesus and gives thanks to God. Having seen the Messiah, Simeon is confident in God’s faithfulness and commends his soul to the Lord, describing Jesus as Light, the Salvation of God, and the Glory of Israel.

33 And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— 35 and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

Simeon is the first to bring up the idea to Mary that their shared national concept of the Messiah was different than how it would play out in life. Jesus would be divisive. There would be times when His life would cause her hurt, the strongest of which would be as she stood near the cross watching her Son die surrounded by people who hated Him.

Simeon’s prophesy is the first sign that God has His own plan for the Messiah and conquering King who would liberate Israel from Rome was not a part of that.

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 38 At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Aside from Simeon, there was also a devout widow, Anna, who lived at the Temple in service. She too began to thank God upon seeing Jesus, and became an evangelist then and there, telling others that the Messiah was here.

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