Through Advent, we have heard many voices of Christmas – voices filled with the Holy Spirit. The voices of Mary and Joseph’s obedience to God; Elizabeth’s prophecy concerning Mary and her unborn child, the voice of John the Baptist pointing others to God; the magi who studied God’s prophecies took a risk to seek Jesus out; and today, we read that Simeon and Anna prophesied when Joseph and Mary went to the Temple for their purification.
How many of us have (or have had) favorite television shows that ran for several seasons? Little House on the Prairie? Friends? Beverly Hillbillies? Bones? Captain Kangaroo? MASH? Hee Haw? Gun Smoke? The Lawrence Welk Show? Yes, we used to have a wait an entire week to watch the next episode and we had summer months to wait for the next season… you know, life before Netflix! Well, in t.v. series, talk, Simeon and Anna are featured in one episode of a long series and are never mentioned again. If you happen to watch this episode, it is full of spoilers for future episodes. (A spoiler is an element that reveals any plot elements which threaten to give away important details concerning the turn of events of a dramatic episode, usually fiction).
We know from these passages that Simeon was:
- Righteous and devout
- Looking forward to the consolation of Israel
- The Holy Spirit revealed things to him – we know that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah; Holy Spirit rested on him and guided him.
- He obeyed the Holy Spirit’s promptings.
- He recognized Jesus as the Messiah.
- He never gave up or lost hope that the Holy Spirit’s promise would take place. What he had been waiting for was fulfilled and his work here on earth was done. Once it did, he was ready to die.
We learn these “spoilers” from Simeon:
- He is God’s salvation, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, that’s us; and for glory to God’s people, Israel.
- He will be the cause of many falling –
- He will be the cause of many rising –
- He will be opposed –
- We cannot be neutral when it comes to our decision regarding Jesus. We surrender TO him or we fight him.
Mary is given is glimpse into her own future, through the life of her Son and what his life (and death) will do to her, when Simeon addresses her specifically, “and a sword will pierce your own soul, too” (v. 35b). Not sure any parent ever wants to hear those words regarding their child.
From these three verses in Luke, we are given a surprising amount of information on Anna:
- She was a prophet – a prophet was a religious person who sought to give the mind and will of God on some specific issue. What was Anna’s “issue?” Verse 38 tells us it is the “redemption of Jerusalem.”
- Priest – worship = ministered
- her tribe (Asher) and family (Phanuel)
- Widowed after seven years of marriage and never remarried.
- her advanced age; she is an 84-105 year old Jewish woman.
Luke goes a long way to validate the ministry of Anna. He pairs her with Simeon and gives them equally significant roles. He calls her a prophet. Certainly Simeon was a prophet as well, though he is not called that in Luke’s gospel. Clearly, he prophesies, which is what prophets do, but Luke makes a point to call her a prophet. Luke tells us that “She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.” The word that is translated “worshipped” (NIV), and in other translations as “ministered” is a word commonly used to speak of a priest ministering at an altar – latreuo. Anna is both a prophet and a priest. She is the earliest scriptural example of a female minister of the gospel!
Anna was well-known as a prophetess. “To be acknowledged as a prophetess was a great honour and distinction given her among the Jewish people, especially from the High Priest and Teachers of the Law, who recorded her in their religious history. This was not an ordinary notability.” The significance of Anna’s testimony, however, is not merely that she recognized Jesus as the Messiah, but that she then went to spread the good news. Like the women who would bear witness to the Resurrection many years later, Anna shares the wonderful news with all who would listen. Hers was a voice of hope!
Consider these queries in light of this message of hope:
Does your inward faith turn outward? Do you pray for your friends and associates and for those engaged in spreading the Gospel? Have you examined your beliefs and prepared yourself to share them, with sensitivity and humility, as the Holy Spirit leads?