Calvary Road Baptist Church

“CHRIST’S PRESENTATION AT THE TEMPLE

(Anna’s reason for being there)

Luke 2.22-38

 

The Lord Jesus Christ is the virgin born Son of the living God. His entrance into the human race by means of the miraculous incarnation, followed by His birth nine months later in Bethlehem, is one of the most astounding miracles ever performed, ranking with the creation of the physical universe in six literal days.

Another stupendous miracle took place when, some thirty three years later, that same Jesus suffered and bled and died on Calvary’s cross, the Just for the unjust that He might bring us to God, and then rose from the dead three days later, showing His mighty victory over sin, death, Hell, and the grave.

In two weeks, we will celebrate the miracle of our Lord Jesus Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead. However, our attempt to glorify the Son of God this morning, in preparation for Easter Sunday two weeks from now, takes us back to an episode in the baby Jesus’ life shortly after His birth.

Being a Jewish boy, the Mosaic Law prescribed the rite of circumcision for Him on His eighth day. Joseph and Mary complied with that requirement. The Mosaic Law also prescribed that male children be presented to the LORD thirty-three days after their circumcision, after the expiration of the days of a mother’s purification.

It was on this forty-first day that the Lord Jesus Christ was presented at the Temple, and when we observe the most significant figures present that day, in Luke 2.22-38. Turn to that passage for the reading of God’s Word:

 

22     And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;

23     (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)

24     And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

25     And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

26     And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

27     And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,

28     Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29     Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

30     For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

31     Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;

32     A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

33     And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.

34     And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

35     (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

36     And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;

37     And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.

38     And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

 

We have already examined Mary’s reason for being at the Temple. As well, we have examined Simeon’s reason for being at the Temple.

This morning, we turn to the third of the four people of note who were there at the Temple on the day the Lord Jesus was presented to His Father. Her name was Anna. Read verses 36-38 with me once again:

 

36     And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;

37     And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.

38     And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

 

Three things about Anna for us to notice in these three verses before this morning’s sermon:

 

First, ANNA’S DESCRIPTION

 

First, Anna was described as a prophetess. That means she probably had the supernatural capacity and endowments from the Lord to do two things: First, to preach the Word of God. Second, to foretell the future as the Holy Spirit revealed it to her.

“But pastor, how could this woman preach the Word of God when you said that the Bible was against women preachers?” I have never said the Bible was against women preachers. Remember, Isaiah’s wife was also a prophetess, and the four virgin daughters of Philip, the evangelist, prophesied.

The Bible is not against women preachers, per se. But Paul did inform us that women are not to teach or to usurp authority over men in church.1 Anna was simply a godly woman who had a ministry to women, and possibly even to children.

She was the daughter of a man named Phanuel, and from the tribe of Asher, if you pronounce the name of her tribe according to the Old Testament spelling.

How old was this woman at the time of Christ’s presentation at the Temple? Luke tells us that “she was of great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity.” Though it means little in our loose society in which premarital sexual activity is just about the norm, in Anna’s day, when the vast majority of women were virgins on their wedding day, it meant she had been married for seven years when her husband died. Verse 37 tells us that she was a widow for about four score and four years, which come to 84 years. Imagine that. Being a widow for 84 years. That means Anna, when you add the years of her marriage to the years of her widowhood, had gotten married 91 years before.

How old might she have been when she married? Say, 16, to hazard a guess? Not unusual in those days. That would make Anna at least 107 years old at the time these events occurred. Truly, she was a very old woman.

Why do you think the Holy Spirit inspired this portion of the gospel account to record these details of Anna’s life? Could it have been to encourage older Christians to continue serving God in their advancing years? Could it not also have been to show younger Christians how worthy the savior is of our service, no matter how old we are?

 

Second, HER DEVOTION

 

The Bible says that she departed not from the Temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. This does not mean that she never went home. Luke was using a hyperbolic statement to show that her entire life was devoted to God, and that she was at the Temple almost constantly. But it does show her high level of commitment.

Though she may have been unrecognized by the official religious rulers of that day, she was without doubt a great woman of God. It was this kind of believing woman that God allowed to behold the Son of God with her own eyes and to know Who He was.

As he spake, verse 38 tells us that she came in (probably into the Temple courtyard) at the instant Simeon was speaking and “gave thanks likewise unto the Lord” just like he had done. In other words, as she walked to where Simeon was holding the Lord Jesus Christ, and heard what he said about the Savior, she erupted in an outburst of agreeing praise.

The decades of devotion were finally being rewarded. That which she and others had anticipated and agonized for through those many years, her hope if you will, was realized at last.

 

Finally, HER DECLARATION

 

Being a prophetess, it was only right for Anna to be expected to go forth and declare that God’s Son had been born. That is just what she did. Luke records the fact that she “spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”

The Greek word “spake” is an imperfect verb. That means Anna did not stop talking about what she had seen. She told this person, and that person, and that one over there. Then she started all over again. She was so excited, so thrilled, so utterly filled with joy, that she had to give voice to her overflowing spiritual bounty.

How could she have accomplished this? She knew who in Jerusalem waited for the Messiah. She knew who believed God’s Word. Birds of a feather flock together. Over the years, they had come to know who she was and she had come to know who they were. No doubt, many had died as time continued to march on. However, a number were still alive. They were the ones she told.

 

Think about Christ’s presentation at the Temple. Of course, Mary and Joseph had to be present, since they were the custodial parents of the Christ child. However, what about the other two who were there? What about Simeon and his revelation, and Anna with her prophecy? Those two people were deeply spiritual, were obviously committed to the truthfulness and integrity of God’s Word, were aware of the depths of sin and degradation into which their nation had sunk, and they realized that only God, through His Son the Messiah, could bring about salvation from such as that. God showed those two by revelation. They, in turn, spoke to Mary, with Joseph obviously close by. Later they both, but particularly Anna, told others in the city. Who knows how long after the event Simeon laid his tired body down with a satisfied smile and passed into eternity and Abraham’s bosom? Back to Anna for a moment? Would she have told you? Would you have been one of those she recognized as a person who looked for redemption in Jerusalem? Would she have discerned interest on your part? How about more than interest? Would she have detected in you a willingness to respond, to seize the moment? It is a question you need to answer, don’t you think?

 

SERMON:

 

Anna is the first of that company of women in the gospels who, apart from His mother Mary, were noted for their devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, the others would come years later, after His baptism and the beginning of His public ministry. However, Anna really was the first of them.

I have known such women in my life. I have heard of even more. Such women as Lottie Moon, missionary to China in the 19th century, Jennie Adams, the now almost certainly dead missionary to Peru, and Virginia Webb, the aged missionary to Mexico, both in the 20th century. In the ministry of the Apostle Paul, there was Phebe. Throughout Christian history God has used women like Anna, with some serving more prominently and others serving more quietly. Sometimes we are told their names, such as Tabitha, who was also known as Dorcas. But most of the time such woman serve anonymously, waiting until their names are announced at the judgment seat of Christ before anyone will know who they were and what they accomplished in service to Christ.

Three notable things about Anna from our text today, characteristics which ought to be a part of any Christian’s life, not just the Christian woman who is not married:

 

First, HER LIFE WAS DEFINED BY MINISTRY

 

What is it that defines your life? Is it your career? Is it your learning? Is it sports accomplishments? For some it is family. For others it is children. For still others it is spouse, be it husband or wife. Still others take great pride in cleverness, or in how very hard they work.

It is easy to see that Anna’s life was not defined by either marriage or motherhood (what you might expect of a woman in those days), but by her devotion to ministry. She may very well have been a mother, since her husband died seven years after their marriage. However, even if she had children, motherhood did not define her life, just as motherhood should not define any woman’s life.

Shocking words, but stay with me. Understand that there are times and seasons of life, and the demands of parenting and marriage are not to be ignored. That is why the Apostle Paul cautioned about such distractions in First Corinthians 11.32-33. However, some have no sense of balance in their lives, and are so determined to be good moms and dads, or good husbands and wives, that they end being lousy Christians.

Keep in mind that you cannot be a good mom apart from being a devoted Christian, and you cannot be a good dad apart from being a devoted Christian. Therefore, the idea of putting your Christianity on hold while you raise your children is a terrible mistake that some make, which usually results in raising children who have no desire to embrace and serve Christ. Think about it. Why should a child of such parents want a savior he has always seen to be second to him in mom’s or dad’s life?

Perhaps because she may not have had children, and certainly because she had been widowed for many, many years, Anna was given the opportunity to be less emotionally distracted than many people are. However, the other side of the coin is that she seems to have been alone, creating a completely new set of distractions for an aged woman living in a pre-technological age when resources were scarce, with the threat of hunger being very real.

Whatever her set of distractions happened to be, which different distractions are than you have to face, she made sure her ministry defined her life. How do we know she did that? Because ministry is never easy. However, that woman served God with fastings and prayers night and day. Come to the Temple in the morning, and Anna was there. Leave the Temple at sundown, and you would leave Anna behind as you walked home. She did those things because she chose to do those things.

What defines your life? What are you known for? If you are known for being smart, you are missing the mark, Christian. If you are known for being a good provider, or for “being there for your kids,” you are dropping the ball. Anna’s life was defined by ministry. Is your life defined that way? It ought to be. When you die, you will leave a legacy among those who know you. What will they say about you? Will they say, “She lived to serve God”? If they do not, you did not live right.

 

Next, HER GRATITUDE WAS DIRECTED TO CHRIST

 

Verse 38 begins, “And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord.” Of particular interest to me is Anna’s expression of gratitude and where she directed her gratitude. It is commendable and noteworthy that she was thankful, since so many people these days have such a sense of entitlement and think they deserve everything they have, and more, that they are grateful to no one for any thing.

Anna, however, expressed her gratitude, not to God, but (we are told) to “the Lord.” Keep in mind that this Greek word kurioV was used by the Jews to translate the name of God. But in this passage, the context clearly shows us the Lord Jesus Christ is referred to. So, she approached Simeon holding the Christ child and gave thanks to the Lord Jesus. What a scene that must have been.

Consider the difficulties a widow more than 100 years old must have had in that day. Were you to look at her life apart from the spiritual dimension, the physical problems someone her age would have, the poverty we reasonably imagine her to have been forced to live in, we would expect her to crab about just about everything. That is not what we read here. She was thankful, and she expressed her thanks to the savior.

Are you a thankful person? Do you count your blessings? Are you appreciative? Do you meditate upon and ponder the blessings of life? Who are you thankful to? Keep in mind that God’s blessings are mediated to us through the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Thus, to be thankful to God, to be truly thankful to God, means you are rightly thankful to His Son, Jesus Christ, as Anna was. Her gratitude was expressed. Is your thankfulness expressed? Do you give voice to your thanks to Him?

 

Finally, HER APPRAISAL OF THE SAVIOR WAS EVIDENT

 

What a wonderful insight we are given into Anna’s personal theology. Of course, you know everyone has a personal theology. You have a set of beliefs about God and His dealings with you. Everyone has a set of beliefs about God and His dealings with them. Most people do not realize this, but it certainly is true.

How can you know what each person’s personal theology happens to be? How can you know what your personal theology is? You can more or less tell what a person’s personal beliefs are about God and His dealings with mankind by observing his behavior. We can tell what Anna’s theology was, what her appraisal of the savior was, by what she actually did.

What did Anna do? After thanking the Lord Jesus Christ, verse 38 tells us she “spake of him.” If someone gave you a brand new car, would you tell people about it? I think you would. If someone gave you a million bucks, would you tell anyone? I know you would. Anna thanked the Lord Jesus Christ . . . for coming . . . and then went and told people that He had arrived. That One she had been waiting for for so long was now on the scene, so she just had to tell people.

 

Though I cannot prove it, I have no personal doubt that Anna knew Jesus had come to eventually die. Keep in mind that she was a devout Jewish woman, and Jews knew that atonement for sins could only be made when the blood of the innocent substitute was shed. The Lord Jesus Christ was that innocent Substitute Who would shed His precious blood on Calvary’s cross to provide for the remission of sins. To what degree Anna comprehended all of this I do not know. How clear her spiritual eyesight was we will have to wait for heaven to know for sure. But she knew something.

Why was Anna there that day that Jesus was taken to the Temple to be presented to His heavenly Father? She was there, just as Simeon was there, to give witness that God’s Son had been born, to testify that the Provision for our sins had arrived on the scene.

The Bible shows that after this event the Lord Jesus Christ would slip into relative obscurity for thirty years. Of course, the wise men from the east arrive in another year or two to worship this One Who was born King of the Jews, and their questions to Herod would provoke the slaughter of innocents in Bethlehem. To get away from Herod, Joseph and Mary and Jesus would flee to Egypt. Later they would return to Nazareth, where Mary and Joseph had originally lived. Time would pass, and most people would forget. But God did not leave Himself without witness. Then, thirty three years later, after that baby once held in Simeon’s arms had grown up, been baptized by His cousin John the Baptist, and conducted a public ministry of preaching and miracle working for more than three years, He would die a sinner’s death on a cruel Roman cross.

Innocent though He was, He became sin for us and suffered our punishment for us. However, three days later He showed that what appeared to most to have been a defeat was actually an amazing victory, when He rose from the dead. The tomb was emptied.

That One Anna was so devoted to, the object of her worship and adoration, Who she was so grateful to, completed His mission here on earth and ascended to His Father’s right hand on high. The Lord Jesus Christ is there as I speak, waiting. What is He waiting for? I know He is waiting for the time to return to this sin sick world. However, I would like to think He is waiting for you to come to Him by faith to be saved by your sins.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org