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Enter the Prophetess
I can remember as a young boy how there were some older women that left an impression on me. They were the kind of old ladies who carried candy mints that left a waxy film in your mouth after eating them and who had high pitched voices. But it was usually these who seemed the most devout to me. They had a “holy” manner about them. They could rattle off Scripture better than most grown men, even preachers. Their bibles were worn and the pages highlighted, written on, and marked up.
This is what I picture when I think of Anna the prophetess. She, like Simeon, is an obscure figure in history and she makes only one appearance (here in Luke’s gospel). Most of the women I mentioned above were widows and Anna herself is a widow. She is from the “lost tribe” of Asher – apparently some survived and managed to keep some sort of genealogical record. There has not been a prophet in Israel for hundreds of years and we are still a few years out from John the Baptist making his rise in the prophetic realm. However, God has raised up his prophetess, of which the Talmud records only seven, thereby making this office very select. How long she was married and/or been a widow is unclear, but most scholars accept that she was eighty-four (hence, the NIV).
We have a glimpse of her character given to us by the historian: she is devout, never leaving the temple, which probably means that she was in constant worship to the Father. Indeed, the text gives credence to this saying she “worshipped night and day.” It could also mean she had quarters in the temple area somewhere but this may not be so. She also fasted and prayed, indicating a disciplined lifestyle. It is this devout widow who is the next to see the baby.
It seems that this whole account of Simeon and Anna took place one after the other. When one was finished giving prophetic testimony concerning the baby, the other picked up where the other left off. Anna highlights the Redeemer that has been sent to Israel. She thanks God for this child, no doubt her mind thinking of the plight of her people and the redmeption Jesus will offer them. She recognizes that Messiah has come to help his people.
Luke also highlights the devoutness of Mary and Joseph: they kept the Law. What had been perscribed by Moses, they were sure to fulfill it. They exhibit the characteristics of faithful Jews. The rest of the childhood of Jesus is skipped until he is twelve years old. Luke catches all this growth with a simple statement of Jesus’ physical, mental, and spiritual development. Chronologically, the visit of the Magi should follow as well as the flight to Egypt, but Luke does not pick these up. Why? I suppose they did not need to be mentioned to emphasize his purpose in writing about the Redeemer or the Son of Man. These newborn occasions certainly could have been discribed to Luke by Mary and were what stood out concerning Jesus’ childhood. It certainly left a deep impression (see 2.33).
Following all this, Mary and Joseph take Jesus back to Nazareth in Galilee where Jesus grows until he is brought to the temple as a twelve year old. Concerning the grace of God, one commentator has written, “through all the years of growth and increase in true wisdom the grace of God, His guiding, protecting and supporting love and power, rested upon the Child. There was no partition-wall between Him and God, because He was perfect in all things.” No doubt during this time of growth his parents, as devout Jews, made several treks to Jerusalem with Jesus. And every year his attention was brought to the annual sacrifice of atonement for the sins of Israel. His eyes probably saw the blood of thousands of sacrifices, like a red river out of the temple sacuPerhaps over time, his spirit within him was stirred as his divine mission