The Lord does not work according to the standards of the world. We might expect that the long-expected Messiah would be found in a palace (as the Magi did – Matthew 2), mixing with the rich and powerful, but in fact he was born in humble circumstances. That is how God works. We turn now to consider Luke 2:21-40 The Messiah has come
1. The presentation
2 events are described in v21-24. The circumcision on the 8th day was a sign of God’s covenant with his people. The name ‘Jesus’ is full of meaning – ‘he will save his people from their sins’ (Matthew 1:21). The presentation in the Temple was the time of the mother’s purification. The offering (v24) was for the less well-off, the Messiah’s lowly birth being part of his humiliation (see Philippians 2:8). Incarnation involves the Son’s self-humbling. Note:
(i). He fulfils prophecy. See e.g. Malachi 3:1 ‘Suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple’. Throughout his life Jesus fulfilled the sovereign plan of God.
(ii). He fulfils the Law. Both events described here are prescribed by the Law. Circumcision is the sign of the covenant (Genesis 17) and presentation honours God’s claim to every firstborn male (Exodus 13:23). Jesus was ‘born under law’ (Galatians 4:4) and kept God’s law perfectly on behalf of his people, as our representative (Hebrews 2:17).
2. The prophet
Simeon (v25) is a man of deep faith – ‘waiting for the consolation of Israel’, waiting for the Messiah. He speaks prophetically (v27 ‘Moved by the Spirit’), recognizing the child as ‘the Lord’s Christ’ (v26). In language steeped in the Old Testament Simeon ‘praised God’ (v28) – it is his mighty work of salvation, with significance for ‘all people’ (v31). Both the Gentiles (as in Isaiah 42:6) and Israel are included. His work involves judgment (‘the falling’, v34) but chiefly salvation (‘the rising of many’). It will be at a cost, and Mary herself will know ‘a sword’, but only the Messiah’s suffering will be redemptive.
3. The prophetess
Anna is a ‘prophetess’ (v36) – a channel of God’s word. She had known sorrow – ‘a widow until she was 84’, but this is a day of good news – ‘she spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem’ (v38). God’s great work of redemption has taken a major step forward, in fulfilment of OT prophecies about the restoration of Jerusalem (e.g. Jeremiah 33). There were other believing people to share her joy and praise (v38).
4. The progress
With the requirements of the Law fulfilled, the family ‘returned to Galilee (v39). At this stage the visit of the magi and the flight to Egypt must have taken place (Matthew 2). The statement of v40 is significant – ‘the child grew and became strong’ – he fully shared our human nature. The Father’s blessing ensures he is equipped for his redeeming work – ‘he was filled with wisdom and the grace (or ‘favour’ ESV) of God was upon him’.