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Luke 2:8-40 by Robert Dean
Shock and awe! Imagine how Joseph and Mary watched in wonder as all the supernatural events surrounding Jesus' birth unfolded. Listen to this lesson to learn how they obeyed the ritual requirements of the Mosaic Law after His birth. Find out about the two witnesses who for many long years had been eagerly waiting for the Messiah. See what a "prophetess" is and discover how Jesus is our comfort today when we face difficulties just as He was the promised consolation to Israel.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:44 mins 53 secs

The Presentation of the King
Luke 2:8-40
Matthew Lesson #007
October 13, 2013
www.deanbibleministries.org

In the last couple of lessons the focus has been on the birth of our Lord in Bethlehem, the arrival of the shepherds, and then the arrival of the Magi. However there were some things that took place between the shepherds and the arrival of the Magi that are not normally recognized. They are there if we go to the second half of Luke chapter two.

First of all the shepherds visit Jesus. Following that visit, Jesus on the eighth day is circumcised (Luke 2:21). Following that, forty days after His birth Mary and Joseph then take the baby Jesus to the temple for presentation. There He is met by Simeon and Anna who prophesy about Jesus and the Messiah. Why are there two? Two witnesses confirm a truth, according to the Mosaic Law. It is after that that the Magi arrive, because if we look at the Matthew account of the arrival of the Magi there is the warning about Herod that comes when they are still in the vicinity of Bethlehem. Just after their visit they are told to go home a different way, and an angel appears to Joseph and tells him to flee to Egypt. That must take place after the events of Luke chapter two. So there are at least forty days between the arrival of the shepherds and the arrival of the Magi. It is after that that there is the flight to Egypt. Then there is the slaughter of the innocents, Herod dies, and then an angel appears to Joseph to tell him that it is safe to return to the land. They return from Egypt to Nazareth.

In Luke 2:21 we see another dimension of a verse brought up earlier, and that is Galatians 4:4. Frequently we cite this verse to indicate God's perfect timing of providing a savior. NASB "But when the fullness of the time came …" The arrival of Jesus as the Messiah was not just circumstantial, it was part of God's plan, and He had worked for approximately four thousand years in the human race, and specifically the Jewish people, to a particular point in time for the arrival of the Messiah. Part of that included the political environment under Rome, and under the reign of Caesar Augustus there was what was known as the peace of Rome, pax Romana, which endured throughout most of the first century and into the second century, which guaranteed a peace and stability within the Roman empire. It was a time of prosperity where there were great highways and road built which allowed the rapid spread of the gospel following the death of the Lord Jesus on the cross.

So we emphasize often the first part of this verse, that there was a perfect timing of the arrival of the Lord Jesus Christ. But the second half is significant also. " … God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law." That last phrase, "born under the Law," is often overlooked. We see in Luke this emphasis upon the obedience of Mary and Joseph, the obedience of the family, to the Mosaic Law. Jesus was born under the time period of the authority of the Mosaic Law, and later in His ministry we will see that one of the accusations that the Pharisees brought against Him was that he sought top destroy the Law. The reality was that He said: "I came not to destroy the Law but to fulfill it." And in every area of His life He fulfilled the mandates of the Mosaic Law.

We see in this passage that first of all this involves the circumcision of the infant (2:21) on the eighth day, as prescribed by the Mosaic Law. Following that, at forty days after birth there is the presentation of the infant, which also includes bringing a sacrifice on the part of Mary (and possibly Joseph) for cleansing after the birth of a son. This was also mandated by the Mosaic Law. Then there is the prophetic confirmation by two witnesses, described in Luke 2:25-38, Simeon and Anna. Anna in Hebrew and Greek is actually Hannah. Then the passage concludes in vv. 39, 40 with their return to Galilee.

At the beginning we see this emphasis on His circumcision. Luke 2:21 NASB "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." So Jesus goes through a bris ceremony. The term bris is a Yiddish term for the Hebrew word berith milah, which means the covenant of the circumcision. The first word berith is the Hebrew word for covenant. So berith milah means to covenant of the circumcision and it goes back to the Abrahamic covenant.

There are two reasons why Jews were to be circumcised at that time. The first had to do with the Abrahamic covenant. It required all Jewish males to be circumcised as a sign of the Abrahamic covenant, and it was considered blasphemy if that did not occur. In Genesis 17:10 God instructed Abraham NASB "This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. [11] And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. [12] And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a {servant} who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants." So this was a universal law that applied to every male in Israel. It was part of the Abrahamic covenant.

The Mosaic covenant reiterated this and stated it in Leviticus 12:2-4. These three verses are important in helping us understand all that is going on in Luke 2:21-24. NASB "Speak to the sons of Israel, saying: 'When a woman gives birth and bears a male {child,} then she shall be unclean for seven days, as in the days of her menstruation she shall be unclean. On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. Then she shall remain in the blood of {her} purification for thirty-three days; she shall not touch any consecrated thing, nor enter the sanctuary until the days of her purification are completed." These verses are important because two events are described in Luke 2:21-24. In verse 21 there is the circumcision of Jesus, and in vv. 22-24 the purification sacrifice and the presentation of Jesus at the temple after forty days.

The Leviticus passage is peaking of ritual uncleanness. It is not saying that she is dirty. It is not a physical thing; it is a spiritual thing. If a woman gave birth to a daughter it was eighty days before the purification ritual; for a male it was forty days. This doesn't have anything to do with any kind of sexism of bias against women. All these things had to do with something related to sin and teaching about sin. In the garden of Eden it was the woman who sinned first, so that is the basis for why there is an eighty-day period of ritual impurity if she gives birth to a woman and forty if she gives birth to a man. All of that goes back to the circumstances of the original fall. The reason there is a ritual impurity there is because part of the penalty for sin in the garden was that the woman would endure increased pain and labor and hardship after because of sin. The Hebrew is extremely precise there, indicating an increase in that. It was not that there was no pain before hand; there was obviously discomfort. 

Pain is a function of our sensory nerves. We think of pain only in terms of the negative but pain is also a warning that we are touching something that is harmful to us. So we need to clarify our ideas of what it means not to have pain or discomfort. It is not that we lose our tactile senses; it is that the extremes of that are removed in terms of doing harm. So originallyt there was discomfort related to childbirth but it wasn't what women experience today that is the result of the fall. Because of that the process of giving birth and the pain associated with it is related to the curse of sin. And so anything that is a reminder of the judgment of sin is proscribed as something that makes one ritually unclean under the Mosaic Law. This is why what we find in the dietary laws has absolutely nothing to do with nutrition or diet. One reason we know that is because in one day God made it clear to Peter that all of those animals were now permissible to eat. It wasn't because they suddenly changed or that people learned how to properly cook pork, lobster or anything else, it was that the whole purpose was to teach something about ritual. Most of the animals that were proscribed as food under the Mosaic Law were scavengers and were eating that which was dead. That rendered them ritually unclean. It is a reminder of death as the penalty for sin. All of these things were basically visual aids or training aids for teaching about sin and how extensive sin is in our experience.

The same thing was true with the ritual impurity of a woman when she gave birth. And if the husband helped, which is likely in the case with Joseph, then he too because of coming in contact with blood would have been also rendered ceremonially impure. He, too, would have needed to go for purification. Luke 2:22, "And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed …" Actually there is a textual variant there in many MSS that states "in the days of their purification." It is a plural instead of a singular. " … they brought …" It would be grammatically dissonant to go from a singular to a plural pronoun. So it should read, "When their period of purification according to the Law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord." And it was at that time of presentation to the Lord that they would have brought the appropriate sacrifices for purification. This is what we read about in Leviticus 12:4 NASB "Then she shall remain in the blood of {her} purification for thirty-three days; she shall not touch any consecrated thing, nor enter the sanctuary until the days of her purification are completed." Once that time was completed then they would come to offer a sacrifice.

Luke 2:23 NASB (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "EVERY {firstborn} MALE THAT OPENS THE WOMB SHALL BE CALLED HOLY TO THE LORD"). This is from Exodus 13:2, that the firstborn male was to be consecrated or set apart to the Lord. This is part of that presentation ritual at the temple. At that time they would bring a sacrifice. There were two options. One was to bring a lamb, and the other was for those who were impoverished or in financial straits who would then bring a turtledove or a pigeon. Luke 2:24 NASB "and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, 'A PAIR OF TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG PIGEONS.'" This is one indication we have that during this time Joseph and Mary were in financial straits. This was before they received the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh from the Magi.

There are three things that are combined in Luke 2:23, 24. First there is the purification ceremony 40 days after birth. Second is the presentation of the firstborn to the Lord, according to Exodus 13:2. Then third, there is the dedication of the firstborn to the Lord's service following the pattern of Hannah offering her infant son Samuel to the Lord, described in the first two chapters of 1 Samuel. In the flow of the context of Luke it is clear that this is the kind of thing that is going on there: the dedication of Jesus in terms of His messianic ministry. This becomes clear because of what happens as they approach the temple. As they are coming into the temple, probably in one of the outer courtyards (Mary could not go into the inner courtyard, only as far as the courtyard of the women) they are met by this first prophet whose name is Simeon. We know that he is quite old, probably close to 100 years of age, and that by special revelation God has informed him that he is not going to die until he sees the Messiah who is described here as "the consolation of Israel."

Luke 2:25 NASB "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." The term devout indicates that he is a faithful Old Testament saint. The "consolation of Israel" is a title that summarizes many of the prophetic passages in the Old Testament related to the ministry of the Messiah. The term consolation translates the Greek word PARAKLESIS, the same word that is translated as "the Comforter" in John 14. This is indicated in a number of Old Testament passages. It was a term that described the hope of deliverance that Israel had—Isaiah 40:1; 49:13; 51:3, 18. These are terms that focus on the role of the Messiah, the Servant, as the one who would come to deliver Israel. And this is at a time when Israel was going through much calamity, much of it brought on by their own negative volition—economic straits, a time of military collapse and defeat. They were experience a lot of the cycles of discipline at this time because they had disobeyed the Lord. Nevertheless, God is His grace provides one who will comfort and deliver them.

In the same way we go through times in our lives when we face a lot of uncertainty and instability. We face uncertainty on a personal level in many different ways. We can face some sort of financial disaster or health disaster, some sort of problem due to weather, or any number of things that could happen. Everything seems to be going along fine and we can be involved in anything from an automobile accident to some sort of health crisis, and life suddenly becomes very uncertain. Life is always changing but we have comfort in Jesus Christ. He is the one who is our comforter and has sent the Holy Spirit also as a comforter. In the same way He is a comfort and consolation to Israel and promises to sustain Israel in times of crisis, He is also one who sustains us in times of crisis. So the term "consolation of Israel" refers to the fact that He is the one who solves our problems.

Another term that was used by the rabbis later on to refer to the Messiah was the Hebrew term menachem, which means comforter. This idea runs all through prophetic literature as well as the literature in the early second temple period. As we see in Isaiah one of the primary missions of the Servant was to provide, comfort, aid and deliverance for Israel, and not just for Israel but also the Gentiles, the nations.

So Simeon is waiting for the Messiah, "and the Holy Spirit was upon him." This is an important term here. It is not talking about an indwelling of the Spirit, it is talking about the presence of the Holy Spirit in reference to a specific ministry related to God's plan for Israel. In the Old Testament period, up until the time of the beginning of the church age, believers were not indwelt by the Holy Spirit. They were given the Holy Spirit to enable them and strengthen them in certain tasks or roles in relation to the kingdom of Israel. There were those who were the craftsmen and builders of the tabernacle and then the temple who were given the Holy Spirit to give them the skills to carry out their work. There were a few kings (Saul and David) who were given the Holy Spirit to strengthen them and enable them in ruling the nation. Some of the judges had the Holy Spirit come upon them to give them military ability to defeat the enemies of Israel. The Holy Spirit was not given to anyone in the Old Testament for their spiritual life. That wasn't the role.

The language here fits the pattern of the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit is upon Simeon in this prophetic role. He is going to make an announcement in relationship to the Messiah when he sees the Messiah. Luke explains, Luke 2:26 NASB "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 [Messiah]." He would come into the temple on a regular basis. [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 …" The idiom to bless God: we don't bless God in the same sense that He blesses us. This is an idiom for praise for God. We find it often in the Psalms. It means to praise Him.

And we see how he praises God. Notice he doesn't say, "Praise God [Hallelujah]." There is content to his praise. We praise God by describing what God has done in our lives and what His grace provision has supplied for us. In the next verse we see the content of his praise.

Luke 2:29 NASB "Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word …" God has fulfilled His promise to Simeon. The language that is used here is interesting. It is language that is used of someone who has been given, for example, a watchman who has been given a mission to go on guard duty. Now his time is up and he is being relieved of his responsibility as a guard. This is the imagery that is behind this.

Luke 2:30 NASB "For my eyes have seen Your salvation [Yeshua] …" There is a play on words here. He would have said this in Hebrew, not in Greek or in English. [31] "Which You have prepared in the presence [face] of all peoples …" Notice it is not just a Jewish salvation. Luke's theme, of course, is that Jesus the Son of Man, the savior for all mankind, not just Jews only. [32] "A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Your people Israel." This is written in more of a poetic form, as we see in much of the prophets of the Old Testament, and we see a synonymous parallelism in the last verse between those two clauses. "A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles" is parallel to "the glory of your people Israel." So glory and light are seen as synonymous here. As we see the glory of God expressed in the Old Testament we often refer to that as the Shekinah glory. Shekinah is simply a term that means the dwelling of God. It was the glory of God that was revealed at the tabernacle and the temple when God was dwelling there and it was often seen in terms of a light and the manifestation of light. The glory of God is often related to light. Light is a metaphor that is often used in the Old Testament to illuminate human beings who are in darkness. Light is always a metaphor for revelatory activity. There is something that is breaking in to the darkness of mankind exposing things with the light of truth.

We see this imagery in messianic passages such as Isaiah 60:1ff NASB "Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you." Notice the juxtaposition between light and glory. [2] "For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples [spiritual darkness]; But the LORD will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you. [3] Nations [Gentiles] will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising."

When Simeon says, "A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Your people Israel", he is specifically saying this infant is designed to bring light, this is the Messiah who will illuminate the world and bring light, not only to Israel but to the Gentiles. And this will be the glory of Israel and Israel fulfills her mission in bringing forth the Messiah, the savior of the world. 

John really picks up on this emphasis on light in reference to the messianic ministry. John 1:4 NASB "In Him [the Logos, the Word] was life, and the life was the Light of men. [5] The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it… [9] There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man." So Jesus as the Light of the world is emphasized in many passages, and then He states in clearly in John 8:12 NASB "Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, 'I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.'" Jesus comes as Simeon announces the light that God promised has arrived; the Messiah is here. So this is one of the first witnesses that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. 

In Luke 2:33-35 we see the reaction of Joseph and Mary to this announcement. They marvel, the wonder at these things that are spoken of Him.

At this time Simeon gives more information. Up to this point it has all been positive, but now there is a dark overtone that comes into his announcement. Luke 2:34 NASB "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—…" What this means is that He will bring a new point of division within Israel. There are those who will accept Him, and that will be their rising and advance, and there will be those who will reject Him and bring about their fall and their judgment. As a sign of this He will be spoken against, a foreshadowing of His rejection. [35] "and a sword will pierce even your own soul It is not meant to be taken literally, that a physical sword will pierce her soul or heart, or that she would be martyred, but that she as a mother witnessed the rejection of her son, the suffering that He would endure leading up to the cross and His death on the cross. This will bring an intense pain to her as a mother. "… to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed." Because Jesus is the one who is the Light of the world who reveals our innermost thoughts to ourselves as He reveals the need for salvation to us.

Then we come to the second witness, Anna [Hannah]. She is identified as a prophetess, and is one of several prophetesses mentioned in the Scripture, including Miriam the sister of Moses. It seems that part of the role of them as we go through a study of them—Deborah is one who prophesied in Judges chapter five—often they are associated with the utterance of some sort of hymn or song to God. We think of prophesying only in a limited sense in terms of being given a revelatory message from God, especially about the future in some sense, and we limit the word that way. But it is used also in reference to the writing and singing of hymns of praise to God with reference to Mary, with reference to Deborah.

So here is Hannah.  Luke 2:36 NASB "Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher…" Asher is one of the northern tribes and often and often we speak of the ten lost tribes. The way they got “lost” was because they were removed from the northern kingdom during the time of the Assyrian invasion in 722 BC. But they really are not lost tribes, or we wouldn't know who was of the particular tribes. But she knows what tribe she is in. Many of the Jews who were living in the north saw the Assyrians coming for their invasion left and went south, and so there really is no such thing as the ten lost tribes. There are many, many Jews today who know exactly which tribe they came from in terms of those ten tribes from the north.  "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."

There is some debate over the exact sense of this passage. Some think that she was a widow for eighty-four years, which means she was well over 100 years of age at this time. Others think that she was a widow of about 84 years of age at this particular time. She. Too, has a sense that she is going to see the Messiah. 

Luke 2:38 NASB "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." Jerusalem here stands for the entire nation.

So there were two witnesses who confirm in the temple the arrival of the Messiah, the consolation of Israel, and the Redeemer of Jerusalem.

Then in conclusion, Luke 2:39 NASB "When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth."

If we are paying attention we realize there seems to be a discontinuity here. What about Egypt? Luke ignores that. He is summarizing what happens and skips over it. This isn't a contradiction, this often happens in the Gospel narratives. They just bypass certain things. It is not how we would write history or biography but the Gospels are gospel tracts, the good news of Christ. They are not histories in the modern sense though they contain history. They are not biographies in the modern sense though they contain biographical information. They often arrange their material in ways that would not fit modern ways of historiography but this was typical at that time. The trip to Egypt would come between vv. 38 and 39.

Then in v. 40 we are told just a summary of Christ's childhood. "The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him."