Just another baby… or the redemption of Jerusalem?
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. 39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.
We don’t know much about Anna. In some ways, it’s surprising that we know anything of her – three of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark and John) don’t mention her at all – all we’ve got is from these few verses here in Luke 2.
From verses 36-37 we learn that Anna is an 84 year old woman – a widow. We’re told that she’s an Israelite (“of the tribe of Asher”) and a prophet. She never leaves the temple, but worships, fasts and prays there, day and night. All this in the 1st century would have just added up to “insignificant”. She was an older woman, living a quiet and unusually long life, serving God in the temple.
Her words, however, are anything but insignificant. As an elderly woman, she approaches Mary and Joseph and their baby (Jesus) – but she’s not just your average old lady at church cooing over a child. Her words are the words of a prophet – that is, she speaks words consistent with God’s promises and their fulfilment… about a baby.
Specifically, there’s something about this baby that leads her to thank God for him, and to draw people’s attention to him, pointing out that he has something to do with the “redemption of Jerusalem”. This is all a bit odd… while many people were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem through God’s promised King, they wouldn’t have looked for that promised King in the temple’s 1st century equivalent of the Parent Room.
We don’t know why or how Anna made the link between this very normal human baby, and the redemption of Jerusalem. However, verses 39 and 40 give us a teaser of what’s to come. Anna wasn’t going a bit batty in her mid-80s – she was actually onto something. She was listening to God with real clarity and wisdom.
While Jesus was a typical baby, he was also very different to your average kid. We’re told in verses 39-40 that as Jesus grew he was “filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.” At this stage in the story, we don’t have a clue what it’ll mean for him to grow up to be God’s King, however, we’ve been given this hint to listen in… God is doing something in this world in an unexpected way – something that will lead to the fulfilment of his promises and the redemption of Jerusalem.
Are you listening?
Head: Reflect on the mind-blowing reality of the almighty God coming to earth as a baby: the one who made the sun, moon and shining stars became a physically helpless and dependent baby and experienced life in our frustrating, sinful world. It’s hard to get your head around it – but sit with the “bigness” of this reality. Reflect on it, and wonder at Jesus.
Heart: Anna looked to Jesus and thanked God for redemption. Does your heart thank God for Jesus and his redemption? Listen to the song “Jerusalem” (spotify link below), reflect on and thank God for all that Jesus has done to redeem you from all of your helplessness as a sinner.
Hands: Think of someone (a friend or family member) who doesn’t know Jesus. What’s one way you can deepen your relationship with them so you can share Jesus with them? Pray that they will find redemption in Jesus.
Prayer: Father God, I thank you for your Son Jesus. Thank you that he has redeemed me from my sin. Thank you that he has redeemed every part of our world from the effects of sin. Thank you for the new, redeemed Jerusalem that I am headed to as a follower of Jesus. Please help me to have deeper relationships where I can share this redemption with others who are looking for it. In Jesus’ name, amen.
A song to listen to: Jerusalem