Luke 2:21-24 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
Just over a month after the birth of Jesus, we find the family going up to Jerusalem to continue the process of fulfilling the Law of the Lord. Their purpose was to “present him to the Lord”! Many times we have seen a newborn baby brought to church. We do not have the same kind of rituals that this family participated in. Instead, from time to time we do conduct a ceremony in which the family commits itself to raise a child in the fear and admonition of the Lord. In their case, they came to offer a sacrifice.
Jesus did not come into the world to undo everything that had been done before. In the Sermon on the Mount, he assured his listeners that he did not come to abolish the law. Instead, he came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17). Jesus performed everything required by the law and met the expectations in the writings of the prophets. In him, the Law and the Prophets came to their fulfillment.
Joseph was obedient to the heavenly vision. Let’s look at…
Matthew 1:20-23 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
Matthew gives us a record of Joseph’s experience. Joseph was visited by an angel of the Lord in a dream. He was instructed to provide a cover for Mary. She was obviously pregnant and if he refused to bring her into his home more than her reputation would be ruined. Following the very law, she needed to fulfill her neighbors would have been required to put her to death. A lot of the social amenities related to marriage did not happen but the most important one did. Rather than putting her away quietly, Joseph brought her into his home.
Neither Joseph nor Mary was asked if they wanted to participate in this very dangerous situation. Mary was told that she would conceive and carry a son to birth. Joseph was told that the child was from the Holy Spirit and that he was to name that child Jesus. This was the fulfillment of the words of Isaiah “the virgin shall conceive… they shall call his name Immanuel”! Matthew added the meaning of the word Immanuel is God with us!
With the birth of the child, Mary and Joseph had certain duties…
Every firstborn male is set apart to God.
Exodus 13:1-2 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.”
Upon leading the children of Israel out of Egypt God revealed to Moses that the firstborn of all creatures belonged to him. This dedication of the firstborn echoes the sacrifice of the firstborn of Egypt as the tenth plague. Jesus, being the firstborn of Mary, falls into the role of dedication imposed on God’s people. Later, there would be a retelling of the event. This would be woven into the Passover ceremonies.
Children have a very important role in the Passover seder. Traditionally the youngest child is prompted to ask four questions about the Passover seder. The questions asked by the child are:
“Why is this night different from all other nights? On all other nights, we eat either unleavened or leavened bread, but tonight we eat only unleavened bread? On all other nights, we eat all kinds of vegetables, but tonight, we eat only bitter herbs? On all other nights, we do not dip [our food] even once, but tonight we dip twice? On all other nights, we eat either sitting or reclining, but tonight we only recline?”
Often the leader of the seder and the other adults at the meal will use prompted responses from the Haggadah, which states, "The more one talks about the Exodus from Egypt, the more praiseworthy he is." Many readings, prayers, and stories are used to recount the story of the Exodus. Many households add their own commentary and interpretation and often the story of the Jews is related to the theme of liberation.
These questions asked at the Passover celebration is drawn from the book of Exodus. Let’s look at chapter 13:14-15. And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15 For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’
Later, the tribe of Levi would be set aside in place of the firstborn of the entire nation. The firstborn of all unclean animals would be redeemed by a substitute or a monetary gift. Dedicating the baby Jesus to God at the temple was a step in fulfilling the Law of Moses.
The sacrifice Joseph offered was a testimony. Provision had been made in the law to provide for poor people. After the passage of time allowing the purifying of the mother then a lamb should be brought as a burnt offering and a pigeon sacrificed for a sin offering. This would make atonement for the mother. Let’s look at Leviticus 12:6-8. “And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering, 7 and he shall offer it before the Lord and make atonement for her. Then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, either male or female. 8 And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.”
The sacrifice was to be made just over a month after the birth of the child. Jesus would have been circumcised on the eighth day. Then a period of time would pass for the ritual purification of Mary. Possibly because they had had to make the long trip from Nazareth they did not have the money for a lamb. Instead, they brought two turtledoves, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. They had been met, individually, by angels and now they were going to be met by people. They had been faithfully following both the heavenly vision and the written law. A true heavenly vision will never contradict the written word of God.
Mary had many things to ponder during her pregnancy. Now that the child was born she would find herself confronted by people who had been waiting to see him. That must’ve been unexpected! Everything about their lives from the time they saw the angels was, to say the least, out of the ordinary.
They were met at the temple by Simeon.
Luke 2:25-27 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 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. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law,
Simeon is not identified as a prophet but he certainly was one. We have facts about him that would speak to his being a prophet. He was righteous he was devout and he was anticipating the consolation of Israel! This phrase “the consolation of Israel” probably refers to prophecies in the Old Testament that spoke of the time of redemption for Israel. He would have been very familiar with the scroll of Isaiah. He had been waiting patiently because he had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he saw the Messiah! This was one of those situations where a man could wait for many years with confidence. God always keeps his promises and he had promised Simeon that he would see the Messiah.
Mary and Joseph approached the city with a sure and certain relief. The worst was over. Joseph had rescued Mary, the baby had been born, and now there would simply be the temple dedication and a return to Nazareth! They could not have anticipated what was about to happen. As they came into the temple this elderly man stepped forward and took Jesus into his arms. Then…
He proclaimed the Lord’s salvation.
Let’s look at Luke 2:28-32. He took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
Simeon’s vigil was over. He had seen God’s salvation! And, as a prophet, he proclaimed that this child was prepared for all people! This child was going to be a light of revelation to the Gentiles! This child was to be the glory of Israel! And then…
Simeon warned the parents of Jesus.
Luke 2:33-35 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
As they stood in amazement, and it would seem a crowd must’ve been gathering, Mary heard some ominous words. This child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel. This child would be opposed! For the next several years Mary would harbor these words in her heart. Especially the promise of a sword that would pierce her own soul. Certainly a reference to the grief she would feel when she watched her son being tried, beaten, and crucified!
The second prophetic figure was…
Anna, a prophetess, who spoke of redemption.
Luke 2:36-38 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Anna is identified as a prophetess. Female prophets appear in the Old Testament as well as the New. They were rare but real! The first woman identified in the Bible as a prophetess was Miriam the sister of Moses. Deborah was a prophetess who judged Israel.
Anna was 84 years old and like Simeon, she was waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. She was a very godly woman who spent her time worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. Observing the crowd gathered around Simeon, Anna came forward and began to praise God and then she began to spread the word. The Messiah had come and he was this baby boy. Nothing could have been farther from the expectations of the Jewish leaders. Perhaps that’s the only reason the word didn’t get carried to Herod before the Magi came.
They returned to Nazareth where Jesus grew.
Luke 2:39-40 And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
After they returned to Galilee we have no account of what their life was like. Luke tells us that Jesus came back to Jerusalem when he was 12 years old. This would have continued the process of fulfilling the law. Once again, he would go into the temple. While he was there he amazed the teachers and rabbis. A part of the mystery of the God/Man was the reference to his growing, becoming strong, and filled with wisdom. The favor of God was upon him!
One reference we do have is found in both the gospel of Mark and the gospel of Matthew. In these accounts, Jesus is confronted by the residents of Nazareth. They were amazed at his teaching and said, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary…?” (Mark 6:3). This indicates that they knew the human side of him but not his divinity. Certainly, some of them would’ve been in the group of pilgrims during his visit to the temple at the age of twelve. Likely they forgot all about that! These people had not been impressed by him during the many years he had lived among them.
During those years in Nazareth, his time would have been taken up by the day-to-day activities of learning carpentry from his adopted father, Joseph. Since Mark identifies him as “the carpenter” we can assume that he took over the shop when Joseph died.
Matthew gives us a different account filling in the time between Jerusalem and Nazareth with a trip to Egypt no doubt using the gold brought to them by the Magi. We don’t really have time now to talk about these wise men. I hope no one here is unimpressed with Jesus, our Lord, and Savior. He is the only way of salvation!
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.