If we were to rewrite the Christmas story, we would surely write a longer version than is found in the Bible. And if we were to write a biography of Jesus, we would include more than just a couple of stories of His childhood. Yet, Luke, the great historian, only includes 3 events from the childhood of Jesus: His birth, His presentation at the Temple, and a family visit to the Temple when He was 12 years old. His presentation at the Temple is only a few minutes of one seemingly insignificant day. But what a day!
Have you ever noticed in your own life, how seemingly insignificant days become your most treasured memories? Every day has the seed for something really momentous to occur. There are no normal days in God’s world. What may seem like a monotonous, ordinary day could be a day you will remember forever. That day could be today.
I believe God chose to let us know about only a few moments in the life of baby Jesus because there must be something worth noticing. This seemingly insignificant episode in Luke 2:21-39 is typically bypassed when telling the stories of Jesus. But it contains some remarkable truths. In this Scripture passage, we will find that Jesus meets three people and we can apply three lessons from those meetings.
Jesus met Moses (Luke 2:21-24)
Because of the “Law of Moses” (2:22), Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the Temple. Take note of Luke’s curious repetition of God’s Law:
- “according to the law of Moses” (2:22)
- “as it is written in the Law of the Lord” (2:23)
- “according to what was said in the Law of the Lord” (2:24).
- “And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee” (v. 39).
These verses describe Jesus observing the Law given by Moses. To understand what is going on, you need to understand 3 ceremonies Jewish families did after a baby’s birth.
1 – Circumcision. Every Jewish boy was circumcised and named on the 8thday after birth. Circumcision symbolized the Jews’ separation from Gentiles and their unique relationship with God. Both Mary and Joseph had been told separately by an angel to name the child Jesus – Jehovah Saves!
2 – Redemption of the firstborn. According to the law, every firstborn male was sacred to God. A firstborn son was presented to God after birth and included buying back (redeeming) the child from God through an offering.
3 – Purification of the mother. For 40 days after the birth of a son and 80 days after the birth of a daughter, the mother was ceremonially unclean. So, at the end of Mary’s time of separation, they went to the temple to present Jesus, pay the offering, and make a sin sacrifice.
It is ironic that Joseph and Mary had to redeem the Redeemer and Mary offered a sin sacrifice while she held the only ultimate sin sacrifice in her arms.
Here’s the Lesson… Obedience is a choice.
Mary and Joseph obeyed God’s law. Even in their difficulty and in their poverty, they gave what God’s law required. Even though they had God’s Son, they didn’t use Him to override their responsibility. They were not above the law.
Obedience is the mark of a follower of Jesus. Even though our sins are forgiven, a true follower of Jesus does not try to cut corners. We obey because we love. We want to do our best because Jesus loves us so much.
When I was in high school I worked as a painter for a small painting company. My boss was a good Christian, Mike Treadway. I remember one day we were painting the doors in a house before they were hung. One of the guys didn’t paint the tops or bottoms of the doors because nobody would see them. Mike said, God will see them and we need to do our best for Him. It taught me a valuable lesson. We obey, not so others can see our obedience, but because we want to please God.
Jesus met Simeon (Luke 2:23-35)
While at the Temple, Mary and Joseph met Simeon. Simeon had an assurance from God that He would see the Redeemer of Israel before he died. This was that moment. As he held baby Jesus, he gave praise and a prophecy. He praised God for fulfilling His promise to let Him see Jesus and praised God for what Jesus would do to redeem the nation of Israel and the Gentiles. His prophecy summarized Jesus’ work and fate: 1- He would be the cause of many to fall. 2- He would be the cause of many to rise. 3- He will meet with much opposition. He also prophesied Mary’s agony so others could benefit. Mary was the only person to see both the birth and the death of Jesus Christ.
Here’s the Lesson… Patience is a virtue.
We don’t know how long he had to wait, but Simeon waited for God’s promise to come true. It has been said that ‘good things come to those who wait.’ Simeon surely found this true.
We live in a society that wants everything now. We don’t want to wait, even if we know it will be better to wait.
Have you seen the marshmallow test? A marshmallow is placed on a plate in a room and children are told that if they want to eat the marshmallow they can. Or, they can wait for 5 minutes and get 2 marshmallows. It’s funny to see the distress of waiting.
People can’t wait for sex until marriage. People can’t wait to buy something until they have the money to buy it. People can’t wait to express their opinions on Facebook until they know the facts. People can’t wait for God to answer their prayer so they abandon their prayer and do it themselves. I encourage you to wait on God.
Jesus met Anna (Luke 2:36-39)
In addition to Simeon, Mary and Joseph met Anna, an old woman who praised Jesus. We don’t know what she said, but we know some things about her. She had been a widow after only 7 years of marriage and remained single the rest of her long, long life, serving faithfully in the Temple. She had known sorrow and yet had not grown bitter. She was old and never ceased to have hope. She never ceased to worship and pray.
Here’s the Lesson… Hope is an anchor.
Anna had a lot of hard things happen in her life, but she kept her positive attitude because she continued to look ahead. Rather than regrets, she chose to have hope. She knew God had something better in her future, and she was right. She didn’t have the same promise that Simeon had. She didn’t need it. God honored her hope. If things haven’t gone good in your life, don’t live in that disappointment. Look ahead. Your future is much better than anything in your past.