The Presentation of Christ in the Temple
Forty days after birth, Jesus is brought by his parents to the temple, as the Law required. The 40 days falls on Feb 2nd, traditionally known as Candlemas, but we remember and celebrate this event this Sunday.
Only Luke records the event, and the encounter with Simeon and Anna. For us, it is a bit of time-wrench as we have got used to the adult Jesus engaged in ministry, calling his disciples, changing water to wine, over the past few weeks, and now, we are back with Jesus, the infant, and with his parents around him. As with Christmas we are back with a story where others speak about Jesus, rather than Jesus speaks, and those others are a couple of much older people, devout people who have been praying and hoping.
Simeon senses (somehow by God’s Spirit) that this baby being brought to the temple, this baby which seems no different from any other baby brought by parents, is ‘God’s salvation’, ‘a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of God’s people Israel’. And Anna also has this insight.
In this passage there is a wonderful mingling of the Law and God’s Spirit. As Mary and Joseph do what is required by the Law, so Simeon is guided by God’s Spirit to speak of Jesus. There are some who say that Jesus came to abolish the wretched Law which had trapped people in its tentacles, even going further to complain about the legalism of Judaism and Jews. This is just ignorant. Jesus came to fulfil the Law, and to speak against those who twisted it to their own ends or to exclude others. Luke presents Jesus as the child of devout Jewish parents who fulfil the Law in what it requires and in doing so God’s Spirit enriches the moment in a most surprising way.
And Jesus will be found teaching in the synagogue, contending for the Temple to be a house of prayer; The Holy Spirit of God is on this prayerful man and woman who attend the Temple regularly, and will come upon the disciples at Pentecost in the city of Jerusalem, from where the gospel will be shared to the ends of the earth. For Jesus is both the glory of God’s people Israel AND a light for the revelation to the Gentiles.
At a time of Roman Occupation – a time of hardship and uncertainty, two prayerful old people are given a truth from God and they share it, they speak it, they make it known. In this multi-generational passage, we see the devout young parents being blessed by the older generation as both look forward to the (as yet unknown) ministry of this little child.
In our time of uncertainty and difficulty, whether we are younger or older, may we be prayerful, expectant on God; may we live through life such that we can pray, “Lord now let your servant depart in peace ..” Simeon and Anna never saw the miracles or ministry of Jesus, not the crucifixion or the resurrection, but they had faith in God, and believed. They didn’t seek glory or reward for themselves, and they never knew what impact their comments and blessing had on others. May we live our lives such that it might be said, he /she brought blessing to others.
Rev’d Peter Reiss