The Obedience of Mary and Joseph
Mary and Joseph were obedient to the word of the Lord. In this passage, Luke tells us four times Mary and Joseph did something for Jesus in accordance with the law.
First, they were obedient to the law of circumcision. She had Jesus circumcised on the eighth day. (21) This was required by God as a sign of his covenant with Abraham and his descendants. You can read about this in Genesis 17. Circumcision was required of every male born or brought into the covenant family. (Genesis 17:11-12) It was a sign of the covenant. It was to be done on the eighth day of the child’s life.
It was important that Jesus keep all the law. He had to be perfect to qualify as the sacrifice for our sins. He was the lamb without blemish, using the Old Testament symbolism. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God
Mary and Joseph were also obedient to the word of the Lord expressed through the angel. The angel told Mary to name her son Jesus. (1:31) She obeyed. She named him at his circumcision. It was important to name him Jesus, for the name is important because it is the Greek equivalent of Joshua, which means “Yahweh saves”.
The third way Mary and Joseph were obedient was in observing the time of purification. The law required a woman, after giving birth, to be ceremonially unclean for seven days. That is why circumcision is done on the eighth day. Then, she must stay away from holy things for another 33 days. That made 40 days total. She could not come into the temple during this time. At the end of the 40 days, she was to present herself to a priest at the Temple and make an offering. (Leviticus 12) The offering was to be a lamb unless you were poor, then it was two turtledoves or two pigeons. Mary gave the poor person’s offering of birds. Once the offering is made, the woman was considered clean again.
What is this about? Leviticus 12 says the woman was to bring a burnt offering and a sin offering. When the offerings were sacrificed, atonement was made for the woman.
But what is the sin that requires atonement? It is not a sin to give birth to a child. In fact, God told Adam and Eve, as representatives of all humanity, to be fruitful and multiply. (Genesis 1:28) In other words, he told them to have children. God reiterated the command to Noah after the flood. (Genesis 9:1)
The normal child, though, would be born with the sin and guilt of Adam, which we call the doctrine of original sin. This is what Paul wrote about in Romans 5:12, when he said sin came into the world through one man and death through sin. The newborn child would be a sinner, inheriting sin from Adam. Sacrifice was made for this sin.
Jesus did not inherit original sin, however. His virgin birth is a testimony to that. But, he was obedient to the law, the command of God, with the help of his parents, so that he might be perfect. Galatians 4:4 tells us Jesus was born under the law. He kept the law perfectly. He was without sin.
The fourth way Mary and Joseph were obedient was in taking Jesus to the Temple to dedicate him as the firstborn. (22) She and Joseph evidently did this at the same time Mary made her offering. Luke explained that the law said the firstborn is holy to the Lord. (23) This goes back to the Passover, when God took the lives of all of the firstborn of Egypt, but spared the firstborn of Israel who put blood on the doorposts of their houses. You can read about this in Exodus 12. This was the final plague that convinced Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. From then on, the Lord claimed the firstborn of both men and beasts. In Exodus 13:1, the Lord told Moses “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the fist to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine”.
The firstborn animals could be killed. Nothing consecrated to God can be used by man. They cold also be redeemed with another type of animal, which was killed. Sons, however, were redeemed by an offering.
So, in all these things, Mary and Joseph were obedient. This is despite the fact that it is likely many people talked behind their backs and considered Mary immoral for getting pregnant before marriage.
Our obedience is not dependent upon our circumstances. God wants us to obey him in all things at all times.
The Testimony of Simeon
Luke has been presenting people to us in pairs. We had Elizabeth and Mary. We had John and Jesus. Now we have Simeon and Anna. They were both Godly, faithful worshippers of God, they both believed in the coming of Christ and they both were allowed to see him in their old age.
The Lord used Simeon to give testimony about Jesus as the Christ or Messiah. Simeon believed in the coming of Christ. That is what “waiting for the consolation of Israel” means.
Consolation means to comfort someone in their loss or grief. Israel had lost its kingdom. They were part of the Roman kingdom. The Romans even appointed the high priest, interfering with the method of succession set forth in the law. The Romans were pagans in the sacred land, a constant reminder of Israel’s fall from the great favor of God. Part of the Messiah’s work was to comfort Israel in its losses. Its comfort, or consolation, would come through the salvation Jesus would bring.
Psalm 119:81-82 says:
“My soul longs for your salvation, I hope in your word.
My eyes long for your promise; I ask, when will you comfort me?”
Isaiah 40:1-2 says:
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins”.
Simeon was looking for this time of comfort that would come from the Messiah.
In addition, the Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he saw the Messiah (the Lord’s Christ). And indeed the Spirit led him to the temple when Mary and Joseph were there presenting Jesus.
Simeon recognized Jesus for the Christ. He picked him up and blessed, or praised God, for letting him see Jesus. He called him God’s salvation that he prepared in the presence of all the peoples, a light for the Gentiles and glory for Israel. (29-32)
The phrase “light for the gentiles” is a reference to Isaiah 49:6. There the Father, speaking of the Son, said it was too little a thing for him to bring salvation only to the Jews. Instead the Father would make him a “light for the nations” so that salvation would reach all over the earth. “Nations” is another way of saying “Gentiles”.
Simeon also blessed Joseph and Mary. He told them Jesus was appointed (by God) for fall of some and the rise of others. Jesus would bring down the rich and powerful and raise up the poor and helpless. But Jesus would also be opposed. We will see later that the religious establishment of Israel would oppose him early in his ministry. That opposition would intensify until they killed Jesus. Isaiah prophesied “He was oppressed and he was afflicted”. (Isaiah 53:7)
Simeon also prophesied that a sword would pierce Mary’s heart. This is a reference to her having to watch her son die on a cross. The other songs of praise were all about Christ’s glory and greatness. This is the first to speak of his suffering. Surely, when she stood on Golgotha, watching her son die on a cross, she remembered these words spoken by Simeon and knew them to be true.
Simeon’s words, given by the Holy Spirit, witness to the fact that God’s plan for Jesus all along, from before the foundation of the world, was that Jesus would suffer and die for our sins.
T. S. Elliot wrote a poem based on Simeon’s praise. It is called “A Song For Simeon”. Simeon’s praise is the fourth and final song of praise Luke records for us.
The Testimony of Anna
I like Luke for his portrayals of Godly women. And I love God for using women, not just men, to accomplish his plan of salvation through Jesus.
Anna was an 84 year old widow. She was also a prophetess. She was totally devoted to God. She stayed at the temple all day and night worshipping the Lord, fasting and praying. Imagine God calling you to come to church every day to fast, pray and worship him. Imagine having no family or friends to socialize with. God would be your only companion and your only focus. This was the life of Anna. And she was faithful to it.
When Jesus appeared, she began giving thanks that he had arrived. She thanked God for her salvation.
I hope you do this. I hope you are thankful for your salvation and that you express your thankfulness to God. It is a wonderful gift, free to you, costly to him, that frees you from sin and guilt to live in fellowship with God forever.
Anna also began to speak to all who were there waiting for the Christ (the redemption of Jerusalem). That is also what we do. We not only thank God for salvation, but we tell others ab out it. The news is too good to keep to ourselves.
In this passage we see the Holy Spirit at work, pointing to Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah. He reveals, the sends prophecy, he inspires blessing. The Holy Spirit constantly points to Jesus.
We also see attestations to Jesus as Christ and as Savior. Angels and men and women all attest that this baby is the Savior. Luke records these so his readers will know that God made it clear: now is the time for salvation, the Savior has come.