Anna, The Prophetess

Bible Book: Luke  2
Subject: Anna; Servanthood; Trusting God; Faith
Series: A Christmas Trilogy; The Three Wise Women

The Bible tells us that Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple when it came time for the purification of Mary according to the law of Moses. As we read the account from the second chapter of Luke, it reads like a dramatic production in three acts. It is indeed dramatic, but it is not a production; it is a true story of the first entrance of God in the flesh into His holy Temple and the recognition of   His presence by a devout man and a wise woman named Anna.

The Temple in which this event took place was an impressive place indeed. It was 585 feet from East to West and 610 feet from North to South according to Josephus. It was equally impressive in its construction and adornment. T. W. Davies describes how the eastern front of the Temple was covered with golden plates, which reflected the glow of the rising sun and formed an object of rare beauty that could be seen for miles around. The stone of which it was built was white marble and much of the side walls was covered with gold.

I. Enter Mary And Joseph

As Mary and Joseph entered the Temple it was a young, poor couple entering the most glorious surroundings of wealth and beauty their young eyes could ever hope to see. I see in this a strong parable for every House of God where people, regardless of their state or condition must be made to feel at home. At times persons have said to me, "Oh, I don't think I could come to First Baptist  Church. I don't have much money. I don't have any nice clothes to wear." I cringe everytime I hear those words because I know that's not the way we are. We readily acknowledge that regardless of our state in life we are all paupers, bowing in humility before the King of Kings! I can honestly say that in my years as your Pastor I have never heard or seen evidence of exclusiveness in our church that would exclude anyone who chooses to worship here.

The evidence of Joseph and Mary's lack of material wealth is reflected in the offering they presented - a pair of turtledoves. This offering places the family among the poor of their day. (Read Leviticus 12 for the specifications of Mosaic Law regarding the rite of purification).

This was a very special day for this young couple. They had come to the Temple to present their baby boy to the Lord (verse 22). I am reminded of that very special occasion each Mother's Day when young parents come before our congregation to present their children before the Lord in a service of dedication. This is a very special time when the parents say to God, "We receive our child as a gift from You and we dedicate ourselves to rearing this child to know you and to love you. We dedicate this child to you." This is exactly what Mary and Joseph had come to the Temple to do on this occasion.

II. Enter Simeon

While they were there, a remarkable thing happened. A man, a resident of Jerusalem, apparently quite old in years who had waited all his life to see the fulfillment of God's promised redemption, took the baby Jesus in his arms and praised God.

The Bible says that the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah. He had been looking forward with great anticipation to this very moment. Moved by the Holy Spirit, Simeon came to the Temple on this very special day. Now, there is a lesson for all of us. Has there ever been a time in your life that you felt the Lord was leading you to do something, but for some reason you dismissed it as foolishness and did not follow through? Then later you discovered that you really were being led by the Spirit and you missed some great opportunity because of your failure to respond. I am confident that most Christians can look back and see such moments with deep regret. We are challenged by the experience of Simeon to respond faithfully each time we  sense that the Holy Spirit is leading us to do something. Just think what Simeon would have missed had he not been both sensitive and responsive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Led by the Holy Spirit, Simeon went to the Temple.

Apparently, Simeon was already in the Temple watching each person who entered, looking at every activity, wondering what the Lord might reveal to him on this day. At once, when Joseph and Mary entered carrying the baby Jesus, the Holy Spirit spoke to Simeon: "This is it! This is the One you have been waiting for!" Simeon took Jesus in his arms and blessed God with the following words...Read verses 29-32.

Well, Joseph and Mary were dumbfounded. They didn't know what to say or to think about these peculiar words or this man who now held their precious son in his arms. You can understand how they must have wondered at these actions and these words.

Then Simeon turned to Joseph and Mary and blessed them and said to Mary ... Read verses 34-35. Simeon tells Mary that the coming of Jesus has introduced a crisis in Israel that will divide the nation. His presence will constitute a demand for a decision on the part of His people. Those who reject Jesus will fall and those who accept Him will be lifted up. Simeon informs Mary that she will participate in the suffering of her Son. And isn't that always the case, mothers? When your child rejoices, you rejoice. When your child hurts, you hurt. The cruelty to be experienced by Jesus will be like a sword that pierces through her very soul. Further, Simeon says that the reaction to Jesus will   be a disclosure of what man is on the inside: "the secret thoughts of many will be laid bare" (New English Bible).

From our perspective we know the extent of the prophetic words of Simeon. He has told Mary and Joseph that their baby is the Redeemer, that He will suffer and that the suffering will cut Mary to the core. He also said that Jesus' very existence demands a response, a decision, either you believe in Jesus Christ, or you reject Him. If you reject Him, to use the words of Simeon, you fall. If you receive Him, you are lifted up. Today we use the word "saved." Jesus came for the salvation of all people everywhere, for Gentile and Jew alike. "Praise God from Whom all blessing flow." If you have never trusted Christ as your personal Savior, you are missing the very purpose of Christmas, the very purpose of His coming. Now is the time to give your heart and soul to Jesus Who came to be your Redeemer, your Savior.

III. Enter Anna

Immediately upon the completion of Simeon's words to Mary, the Bible says," . . . in that instant . . ." Anna enters the scene. Anna, the third wise woman we study this Christmas deserves the title because of her unique devotion as a servant of God.

A. Who Was She?

The Bible says she is a prophetess, a female prophet. As a matter of fact, she is the last prophet that we see in the Bible. She actually brings to a close the age of the prophets who proclaimed the coming of the Messiah. Anna now witnesses that coming and then declares that it has happened.

No longer will there be a need for the prophet to speak before the people for God has now come to speak directly in the person of Jesus. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

"Here is what we know about Anna. She was the daughter of a man named Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. The name, Phanuel, interestingly enough, means "face of God." Asher was the eighth son of Jacob and was the ancestor of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. The tribe of Asher dwelt on the west slopes of the Galilean highlands. So we know that Anna was the daughter of Phanuel and was from the tribe of Asher.

As we read on we are impressed with the amount of detail we have on Anna even though her name is only mentioned in one verse in the Bible. She was an old person, a widow who apparently lost her husband after seven years of marriage. Most commentators that I read believed her to be 84 years of age. Others believe that she has been a widow for 84 years which would make her well over one hundred years of age. Her age is not as significant as what she did and she said.

B. What Did She Do?

Anna was a person of remarkable devotion to God. As we see her brief appearance and then disappearance I am reminded of a sight I saw the other night as I stood in the back yard of our home. Looking up into the sky it seemed to me as if the frigid air made the sky clearer than usual. At once there was a streaking flash of light and just as quickly as it appeared, it disappeared. It came and went so quickly I asked myself if I had really seen a shooting star or did I just think I did. Anna made that kind of appearance. She was like a bright star that appeared for a few moments and then disappeared.

Denied the joy of motherhood, she had scarcely absented herself from the Temple since she first became a widow. Perhaps like the wise men, this wise woman had searched the skies for some sign. Perhaps she too had wondered at the brilliant star she saw in the east. Though aged in years, Anna was young in hope. While looking for the fulfillment of prophecy she had busied herself about the work of the Lord in the Temple. The Temple had literally become her home. Everyone who came to the Temple knew Anna. She had probably been serving the Lord in the Temple for about 60 years. The Bible says that she served God with fastings and she prayed night and day. No wonder she recognized the Lord when He came into her presence. I believe that there are people today who wouldn't know the Lord if He came into their presence because no one is further from their mind than the Lord Jesus. In order to know someone you have to spend some time with them. That is also true of Christ. Some folks have about as much knowledge of the presence of the Lord as a post because they never spend time with Him. They have failed to sharpen their awareness of Him through failure to study His Word and communicate with Him through prayer. No so with Anna. She recognized the Lord the very instant she entered His presence and gave praise to God.

C. What Did She Say?

The next thing Anna did was to give witness to others. She spoke to all those gathered in the Temple who were also looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

The "redemption of Jerusalem" (verse 38) is the same as the "consolation of Israel" (verse 25). Involved in the Messianic hope was the belief that the Jewish capital would be liberated from her captors (Isaiah 52:1-7). Revelation 21:27 declares that the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city, will also be redeemed from the power of the captor. No one will enter the heavenly city whose name is not written in the Lamb's Book of Life. No one will be there who is wicked, who defiles, who does that which is an abomination to God, who is a liar.


Beyond the events of that very day. Anna's words effect us. We can take the words of verse 38 and bring them into the reality of our twenty-first century world. Anna spoke of Jesus "to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem" and we might add - Miami, New York, Kansas City, Nashville,

Dallas, Shreveport, Birmingham, San Francisco. Jesus Christ has come for all those who are looking for redemption in whatever city they might live. Christ has come for redemption in our city as well, and in fact, is here right now to redeem you. Will you trust in Him as your Savior and the Lord of your life?