************ Sermon on Luke 2:36-38 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 26, 2014
"Jesus Meets Anna"
Luke 2 tells us about four important meetings in the Temple. A young Jesus meets Moses, Simeon, Anna, and the Teachers of the Law.
This week we turn our attention to Anna. From Anna we learn what happens when someone meets and professes the Lord – as we heard Kelsey doing this morning.
I Jesus - the Redemption of Jerusalem
A Each of the meetings in the Temple teach us something about Jesus and His mission. From Moses we learn that Jesus was born under the Law. From Simeon we learn Jesus is the "Consolation of Israel." Today, from Anna we learn that Jesus is the "Redemption of Jerusalem."
What is the "Redemption of Jerusalem?" To understand the phrase we need to go back to the prophecy of Isaiah and the Babylonish captivity. Remember what was done by the Babylonians? Jerusalem's gates were destroyed, her walls were torn down, the Temple was looted and burned, the palaces and homes were leveled, the leaders and the craftsmen were exiled leaving behind the poor and destitute. Jerusalem was desolate and forsaken, a place of darkness.
Spiritually, the Jerusalem of Anna was just as dark and forsaken as the Jerusalem of Isaiah. Jerusalem was a place of great wickedness. The Pharisees, for instance, reduced religion to mere formalism; they looked so nice and religious on the outside but were dead on the inside; they are but whitewashed tombs, says Jesus. Justice for widows and orphans was often rare. Money-changers in the Temple courts took advantage of pilgrims. Often there was circumcision of the flesh without circumcision of the heart. Many times burnt offerings and grain offerings and fellowship offerings were offered in the place of obedience.
B In the midst of all this darkness Isaiah brings a message of hope about the "Redemption of Jerusalem" (Lk 2:38). According to Isaiah, with the coming of the Messiah, Jerusalem will be redeemed as a place of glory. Listen to Isaiah's description of the "Redemption of Jerusalem" (ASK THE CONGREGATION TO TURN TO ISAIAH 60; pg 1155 in the pew Bibles):
(Isa 60:1-3) "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. (2) See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. (3) Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.We have only read selections. I encourage you to read all of Isaiah 60-62 to see the fullness of Jerusalem's redemption when the Messiah comes.
(Isa 60:10-14) "Foreigners will rebuild your walls, and their kings will serve you. Though in anger I struck you, in favor I will show you compassion. (11) Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that men may bring you the wealth of the nations-- their kings led in triumphal procession. (12) For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined. (13) "The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the pine, the fir and the cypress together, to adorn the place of my sanctuary; and I will glorify the place of my feet. (14) The sons of your oppressors will come bowing before you; all who despise you will bow down at your feet and will call you the City of the LORD, Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
C Practically speaking, what does the "Redemption of Jerusalem" mean for someone like Anna? What does it mean for you and me?
To find the answer we need to look at Revelation 21 which tells us about life in the New Jerusalem:
(Rev 21:2-4) I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. (3) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. (4) He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."This is a picture of Isaiah's prophecy fulfilled; this is a picture of the "Redemption of Jerusalem." Two things stand out about life in a redeemed Jerusalem. First, it is life with God. Second, it is life without sin and the consequences of sin. The "Redemption of Jerusalem" means perfection, peace, and glory – all because of Jesus the Messiah!
II Anna - Who She Is
A Now, who is this woman we meet in our Scripture reading this morning? We start with her name: Anna. "Anna" means "grace." Her name is a reminder that apart from God's grace none of us would profess Christ before men.
B Do you know what the following women have in common: Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Noadiah, Isaiah's wife, Anna, and the four daughters of Philip the evangelist (Ex 15:20; Judges 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14; Neh 6:14; Isa 8:3; Lk 2:36' Acts 21:9-9)? Every single one is called a "prophetess." As a prophetess, Anna is part of an elite company that stretches throughout the history of Israel.
Why is it significant that Anna is a prophetess? It has been four hundred years since the prophet Malachi – or any prophet – was heard in Israel. Meaning what? Meaning there has been four hundred years of silence from God. Early in the New Testament we are introduced to Anna, a prophetess. Surprising, isn't it, that God's silence is broken by Anna. Some try to deny the very words of Scripture here because they are offended that the voice of prophecy was given to a woman. But God was doing something. In a very dark and desperate and degenerate time, God did not leave Himself without a witness. God took steps to ensure that the voice of prophecy was not completely stilled.
It is the Bible that calls Anna a prophetess. Since the Bible is the very Word of God, it is God Himself Who calls Anna a prophetess. Contrast Anna to the Jezebel of Revelation 2. This wicked woman "calls herself a prophetess" (Rev 2:20). Jezebel was self-appointed to this office rather than God-appointed. It should not surprise us that Jezebel's teaching misleads and is filled with error (cf Rev 2:20). Anna, on the other hand, faithfully and truthfully declares and interprets the very Word of God.
C We are told Anna is "the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher." The tribe of Asher, you may know, lives in the region of Galilee. Now, we are not just talking about Anna; we are talking about Anna the prophetess. Anna the prophetess hails from Galilee. So what? What is the big deal? Because there was a saying, current at the time of Jesus, "that a prophet does not come out of Galilee" (Jn 7:52). In spite of this belief, the very first prophetic voice after four hundred years of silence does come from Galilee.
Anna breaks the mold. Anna breaks a long held belief. She prepares the way for another prophet out of Galilee – even the Lord Jesus Christ. Anna, like John the Baptist, is a forerunner to the Messiah. She prepares the way for the ministry of Jesus.
D Anna "was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four" (Lk 2:36-37). What is clear is that she became a widow at a young age. What is equally clear is that she chose not to marry again – something very unusual for that time and place when most widows remarried so they were not neglected and exploited in spite of the laws demands (Ex 22:21-22; Deut 10:17-18; 14:29; Isa 1:17). She was a widow to her dying day, which is mentioned to her praise.
E Anna "never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying" (Lk 2:37). Now we see why Anna never remarried. Anna chose not to remarry because she wanted to focus on the Lord and His service without the distractions of husband and children and other responsibilities. Anna's focus was God. Anna was a God-centered person. Anna, in a very real way, was the bride of Christ.
Remember, this was a dark and wicked time in the history of God's people. The church, the people of God, appeared to be very small in the eyes of men and in danger of being snuffed out. This was also the case, for instance, in the very dangerous time of King Ahab. Yet, at that time the Lord preserved for Himself seven thousand men who did not bend their knees to Baal (1 Kings 19:18). At the start of the New Testament period we see that God continues to preserve for Himself a faithful remnant. We have been seeing that faithful remnant in our study of Luke – pious, devout, God-fearing people who strive to serve the Lord and keep His commandments. I am talking about such people as Zechariah and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary, and Simeon. We see that Anna is to be included in their number as well.
Look at this God-fearing woman: "She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying" (Lk 2:37). We know that the Pharisees fasted often and made long prayers, but they did so to be seen and praised by men (Mt 6:5; cf Lk 11:43); they served themselves and their own pride in their fastings and prayer. But this good woman did so because her love for God was sincere and aimed at His honor. She attended public worship, of course; but she also spent a considerable amount of time in private worship. She not only observed the hours of prayer, but prayed night and day; she lived a life of prayer, gave herself to prayer, and was frequent in prayer.
Anna is an example for Kelsey and everyone of us to follow. Her devotion to the Lord is a good thing and worthy of imitation. Her faithful attendance at worship and her life of constant prayer should encourage all of us in our walk with God.
One of my joys as pastor is to see aged Christians abounding in acts of devotion to God. We have many widows and elderly couples who, like Anna, take pleasure in their religious exercises. They don't think worship and prayer as being unnecessary at their advanced age. To the contrary, they participate more eagerly. What an example they are – with Anna – for the rest of us.
I want to challenge you, congregation, to be like Anna. I want to challenge you to be faithful and uncompromising in your worship and prayers. I want to challenge you to find time for God every single day. I want to challenge you to make God and keep God first in your life.
F Now, the final sentence of our Bible reading should not surprise us. We are told that Anna was "looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem" (Lk 2:38). Faithful Jews, like Anna, were looking, waiting, praying, and working for the "Redemption of Jerusalem." Would we expect anything less from a true prophetess of God? Would we expect anything less from a true servant of God, a pious and devout servant of God, a woman who chose not to remarry, a woman whose priority was worship and prayer?
Do you see yourself in Anna? I hope so. I pray so. Do you look, wait, pray for the "Redemption of Jerusalem"? When you get up each morning do you think to yourself, "Is this the day? Is this the day the darkness ends? Is this the day I see the Messiah?" Is this your life's dream? Is this the deepest and fondest wish of your heart? Is this what you live for? Is this what you pray for?
III Anna - What She Does
A God's timing is always perfect. Anna came up just as Simeon was praising the Lord for baby Jesus (Lk 2:38). Right away she knew this was no ordinary day and no ordinary baby. Right away she knew the "Redemption of Jerusalem" was at hand.
Anna, like Simeon, was filled with the Spirit and led by the Spirit. It was given to her by the Spirit to see that baby Jesus was the answer to her prayers, her hopes, and her tears for Jerusalem and the people of God.
B Anna came up just as Simeon was praising the Lord for baby Jesus. We are told, "She gave thanks to God" (Lk 2:38). Did she join Simeon's song so it was a duet in the Temple area with Simeon and Anna singing together? We don't know. But we do know they were both praising and thanking God at the same time on account of the baby Jesus. If anything, she helped to make up the harmony being sung to God.
This morning Kelsey joins her voice to that of Simeon and Anna. In fact, everyone who knows the Lord Jesus has more than enough reason to give thanks and praise. Once you have met Him you cannot help but want to respond with thanks.
C Now, remember, Anna was a prophetess. Notice what Anna does as a prophetess: she "spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem" (Lk 2:38). Anna had good news – that she had seen the Lord, that the "Redemption of Jerusalem" was at hand.
Go back to the shepherds of Christmas Day. When they saw Jesus, "they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child" (Lk 2:17). Anna, we see, is just like the shepherds. She "spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem" (Lk 2:38).
We see a very important Biblical principle at work here: those who know the Lord tell others about Him; those who know the Lord want others to also know Him.
Again, Anna is an example for us to follow and imitate. Like Anna, we have met and know the Lord. Like Anna, we have a need to tell others about the "Redemption of Jerusalem."
It is no accident that Luke tells us about two witnesses to Jesus Christ in the Temple. There is Simeon. And, there is Anna. Both are witnesses. Both give testimony. Why is this important?
Do you know, in both the Old and New Testaments, how many witnesses are required to establish that evidence is reliable? Let me tell you: two or three (Deut 17:6; Deut 19:15; Mt 18:16,20; 2 Cor 13:1; Heb 10:28; 1 Tim 5:19). So, when Jesus sent out the seventy-two, how did He send them? Didn't He send them in thirty-six groups of two (Lk 10)? Luke is careful to use the testimony of two witnesses to establish that Jesus indeed is the Messiah Who brings "Redemption to Jerusalem" and "Consolation to Israel."
The witnesses have spoken. Their testimony has been established as being reliable and true. The Messiah has come and we who confess Christ can look forward to the "Redemption of Jerusalem."
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