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Luke 2:22-52 – Jesus at the temple as a child, twice.

In verse 21 we are told that Jesus was circumcised. This is significant because circumcision identified him as belonging to the people of God and being obligated to keep the law of Moses. Jesus’ circumcision was an expression of his incarnation whereby he identified himself as a man under the law and obligated to obey the law.

Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the temple where two righteous people encountered him – a man and a woman. Simeon was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. One cannot miss the presence of the Holy Spirit in Luke’s Christmas story:

  • The Holy Spirit overshadows Mary causing Jesus’ conception
  • Gabriel said that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth
  • Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied
  • Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied
  • The Holy Spirit was upon Simeon – revealing to him (not see death until he had seen God’s messiah) and moving him (to go to the temple)
  • The Holy Spirit is also upon Anna enabling her to prophesy

Here the Holy Spirit has revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ. The Holy Spirit leads Simeon to the temple where he takes the baby Jesus in his arms and prophesies. Jesus is a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to the people of Israel. He is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed – both aspects will be seen in Luke-Acts.

Anna is an old woman who did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day – and coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. There are echoes here of what will occur in Acts, particularly on the Day of Pentecost.

The next narrative in Luke is another account of the child Jesus at the temple – now aged twelve years. Jesus knows that God is his Father – he knows who he is. He does not know everything (this is an expression of the incarnation) – he listens and ask questions (sitting at the feet of the teachers) and he increases in wisdom. Jesus knows that the place for him to be aged twelve is learning about God from the Bible (i.e. the temple).

One wonders about Jesus standing in the temple watching as sheep, goats and cows were slain in sacrifice – and though a child – understanding much more about them than many adults. Jesus would also have sung the Psalms of praise. One also wonders what Jesus may have thought as he looked at the curtain that separated him from God’s presence.

Luke’s Christmas narrative sets up the accounts in both Luke and Acts.