Jesus Is Presented in the Temple – Luke 2: 22 – 38 (NRSVA)

22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.’
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
29 ‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.’
33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed — and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’
36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Wouldn’t you just love to have been a ‘fly on the wall’ when Jesus was presented at the Temple? Well, anywhere and everywhere throughout Jesus’ life for that matter!

Flies on walls overhear a lot… if they have ears to hear.

I wonder if Anna overheard what Simeon had to say about the child Jesus, when his parents brought him to the Temple for the purification rites. Is that why she began to praise God and speak about the child to anyone who would listen?

What have you overheard about Jesus? What do you want to tell people about him? If only you, and I, had Anna’s courage and temerity.

People overhear a lot about Jesus from us, and what people overhear from us about Jesus is vitally important. But, unfortunately, what they overhear isn’t always helpful.

If people hear judgement rather than justice; if they hear insular rather than expansive; if they hear harm rather than healing; condemnation rather than compassion; problems rather than praise; fearfulness rather than forgiveness; grumblings and pettiness about church and community, that’s what they will overhear about Jesus and therefore about God and God’s nature.

People are waiting to hear good news. People need to find Jesus… to find God… irresistible, so we need to be careful about what people overhear from us about God.

It’s true that Simeon’s words were a bit of a double-edged sword. Amazing Jesus’ mother and father in the first instance, then the twist in the tale – Jesus will bring upset for some, joy for others; his wise, divine insight will cause people to be uncomfortable. He will be opposed – and from the beginning we start to see the end.

And it is true that, for some, what they hear about Jesus will present a difficult challenge which requires a choice – to respond to Jesus and change, or not to respond at all. Our hope is that people who overhear us are presented with the truth about a loving, forgiving Lord God and Jesus as guide, example and Saviour.

Part of our patient and persistent work as Christians is to ensure that we talk in ways, and about things, that give expression to what we believe to be true about Jesus, and through him, what we believe to be true about God, so that what people overhear from us will intrigue them and lead them to begin to praise God and speak about Jesus for themselves.

After all her years of waiting, what Anna overheard caused her to come and meet Jesus herself.
We are surrounded by ‘flies on walls’, and they hear a lot… So, because of us, will they be caused to come and meet Jesus for themselves? Will they be caused to praise God and speak about Jesus?

What will they overhear about Jesus from you, and me?

Rev Janine Atkinson,
Minister in the SPACE Group of Churches

Image: Simeon and Anna. Artist: Jan van’t Hoff (Atelier Jan van’t Hoof)