Joseph and Mary have come to the Temple to present Jesus and to make a sacrifice according the requirements of the law. In the midst of the crowds, they encounter Simeon. This elderly, fragile man is blind, but he immediately recognizes that Jesus is the Messiah. Simeon had much to say about Jesus, but then he turns specifically toward Mary and says,
34 “…Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35)
- appointed for the fall and rising of many
- a sign that will be opposed
- a sword that will pierce Mary’s soul
These are not warnings any mother hopes to hear about her newborn. Mary knew that Jesus was to be the future king, but can you imagine her response to these proclamations? Perhaps she felt fear? Anxiety? Scripture tells us that at that very hour, a second prophet enters the scene, Anna.
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.[f] She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 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. (Luke 2:36-38 ESV)
The Bible only features nine female prophets, and Anna is the only named prophetess in the New Testament. (*See note below for a list of the female prophets in the Bible.) So, we know she is special and has been placed in Mary’s path for a reason. It as if God might have sent Anna as an encourager. She, like Simeon, recognizes Jesus immediately. While we don’t know exactly what Anna said to Mary, we know she gave thanks to God and acknowledged the Messiah.
This is Anna’s moment to shine a light in a dark time of Roman oppression. She has been waiting her whole life at this assigned place. Anna, an elderly widow, has not abandoned the Temple for decades. How has this widow spent her waiting time? Worshiping, praying and fasting all day and all night. Her focus has been on God, and in this moment her proclamation of thanksgiving is not only for Mary, but for all who wait in the agony under Roman opposition for the redemption of Israel. Because Anna has been so singularly focused on God for so long, it is easy for her to recognize God’s representative when he arrives in the Temple that day, even as a tiny helpless infant.
Finally, it is interesting to note Anna’s reaction.
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. (Luke 2:38)
Her thanksgiving shifts almost immediately to evangelism. She is speaking of Jesus to all who are waiting because her encounter with Christ fills her with a desire to tell everyone the good news.
Lord, far too often I am hesitant to speak of you to others who might not know you. Could they be waiting for redemption? Give me a grateful heart, like Anna that can’t help but overflow with a desire to love others by telling them about you.
*The others are Miriam, the sister of Moses (Exodus 15:20); Deborah, the judge (Judges 4:4); Huldah, the wife of Shallum (2 Chronicles 34:22); Isaiah’s wife (Isaiah 8:3); and Philip’s four unmarried daughters (Acts21:9). (GotQuestions.org)