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 turtledoves 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 seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped 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.New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
What to do with this educator’s commentary
This commentary invites you as a teacher to engage with and interpret the passage. Allow the text to speak first. The commentary suggests that you ask yourself various questions that will aid your interpretation. They will help you answer for yourself the question in the last words of the text: ‘what does this mean?’
This educator’s commentary is not a ‘finished package’. It is for your engagement with the text. You then go on to plan how you enable your students to work with the text.
Both you and your students are the agents of interpretation. The ‘Worlds of the Text’ offer a structure, a conversation between the worlds of the author and the setting of the text; the world of the text; and the world of reader. In your personal reflection and in your teaching all three worlds should be integrated as they rely on each other.
In your teaching you are encouraged to ask your students to engage with the text in a dialogical way, to explore and interpret it, to share their own interpretation and to listen to that of others before they engage with the way the text might relate to a topic or unit of work being studied.
Structure of the commentary:
The world of the author’s community
The world at the time of the text
Geography of the text
Questions for the teacher
Text & textual features
Characters & setting
Ideas / phrases / concepts
Questions for the teacher
Questions for the teacher
Meaning for today / challenges
Church interpretations & usage
The World Behind the Text
See general introduction to Luke.
The world of the text
Text & textual features
This text forms a part of Luke’s infancy narrative. The narrative has already announced the impending birth of John the Baptist and Jesus and their actual births. It will go on to record some of the early life of Jesus. Matthew and Luke’s Gospels include very different, almost irreconcilable, infancy narratives. This passage, which is Luke’s alone, contributes to establishing his view on the nature of Jesus, woven into passages about his birth and early life.
The infancy narratives must be read as passages which explore the theological understanding of ‘who is Jesus of Nazareth?’ This particular passage from Luke provides literal evidence to two answers to this question.
- Jesus is a Jew from a faithful family. Luke’s narration of the Presentation in the Temple (v 22 -23) explains the reason for the temple visit being to follow purification laws and redemption laws set out in the Books of the Old Testament.
- Jesus of Nazareth is not wealthy. This is shown in their offering of two turtle doves. In Leviticus 12: 1 – 8 it states the required sacrifice for the purification after birth is a sheep and a turtle dove. “If she cannot afford a sheep, she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons”, (Lev 12: 8). Explaining parts of Jewish ritual within the text is important for Luke’s Gentile audience who may not be familiar with the Jewish tradition.
He also provides theological answers through the words of Simeon and Anna: Jesus is the promised Messiah for all people, the one who, in bringing salvation to the Gentiles is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul too” (see meaning for today).
Two features found throughout Luke’s writing are present in this Scripture.
- Luke’s writing often imitates Old Testament birth stories, including that of Samuel (an important figure in the Old Testament, who was the first prophet following Moses). Luke uses the verb ‘presented’ which is the same language used in the Old Testament during the dedication of Samuel to the Temple (1 Sam 1: 24 – 27).
- Luke also uses Male and Female pairings in his writings (see ideas/concepts/themes).
Characters & Settings
The story is set in the Temple. The Temple functions as a key location throughout Luke’s Gospel. For more information about the Temple please click here. Within the Temple Mary and Anna would only be welcome as far as the Women’s court. The use of Temple further forges the similarities between Jesus and the Old Testament character, Samuel (Byrne, 2015).
In this early stage of his life, Jesus is silent in words, however his presence speaks to Simeon and Anna. Although Jesus himself is not required at the temple, this action fulfills the promise that the first born will be dedicated to God. “Consecrate to me all the firstborn; whatever is the first to open the womb among the Israelites, of human beings and animals, is mine” (Exodus 13:2).
Following Jewish custom, Mary was required to enter the temple as stated in the purification laws 40 days later after the birth of a son or 80 after the birth of a daughter (Leviticus 12: 1 – 8). Mary, like Jesus, is silent, despite the significance of the words spoken by Simeon.
The husband of Mary and earthly father of Jesus, Joseph (also silent) dutifully follows the custom.
A devout Jew, who was guided by the Spirit to the temple. As Simeon holds Jesus, he represents the Jews who welcomed Jesus as the promised one (Fallon, 2012).
Anna’s lineage (V.36) and devotion and patience is highlighted in the text to show her credibility in praising the child. When paired with Simeon they are law-abiding faithful Jews who hold the authority to declare a saviour.
Ideas/ phrases/ concepts
It is likely that the infancy narrative of a Gospel is written last, somewhat like a prologue. Knowing the ‘end of the story’ the author is able to weave their views, beliefs and thoughts into the earliest characters. This infancy narrative contains many of the themes that will become prominent in the rest of the gospel:
- Revealing the identity and mission of Jesus.
Jesus is recognised by Simeon and Anna as the promised Messiah. Simeon expands on what this will mean for the life of Jesus, his mother and all disciples. Anna praises Jesus and addresses all who were in the Temple.
- The Universality of God’s Kingdom
Simeon states he is the Messiah for all. Fallon (2012) explains that the words by Simeon prepare Luke’s readers to see Jesus as the salvation for “all people.” This concept continues throughout the Chapter of Luke and into the Book of Acts (Also attributed to Luke).
- The importance of women.
Anna is a widow and a prophetess. She represents Luke’s inclusion of and attention to women in Jesus’ life and ministry. Anna has an immediate reaction of joy in seeing the child and in Luke’s writing he uses a Greek word suggesting recognition or intuition, seeing what others cannot to emphasise her importance. Luke uses the literary feature of a male and female pair to indicate the welcome of all people, male and female, into the kingdom of God.
Questions for the teacher:
The world in front of the text
Questions for the teacher:
Please reflect on these questions before reading this section and then use the material below to enrich your responsiveness to the text.
Meaning for today/challenges
Patience in a Fast-Changing World
Anna and Simeon wait patiently for the arrival of the Messiah. In our world people are quick to lose patience when they don’t receive information, goods, or services at lightning speed. Pope Francis in his General Audience on March 30 2022 stated:
“There are great lessons for the world today in the witness of Simeon and Anna, the Holy Father continued. Although they were advanced in years and likely didn’t have the sharpest sight and hearing, their spiritual senses were enlightened through waiting for Jesus.”
There are many people in our world, including the elderly, First Nations peoples and refugees who continue to wait patiently for change. Change in legislation, policies, and attitudes to allow for the inclusion of all people.
Suffering when we love
Simeon’s warning to Mary is one about love. When humans love fully as a parent or friend, it involves connecting to each other. Loving means hurting; when others hurt, laughing when others laugh and crying when others cry. As a human, Jesus, His family, and His friends were subject to these highs and lows of loving relationships.
Church interpretation & usage
When Pope Francis celebrated Christmas Mass “during the Night” in a near empty Saint Peter’s Basilica on Christmas Eve in 2020, he said that God came to us at Christmas as a weak and vulnerable child to teach us how to love. “God came among us in poverty and need, to tell us that in serving the poor, we will show our love for Him.”
The heart of Christmas is about love, God’s love. God loves us so much that God gave us the most precious gift imaginable, Jesus. This great and wonderful gift of love calls us to love one another.
“For those who celebrate the birth of Christ as the coming of the Saviour, and embrace the Gospel, this annual observance provides the opportunity to be grounded once again at the very core of our being, to understand that the purpose of all humanity is to live in the knowledge of the love of God and thus to live peaceably with all men and women.”(Very Rev Peter G Williams, Diocese of Parramatta)
The feast of the Presentation of the Lord is held each year on February 2, which is 40 days after Christmas. As it is a feast day, the vestments (outer garment worn by the clergy) on this day would usually be white.
The feast of Candlemas is another name for this feast day and is celebrated in many parts of the world with the blessings and parading of candles.