Devotional Reading: Isaiah 49:8-13
Lesson Scripture: Luke 2:25-38
Lesson Aims: To explain why Jesus was in the Temple, to recognize that everyone must respond to Jesus and to deepen our commitment to Him daily.
Background: For the Jews, the firstborn (human or animal) was to be consecrated to God as stated in Exodus 13. The unblemished animals were set aside for sacrifices while the firstborn males were to serve God for their entire lives. The process for consecration began on the eighth day of the male child’s life with circumcision (sign of the covenant) and bestowing the formal naming (Leviticus 12:3).
When the mother was purified (40 days after the birth), the parents took the child to the Temple to offer a sin offering and a burnt offering. Due to their economic status, Mary and Joseph had two pigeons instead of a lamb and a dove. “The offerings expressed thanksgiving to God for His mercy and sorrow for her personal sin (?)” (The Catholic Study Bible). Luke did not include the five shekels (a day’s wages) given to the priest as a part of the rite. The shekels were given to redeem the child from service. The Levites served that purpose. Like Zachariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph were presented as devout Jews who followed the Mosaic Law. Each element of baby Jesus’ consecration paralleled Samuel’s, who was the last Old Testament judge and the first prophet. Luke’s aim was to link the prophecy to its fulfillment in Jesus, the Messiah (Christ).
Lesson: While in the Temple Mary, Joseph, and the baby encounter two people who are devoted to God. The first is Simeon, a righteous and devout man waiting on “the consolation of Israel.” The Holy Spirit has revealed that he would see Messiah before death. The term “the consolation of Israel” goes back to Isaiah 40:1, where the prophet said comfort would come to them after the exile. Led by the Spirit, Simeon takes the baby in his arms and begins to praise God for His faithfulness. Humanity’s salvation is come! “To the Gentiles, Jesus is the light that shows them the way to God. For the Jews, He is the glory and crowning promise of the One from the house of David” (David C. Cook’s Echoes Adult Teacher Commentary). He then blesses the startled parents and gives Mary a fore taste of what she will endure.
The prophetess, Anna, is also in the Temple court. She is an elderly widowed woman who comes to the Temple daily to fast and pray. She approaches them and thanks God for this child who will redeem the world. She shares with all who are seeking “the consolation” that He is here! Luke’s record of the annunciation, birth and presentation of Messiah proclaims His identity as he prepares us for His ministry at the end of the chapter.
Application: Whether we know it or not, we respond to everything that we encounter. Either we embrace it, reject it or ignore it. The two people in the lesson recognized Jesus for who He is. Why, you might ask. Both walked closely with God and relied on Him. They didn’t get caught up in the world’s standards. The scandals in last week’s lesson are human’s thoughts. Thanks be to God that His thoughts and actions are not like ours! God uses whomever he so desires. As believers, we can’t afford to follow the world. Everyone who is poor isn’t shiftless; by the same token, everyone who is rich and powerful isn’t godly! Because a person is different doesn’t mean that they are not humans with a soul! Jesus’ love is not based on gender, education, class or geography! He came for all people. If we truly have His love in our hearts, we will treat people with respect and will recognize that they too have potential. Respond to his love, forgiveness and compassion today.
Let’s step into 2014 with renewed love, hope, and justice, because He cares for us all. May God grow us in the New Year to be more like Him!