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Luke 2:36–38

“[Anna] 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” (vv. 37–38).

Waiting his entire life to see the Messiah in the flesh, Simeon in his old age finally met Jesus when His earthly parents came to the temple to pay the redemption price and be restored to ritual purity (Luke 2:22–35). Yet Simeon was not the only aged saint blessed to see Jesus when Mary and Joseph brought Him to Jerusalem. In today’s passage, we read about another elderly person of great faith who was able to see the infant Messiah before dying.

We are talking about the prophetess Anna. Luke tells us that she was “the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher” (v. 36), an important detail given the history of God’s people. After the death of Solomon in about 930 BC, the unified nation of Israel was split in two. Ten northern tribes, one of which was Asher, formed the kingdom of Israel under the leadership of Jeroboam I. Two southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin, formed the kingdom of Judah under the leadership of Rehoboam, from the line of David (1 Kings 12). Ezekiel 37:15–28 predicted that when the Messiah, the promised Son of David, came, the kingdoms of Judah and Israel would be reunited under His reign. Anna’s recognition of the Messiah is part of the fulfillment of this prophecy, for she was part of the northern kingdom that was to return to the leadership of David’s family.

Anna had long been a widow when she saw Jesus at the temple. The Greek wording in Luke 2:37 is a bit ambiguous. It could mean that she was eighty-four when she met Jesus or that she had been a widow for eighty-four years at the time and thus was likely more than one hundred years old. In any case, she was quite old and had for decades been living a life of prayer and fasting, coming to the temple every day. In light of her recognition of Jesus, Luke presents her as a model of piety, an old covenant saint who displays the faithfulness in old age that should also be evident in elderly new covenant believers. Matthew Henry comments, “It is a pleasant sight to see aged Christians abounding in acts of devotion, as those that are not weary of well-doing, that do not think themselves above these exercises, or past them, but that take more and more pleasure in them, and see more and more need of them, till they come to heaven.”

When Anna saw Jesus, she praised God publicly and told many people about Him (Luke 2:38). Even in her old age she proclaimed the good news of God’s salvation.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

The church has great need of mature, elderly saints to model piety and tell others about Jesus. Aged widows, widowers, and married couples who are faithful to Christ and serve where they can help keep the work of the church on track. Blessed is the church full of elderly Christians who pray for and support the work of the kingdom. Let the elderly believers among us serve the church, and let the rest of the covenant community rejoice in their presence.

for further study
  • Psalm 71:18
  • Proverbs 16:31
  • Luke 21:1–4
  • 1 Timothy 5:1–16
the bible in a year
  • Exodus 13–15
  • Matthew 19:1–15

Jesus Grows to Maturity

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