In Luke 2:22-40 the infant Jesus is recognized as the continuation of God’s salving work.
I. Establish the text
A. Select the Pericope: Luke 2:22-40
C. Other texts for Year B for 2nd Sunday in Christmas
D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?
22-24 Is it “their purification” or Mary’s? How long is the rite of purification? [40 days after the birth of a male child, 80 days after the birth of a female child.] How did this relate to circumcision? [8th day. Jesus circumcision was reported in the immediately preceding verses] What does this paraphrase? [Lev. 12:1-8] A pair of doves was the pauper’s offering as opposed to a lamb. [Luke probably combined Jesus’ dedication in the Temple as the first-born son with Mary’s purification. Exo. 13:2 & 12-16 proscribes a ritual of redemption for each male offspring, whether of livestock or child, to commemorate the sacrifice of the first-born males so that Israel might be redeemed of slavery in Egypt. Analogously, Christ as God’s first (and only) born son by his sacrifice becomes the redemption of all of God’s people from slavery to sin.
25 What is the meaning of the name Simeon? [One who hears.] Does this say that he was deeply spiritual and by the Spirit he was aware of God’s will?
26 Where is the phrase about not tasting death until the Lord comes again?
27 Things do not happen by chance. God acts through all things providentially. [For Simeon, rather than seeing is believing, believing is seeing God in ordinary things.]
28 Here is the leap of faith. Seeing God’s power through a helpless infant.
29 Is Simeon saying that his whole life was for the saying of these two sentences and that his work on earth was completed? What is my succinct purpose in life? While we are told that Anna was “of great age,” we know nothing of Simeon’s age or health for doing additional work for the building of God’s kingdom on earth.
30 Simeon recognizes Jesus as God’s salvation and not Israel’s. How does God’s salvation differ from our salvation?
31 Jesus did not appear from the clouds, as in Greek/Roman mythologies, but came from among the people in an ordinary way, exemplifying how God works through ordinary events to bring about the Everlasting Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
34 And Christ has continued to be a sign for the rising and falling of many of those who “Wrestle with God” and continues to be opposed. [Craddock: “Anyone who turns on a light, creates shadows.]
36 What are the meanings of Anna [Hebrew: Hannah => Grace], Phanuel [Hebrew: Face of God], and Asher [Happy]? This means she was probably widowed at in her twenties, as women would have married in their early teens.
37 Eighty-four while common today, was about two lifetimes as recently as 1900.
38 Even at her advanced age, she still advances the kingdom in meaningful ways.
39 What about the flight into Egypt? [not in Luke but only in Matthew]
40 In this passage the baby is only destined for divine favor, and is not God incarnate as in John’s Gospel.
E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?
- Picks up 8 days after Jesus birth.
- In the next passage Jesus is twelve years old.
II. Literary Study.
B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?
- The dedication of Jesus in the Temple is not recorded in the other Gospels.
- Dedication of Samuel in the Temple at which Hannah his mother prophecies that Samuel will be the LORD’s savior of the people.
D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?
- Although Anna’s speech is not recorded, parallels with Simeon’s prophecy allow the reader to imagine verbal similarities.
III. Question the text.
A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.
The pronouncements of Simeon and Anna are public events. Simeon and Anna do not hesitate to offer the spiritual blessings they perceive Jesus and his parents need. Similarly today the youth need the spiritual lessons of the value of ritual that only the older generation can give. [from PresbyNet: GOSPEL NOTES FOR NEXT SUNDAY note 3464 by CAROLINE ENGELBRECHT on Dec. 20, 1999]
C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?
- Mary and Joseph strictly followed the Jewish law and custom for the dedication of Jesus.
- Spiritually oriented people were able to see the greatness into which Jesus had been destined from his birth.
F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?
- This text parallels the experience of many couples on showing a new baby to friends and family, and modern ritual of baptism. In some congregations, when a child is baptized, the pastor presents the child to the congregation, walking up and down the aisles, during which many will reach out and touch the child, silently adding their blessing.
IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?
Fred B. Craddock (Interpretation: Luke, John Knox Press, 1990) notes “the importance for Luke of the continuity between the two Testaments, between Judaism to Christianity, between synagogue and church.” Thus the obedient purification of Mary and redemption of Jesus fulfills Old Testament law and signals New Testament purification redemption.
R. Alan Culpepper (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gospel of Luke,” Abingdon, 1995) notes parallels with Simeon’s prophecy with passages in Isaiah. He notes that just as the Holy Spirit promised that Simeon would not see death before witnessing the arrival of the Messiah, so to does Jesus foretell that some of his disciples would not taste death before witnessing the kingdom of God. In the Reflections section, Culpepper notes the use of ritual in modern life and its waning in daily prayer and study in most households as compared with a generation ago. He challenges the modern Christian “to find effective rituals for celebrating the presence of God in the ordinary.”
James J. H. Price (The Presbyterian Outlook, December 4-11, 2000, “Presented in the Temple”) asks: “Do we really think that all flesh has seen the salvation of God? Does Simeon’s robust confidence in the arrival of God’s purposes of wholeness and renewal for the world connect with the world which knows the terrorist bombings of the USS Cole and other acts of violence?” He concludes: “The fulfillment of God’s promises within history are not always visible.”
V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?
Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond
A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?
Jesus was/is a continuation of the Old Testament, a continuation of God’s saving work.
B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.
Change questions of “What are we looking for and waiting for God to provide?” into recognizing God’s continuing action among us and offering that to our neighbors.
C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?
Hearers of this passage are called to listen to the Holy Spirit like Simeon and offer the saving grace of Christ like Anna.