Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

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Too old or too young?

Luke 2:36-52

Today we see the only glimpse recorded into the boyhood of Jesus. And what an amazing glimpse it is. Even at 12 years old—the same age, by the way, as his mother was when she had him—He was astounding. Youth should not be a determinant of whether a person can be close to God and filled with wisdom. Neither should age. And we begin today with a woman who is likely over 100, but still serving God in amazing ways.

36 – 38

Here we meet Anna. Luke tells us she is a prophetess. There are other recorded female prophets in the Bible. Examples include: Miriam, Moses’ sister (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), and Huldah (2 Kings 22:14). This follows Luke’s emphasis on women in the ministry of Jesus. The person of Anna is as interesting as the story of what she does.

Though we knew next to nothing about here, Luke gives us some clues[1] that we can use.

  1. Her name. Anna can also mean “Hannah” which is the same name as Samuel’s mother. There are great parallels between Hannah/Samuel and Mary/Jesus. Both babies were miracle births, both presented their boys in the Temple/Tabernacle at a young age. Both spent time alone in the Tabernacle/Temple and both “grew in the favor of God and man” (2 Samuel 2:25).
  2. Her tribe. Anna is from the tribe of Asher. Asher was one of the northern tribes taken by the King of Assyria (2 Kings 18:11) and settled in the land of the Medes.
  3. Her father. Phanuel means “face of God.” Without going into too much detail—some have posited that Anna was named by her father after the wife of a man named Tobit, who was an Israeli refugee. His story was written down in the Book of Tobit. Often the prayers of those in exile was that God would shine his face on Israel to return them to the land (Psalm 80 for instance).

So what does this suggest? That Anna’s family had retained their tribal identity even when sent away to a foreign land. While there they prayed for God to return them—and eventually He did. She would have learned about Yahweh from her father and was also looking for the consolation, or redemption of Israel—informed by her family’s time in the land of the Medes.

So here she is—married for 7 years then her husband dies, leaving her a widow for 84 years. So if she married around age 12, it would put her 103 at the minimum. That’s very old even for today.

We don’t know when she started basically living in the Temple complex, but at some point she made it her job to fast and pray. Imagine as the years ago by—and your heart longs to see God’s Messiah come to redeem Israel. How many times had she prayed that prayer of redemption—yet not experiencing it, not seeing any answers. As a side note—do we get discouraged in our prayers? Anna didn’t. She didn’t give up on God but continued pressing in for decades.

So here one day—Jesus is presented to the Lord, perhaps she sees and overhears Simeon in the Court of Women, speaking about Jesus and she is also filled with the Spirit (though Luke doesn’t record that) and starts to echo Simeon’s words about how this Son would redeem Jerusalem. Never let your age stop you from seeking God and speaking about what He means to you and to the world!

39 – 40

Luke sums up what Mary and Joseph did with Jesus at the Temple—completing “everything according to “the law of the Lord”. Four times in Chapter 2 Luke points this out. Jesus’ parents loved the Law of God and passed that love onto Jesus. They were also careful to observe it, just as Jesus was. We as parents do have a huge influence over our children—that’s not to say that it is our responsibility as to whether they ultimately follow the Lord—but it is our duty to create an environment where they will learn about the Lord.

At some point they moved from Bethlehem back to their hometown up in the Galilee. It’s interesting that Luke does not record two very important events that took place in-between—namely the visit of the Maggi and the flight to Egypt (Matthew 2).

Here we see that parallel to Samuel—the manner in which Jesus grew up. But notice how Luke describes His growth: “strong” (physical stature), “wise” – a keen intellect, and “God’s grace” – a close relationship with God. The last two are especially important, as we’ll see in the next story.

Wisdom and a close relationship with God through His grace are two key ingredients to anyone who wants to serve the Lord.

This next part is a really interesting story and, on the surface, might suggest that Jesus was a disobedient child. He wasn’t, of course, but it starts to set up the real mission of Jesus—not to follow His earthly parents into a life of being a carpenter, but to follow His Father’s voice into the life of a teacher, healer, and ultimately Savior.

41 – 51

There were three great festivals in the Jewish calendar: Booths, Pentecost and the greatest: Passover. Passover took place in late March and early April in the month of Nisan and represented God giving freedom to His people from the bondage of Egypt through the slaying of a perfect lamb. Only the men were required to go to the feasts—the fact that the whole family went shows their devotion to God. The fact that they only went to Pentecost shows how poor they were. This would have been a three-day journey from Nazareth—in a large group of family and friends.

After the festival the big group departs. Perhaps at the end of the first day Mary and Joseph expected Jesus to find them to settle down for the night. I like this in two ways: 1. Jesus was a normal boy who did not cling to his parents and 2. His parents did not expect Him to be at their side at all times. So they realize Jesus is not with their group and they get worried, then more worried, then very worried.

It took them a day going out, a day coming back and then they spent a day looking for Jesus. They wouldn’t have had a reason to go to the Temple but eventually they get there and there is Jesus, sitting with the teachers of the Law—both listening and asking questions. Jesus’ priority from the beginning was to understand God. The teachers are “astonished” at what He already knows.

By this time Mary and Joseph are quite dis-regulated and upset. The word “anxiously” in verse 48 suggests “deep mental anguish and pain”. Jesus doesn’t say “I’m sorry” and He doesn’t feel guilty. He seems somewhat bemused by why they would be looking for Him. Though the Greek is a little difficult to interpret here, the Holman rendering is probably correct about being in My Father’s House. The central idea here is about the Son’s relationship and obedience to the Father. Notice how Jesus describes this relationship as so close, even at 12 and not yet a “man” (that happened at 13).

This sailed right over the heads of Mary and Joseph, which I can understand as a parent. It took some time for their emotions to settle down.

But notice what He does NOT do. Jesus doesn’t declare His independence from them here but since they are concerned for Him, He simply goes with them. Not only that, but Luke records (probably from Mary) that Jesus was an obedient Child.

As we’ve seen before—Mary records all these things in her mind. She knows Jesus is something extremely special—but exactly how it is going to work out she does not know.

52

Luke then tells us the way in which Jesus continued to mature:

  • Wisdom (intellect and practical holiness)
  • Stature (He grew to be an adult)
  • Favor with God (His relationship with God was a priority)
  • Favor with man (He was respected by those around him in society)

I want to point out something here. Jesus was 12. He was on the cusp of adolescence—a time when most boys change. Parents become the enemy. Friends become the primary influence. Rebellion can easily set in. But Mary remembers Jesus as an obedient child. Why? I think the key is that His focus was on learning about and drawing close to God. His Father became the dominant influence on His life, not His parents and not his friends.

What is the dominant influence on your life? Is it your family, your friends, your culture, your self-identified people group? I would challenge you to seek this out for yourself—and begin to opt for your relationship with God to be the primary force of your values.

Also notice that Jesus was not afraid to ask questions about the Lord. He was curious and seeking. That’s a great quality in a person no matter the age.

He sought out those who could best answer His inquiries. I’m sure at some point early on He exhausted His parent’s ability to answer, so He went to the ultimate source of knowledge in Israel at the time. Is that you? Do you keep digging and seeking and listening and asking until you get the best source?

Conclusions

  • You are never too young to start serving God – even if it’s just asking lots of questions about God.
  • You are never too old to keep serving God – even if it’s “just” fasting and prayers (there is not “just” about that either!).

 


[1] http://www.godward.org/archives/special%20articles/anna_the_prophetess.htm

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