Bible reading: Luke 2:36–40
Yesterday we met the prophet Simeon, an old man who had waited a long time in hope for the coming of the Messiah. Today we encounter the prophetess Anna, who was in a similar position. She was an elderly lady widowed after seven years of marriage. We meet her at the age of eighty-four. She had dedicated her adult life to worshipping ‘night and day’, fasting and praying (v.37). We are told that she ‘never left the temple’ (v.37). She was a woman of extraordinary self-denial and commitment. She must have experienced genuine hardship – emotional and material – in her life, and yet she was completely committed to the Lord.
We are told exactly who Anna is – we know her father’s name (Phanuel) her tribe (Asher – one of the northern tribes) and her age. This shows us that timing is important to God. This is no random encounter. Anna is a real person who lived in history, and she got to witness the breaking into history of the eternal God in the Person of Christ.
She approaches Mary and Joseph after Simeon has prophesied. We read that Mary and Joseph are overwhelmed by what they have heard: ‘The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said …’ (v.33). Simeon goes on to bless Mary and to warn her that ‘a sword will pierce your own soul too’ (v.35), prophesying the sacrificial death of Christ. It is into this extraordinary kairos moment that Anna steps. She immediately begins to pray. She gives thanks to God and she quickly tells everyone around her about Jesus. No doubt the people who hear her know who she is – she would have built temple good reputation after all those years in the Temple. And here she was, introducing Jesus – speaking of Him as Messiah to all those who hoped for redemption.
Anna receives a wonderful reward for her faithful service – she gets to see the Messiah with her own eyes. She also gets the honour of being one of the first evangelists recorded in the Gospels.
Pause to reflect:
Throughout her years of praying and fasting, in the sorrow of her widowhood, could Anna have realised the significance of her life? She had no children – could she have know that future generations (including us) would know her name and remember her? With hindsight this all seems obvious but, in her tragic circumstances, Anna would not have seen this. Yet she got a front row seat for the redemption of the world. God rewarded her years of faithfulness.
Thank You, Lord, that You care for individuals. Thank You that we know Anna’s name today and that this is a sign to me that my name is written on Your hand (Isa. 49:16). Thank You that You honoured the faithfulness of Your servant Anna and that You are faithful in my life too. Thank You that the redemption Anna foresaw and proclaimed was realised in Jesus’ life and that I can know this personally. Amen.
1. What do you think of Anna’s commitment to seeking God? Do you ever fast and pray?
2. Anna was a widow and, because of her loss, was not able to have her own children. However, God brought good out of her painful circumstances. Are there any examples in your own life of suffering or disappointment out of which God has brought something good?