The Woman Prophet: Luke 2:21-38

Focus Passage: Luke 2:21-38 (GNT)

21 A week later, when the time came for the baby to be circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name which the angel had given him before he had been conceived.

22 The time came for Joseph and Mary to perform the ceremony of purification, as the Law of Moses commanded. So they took the child to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, 23 as it is written in the law of the Lord: “Every first-born male is to be dedicated to the Lord.” 24 They also went to offer a sacrifice of a pair of doves or two young pigeons, as required by the law of the Lord.

25 At that time there was a man named Simeon living in Jerusalem. He was a good, God-fearing man and was waiting for Israel to be saved. The Holy Spirit was with him 26 and had assured him that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s promised Messiah. 27 Led by the Spirit, Simeon went into the Temple. When the parents brought the child Jesus into the Temple to do for him what the Law required, 28 Simeon took the child in his arms and gave thanks to God:

29 “Now, Lord, you have kept your promise,
    and you may let your servant go in peace.
30 With my own eyes I have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples:
32 A light to reveal your will to the Gentiles
    and bring glory to your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother were amazed at the things Simeon said about him. 34 Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother, “This child is chosen by God for the destruction and the salvation of many in Israel. He will be a sign from God which many people will speak against 35 and so reveal their secret thoughts. And sorrow, like a sharp sword, will break your own heart.”

36-37 There was a very old prophet, a widow named Anna, daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher. She had been married for only seven years and was now eighty-four years old. She never left the Temple; day and night she worshiped God, fasting and praying. 38 That very same hour she arrived and gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were waiting for God to set Jerusalem free.

Read Luke 2:21-38 in context and/or in other translations on!

As I read the details of Jesus’ birth story, I was surprised to find something clearly included in Luke’s gospel that may come as a surprise to you like it did to me. During the trip Joseph, Mary, and Jesus take to Jerusalem to dedicate Jesus, we are not only introduced to Simeon, but also to another individual whose name was Anna.

Here is how Luke describes her: “There was a very old prophet, a widow named Anna, daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher. She had been married for only seven years and was now eighty-four years old. She never left the Temple; day and night she worshiped God, fasting and praying.” (v. 36-37)

As I read this description, I am amazed at some things about this woman-prophet – the first simply being that she was a “woman prophet”. In the debates about women’s roles in the church, clearly prophetess was a role that appears to be accepted by those in the first century, otherwise Luke would not have included mention of her – and she would not be present in Jesus’ birth story.

However, even more significant than her gender is her devotion and dedication to God. More than 50 years of her life she had spent as a widow, and instead of finding someone to marry during that time, she dedicated herself to serving God in the temple. This woman puts almost everyone who calls themselves dedicated to God to shame with how incredibly devoted she is.

But in addition to that, this woman is described as a prophet – and she was living at the close of a time when God had stopped speaking to the nation through prophets. At the close of the Old Testament and in a number of predictions made through some of the later prophets, a time is predicted when the role of prophet will be looked down upon. This would be a time when God would stop speaking through prophets.

This time of God’s silence lasted around 400 years between the Old and New Testaments. While the silence is officially broken first when the angel visits Zechariah in the temple, Anna is described as a spokesperson for God – even though we have no idea what she prophesied or said to give her that title.

Reading this draws me to the realization that even if we are not famous or well known, God can still speak through us in order to impact those living around us. God doesn’t need people with big platforms to spread His message. All He needs are people who are dedicated and willing!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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