“When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:22 – 24)
Think of this as an intersection point of a well baby check-up and a infant dedication. Scripture does not tell us what would have happened if there was something not right with the infant or with the mother. And I do not know what resources to use to find out. It is supposed that the writer of the gospel of Luke was Luke the doctor. And if that is the case, he might very well know. However beloved reader, if you know the story, you know there is more to this visit than just a father and mother presenting their firstborn son.
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Verses 24 – 32)
In all of the churches I have been a part of, there have been elders who provided guidance and wisdom for young parents. Under their wise and loving eyes many infants grew up to become faithful and valued members of the congregation. But Jesus, being Jesus, was than just a growing child. Mary and Joseph knew this, but still . . .
“And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.” (Verse 33)
But that was not all.
“Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed–and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Verses 34 – 35)
I remember that a trait of Mary’s was to ponder things in her heart. I share that trait with her, and I know for myself, if these things were told to me, I would ponder them for many years. And be reminded of them as the years went by as my child or children grew. But there is more yet.
“There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Verses 36 – 38)
This makes me think and consider again that the earthly parents of Jesus were very special people, picked for their character and personality to raise from an infant the person who would grow into being the Son of God. I doubt they could have done anything wrong to warp young Jesus. For most parents it is heart rending to see your children grow to maturity and then map out their own lives. How much more so for these parents who heard the prophecies about their son who was not yet a month old.
“When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” (Verses 39 – 40)
What parent has not imagined greatness for their child? The miracle of ten fingers and ten toes, the perfection of the delicately formed head and the sweetness of the soft rounded body come together to inform the onlooker that great things can be expected from a new born child. Mary and Joseph must have felt the same way. But the breadth and depth that was prophesied over this child in Jerusalem, the writer of Luke tells us, astounded them.
While it is apparent looking back on the life of Jesus’ life after the fact, as it were, perhaps as he was growing up it would have become obvious Jesus was destined for something as no other child was before or would be.
“Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” ( Hebrews 2:14-18)
As I said, looking back on Jesus’ life it seems obvious that along the way Jesus grew from being one more child in the town of Nazareth to something extraordinary, and worthy of praise. In hindsight too, we find passage that are immanently suitable and called upon to praise Jesus Christ.
“Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in.
Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah“ ( Psalm 24:7-10)
I was suddenly reminded that the theme of this lectionary year is coming to new faith. As Jesus grew into the man who would be the Messiah, heralded with prophesy and praise, non-believers turn into believers coming to new faith and new understandings. Did Jesus know from very little on, infancy perhaps, that he was set apart? I do not know, but privately I hope not. We hear and know of the story of Jesus in the temple at the edge of his adolescence. Then perhaps? And what of us? When did or do we become aware that of the existence of the Divine and place our very lives in the Lord’s hands? Infancy at our dedication or infant baptism? Adolescence? Young adulthood? For many baptism comes when we accept faith? Was that the same for Jesus too? Many questions.
What I do know for certain is the the Lord God has believed in and loved us from the moment our existence became apparent. In infancy or even before, the Lord has loved and longed for us. Jesus was revealed in his infancy what he would become. Perhaps we too are known by the Lord God for who we will be.
May you, beloved reader, search for the revealed Lord God Jesus the Christ, and follow that path. Selah!