One of the great missionaries of the 19th century was David Livingstone. He spent several decades in south and central Africa. Although he is known as a great explorer and was the first known European person to travel across Africa, he was also a dedicated medical missionary and slave abolitionist.
David Livingstone died in present-day Zambia on May 1, 1873, from malaria and internal bleeding caused by dysentery. He took his final breaths while kneeling in prayer at his bedside.
Britain wanted the body to give it a proper burial, but the African tribe, who loved Livingstone dearly, would not give his body to them. Finally, they relented…but cut Livingstone’s heart out and put a note on the body that said, “You can have his body, but his heart belongs in Africa!”
Livingstone’s heart was buried under an Mvula tree near the spot where he died, which is now the site of the Livingstone Memorial. His embalmed body together with his journal was carried over a thousand miles to the coast, where it is was returned to Britain for burial at Westminster Abbey.
Like Livingstone, on every page of Bible and church history, we read about remarkably dedicated followers of God
And one such dedicated follower of God is Anna. Luke wrote about her when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple for Mary’s purification and Jesus’ presentation to the Lord.
While Joseph and Mary and Jesus were in the temple precincts, they first met Simeon. We read about that encounter in Luke 2:25-‐35, immediately prior to the encounter with Anna in Luke 2:36-‐38. Luke introduces thse two witnesses—Simeon and Anna—who both testified to the true identity and mission of Jesus. Simeon affirmed that Jesus was indeed “the Lord’s Christ” (2:26) and Anna similarly affirmed that Jesus was “the redemption of Jerusalem” (2:38).
What does these two witnesses teach us about our Savior and our faith?
Like Anna, we become like what we focus upon. Fix your eyes upon Christ and be conformed into His image.
In Luke 2:36-‐39, we learn four traits of a focused Christian:
- The Particulars (of Anna - 2:36-‐37a)
- The Piety (of Anna - 2:37b-‐d)
- The Praise (of Anna - 2:38a)
- The Proclamation (of Anna - 2:38b-‐d-2:39)
1. The Particulars (of Anna - 2:36-‐37a)
First, we learn about the person of Anna. Luke gives several significant details about the person of Anna.
Her Calling (2:36a)
First, Luke tells us about her calling. He said that Anna was a prophetess (2:36a).
The Old Testament mentions five women who are called prophetesses. They are:
• Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron (Exodus 15:20);
• Deborah, the judge (Judges 4:4);
• Isaiah’s wife (Isaiah 8:3); Huldah, who was consulted by King Josiah (2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chronicles 34:22);
• and Noadiah, a false prophetess who opposed Nehemiah (Nehemiah 6:14).
In the New Testament the term prophetess appears only twice. Once it refers to Anna (2:36a), and, in the other instance, it refers to the temptress Jezebel, “who calls herself a prophet-ess” (Revelation 2:20). In the New Testament, the four daughters of Philip are said to have prophesied (Acts 21:9).
So, in short: Anna was called a prophetess not because she predicted the future, but rather because God used her to speak his truth (as we shall see in a short while).
Anna may have been a teacher of the Old Testament to other women. Or she may have simply had a private ministry there in the temple offering words of encouragement and instruction from the Hebrew Scriptures to other women who came to worship.
To be clear: Nothing suggests that she was a source of revelation, or that any special revelation ever came to her directly. Even her realization that Jesus was the Messiah seemed to have come from the revelation given to Simeon and, subsequently, overheard by her.
She is, nonetheless, called a prophetess because it was her habit to declare the truth of God’s Word to others. This gift for proclaiming God’s truth ultimately played a major role in the ministry she is still best remembered for
Her Name (2:36b)
Second, Luke tells us about her name. Anna is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Hannah, which means, “grace.” Like the Old Testament Hannah, Anna was characterized by prayer and fasting (cf. 1 Samuel 1:7, 10-16).
Her Heritage (2:36c)
Third, Luke tells us about her heritage. He said that Anna was the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher (2:36c).
It is interesting that Luke mentioned that Anna was of the tribe of Asher. Asher was one of the ten tribes of Israel that formed the northern kingdom and was taken captive by Assyriia in 722 BC.
We often hear about “the ten lost tribes of Israel.” However, they were not all lost.
Before the fall of the northern kingdom in 722 BC, in response to letters from King Hezekiah of the southern kingdom of Judah who pleaded with the ten northern tribes to repent and return to the Lord (2 Chronicles 30:6), we learn that “some men of Asher, of Manasseh, and of Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 30:11).
So, Anna’s heritage included men who were humble before the Lord.
Her Marriage (2:36e)
Fourth, Luke tells us about her marriage. He said that Anna lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin (2:36e).
It seems that Luke wanted to emphasize her purity prior to marriage: she was a virgin. And second, he wanted to note that she was only married for seven years before her husband died.
And although it is possible that she had children, Luke does not mention anything about children.
Christian, God always works through the men nobody wanted, and through the women nobody wanted.
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong (1Cor 1:27).
Church: Someone will always have better coffee, better music, better facilities, better speaking, better marketing. Showcase Christ and his gospel. Nobody can improve on that.
If you can't imagine being a follower of Jesus apart from the spotlight of a leadership position/influence, your identity is not in Christ.
Her Age (2:36d, 37a)
And fifth, Luke tells us about her age. He said that she was advanced in years (2:36d), and then after her husband died, she lived then as a widow until she was 84 (2:37a).
It is not entirely clear whether Anna lived as widow until she was 84 years old, or if she lived “as a widow for eighty-‐four years.” The Greek text could be translated either way. If the latter translation is correct, she would have been around 105 years old.
Her wedding would have been when she about fourteen years old (which was the normal age for girls to get married in that culture at that time), and she would have been married for seven years…and a widow for 84 years.
Regardless of which view is correct, the point is that she was a very old woman.
2. The Piety (of Anna - 2:37b-‐d)
She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.
Luke makes three comments about the piety of Anna.
Her Dedication (2:37b)
Luke said that she did not depart from the temple (2:37b).
It is possible that Anna lived in the temple complex, perhaps in one of the rooms in the outer court normally occupied by the priests during their two weeks of annual service.Or, it is possible that she simply spent the vast majority of her time at the temple.
For example, we sometimes say of people who spend all their time in their offices at work, “Oh, he lives at the office.” We don’t mean that literally; we simply mean that he spends the vast majority of his time at the office.
And it is possible that it is in that sense that Luke meant that she did not depart from the temple. The reason Anna spent so much time at the temple is because she was totally dedicated to God.
I don’t want to imply that 100-percent surrender to God means that you have to spend all your time at church. No!
But it does mean that you orient your entire life, thoughts, words, and actions to God and his word. You determine to live every moment of every day in entire submission to the word of God.
Christian, spiritual strength is the result of a good gospel diet and regular gospel disciplines. Are you building strength for the battle?
A good theology of justification doesn't replace the spiritual disciplines; it ignites them with rocket fuel To say, "Now that I get the gospel I no longer need spiritual disciplines" = "Now that I have oxygen I no longer need lungs.”
The single most important spiritual discipline for the follower of Christ is gathering with covenant community, each week, to worship together. God gives us community for, among other things, the shaping of believers into the image of Jesus. See you in worship this morning!
Her Fasting (2:37c)
Second, Luke comments about her fasting. He said that Anna was worshiping with fasting (2:37c). The purpose of fasting is not to lose weight. Rather, the purpose of fasting is to forego the time normally spent eating in order to worship and pray to the Lord.
Her Prayer (2:37d)
And third, Luke comments about her prayer. He said that Anna was worshiping with . . . prayer night and day (2:37d).
Most of spend just a few minutes a day in prayer, if that. We may pray here and there throughout the day, but this is not how Anna prayed. She spent hours and hours in focused, attentive, worshipful prayer.
One reason why our spiritual lives are so anemic is because we do not invest time in developing spiritual disciplines.
Do you and I spend even one hour a day—every day—in pray-er and reading God’s word? But you and I can easily find one hour a day—every day—watching TV and surfing the Internet.
Is it any wonder then why God is not more visibly at work in our lives?
3. The Praise (of Anna - 2:38a)
She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.
Third, we learn about the praise of Anna.
Luke said that Anna was coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God (2:38a).
Anna was walking in the temple precincts. Her eye caught Simeon with Joseph and Mary and Jesus. So, she walked over to them, and heard Simeon sing his song of praise about Jesus. Immediately, she knew that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the promised Christ, and the promised Deliverer! And so she began to give thanks to God.
Christian, the goal of sound doctrine is a heart that overflows in praise to God
As I am made aware of my lovelessness & self-interest, I praise God for two things:
He is not like me & He will one day make me like Him!
The reason God seeks our praise is not that he won't be fully God till he gets it, but that we won't be fully glad till we give it.
Praise God that his grace is not a one-time thing. We needed his grace for past sins, we desperately need his grace right here, right now and we need a guarantee of grace on into the future.
3. The Proclamation (of Anna - 2:38b-‐d-2:39)
and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord,
And finally, we learn about the proclamation of Anna.
The Subject of Her Proclamation (2:38b)
Luke said that Anna began to speak of him (2:38b), that is, of Jesus.
Don’t bypass this: Jesus was the subject of her proclamation. Notice that she did not talk about her experience. She did not speak about the blessing that she received by seeing Jesus face-‐to-‐face.
No. She spoke about Jesus.
You see, the gospel is not about us. It is about Jesus. It is what God has done in the person and work of Jesus.
Christian, the greatest witness to our unbelieving family is our proclamation of the gospel, adorned by our love, kindness, patience & willing service.
The Audience for Her Proclamation (2:38c)
Second, note the audience for her proclamation. Luke said that Anna spoke of Jesus to all (2:38c). Anna did not keep the message to herself. She told others about Jesus. And that is what Christians do. They are eager to share the good news of the gospel with others.
The Message of Her Proclamation (2:38d)
Luke said that Anna spoke about Jesus to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem (2:38d). Anna believed that God was going to send a Deliverer, someone who would redeem his people from their sins. Having seen Jesus she knew that God was doing exactly what he had promised centuries before.
May we pray: “Father, fill our hearts with the beauty of Jesus, the peace of Simeon, and the worship of Anna (Luke 2:21-40). In Jesus name. Amen.”