Jesus’ Life and Ministry
The Child of Promise
INSTEAD of returning to Nazareth, Joseph and Mary remain in Bethlehem. And when Jesus is eight days old they have him circumcised, as God’s Law to Moses commands. It is apparently the custom also to give a baby boy his name on the eighth day. So they name their child Jesus, as the angel Gabriel had directed earlier.
More than a month passes, and Jesus is 40 days old. Where do his parents now take him? To the temple in Jerusalem, which is only a few miles from where they are staying. According to God’s Law to Moses, 40 days after giving birth to a son, a mother is required to present a purification offering at the temple.
That is what Mary does. But she brings two small birds as her offering. This reveals something about the economic situation of Joseph and Mary. The Law of Moses indicates that a young ram, which is much more valuable than birds, should be offered. But if the mother could not afford this, two turtledoves or pigeons would suffice.
In the temple an old man takes Jesus into his arms. His name is Simeon. God has revealed to him that he will not die before he has seen Jehovah’s promised Christ, or Messiah. When Simeon comes to the temple on this day, he is directed by holy spirit to the child carried by Joseph and Mary.
As Simeon holds Jesus he thanks God, saying: ‘You have kept your promise, for I have seen with my own eyes the means of salvation that you have prepared.’ Joseph and Mary are amazed when they hear this. Then Simeon blesses them and says to Mary that her son “is laid for the fall and the rising again of many in Israel” and that sorrow, like a sharp sword, will pierce her soul.
Present on this occasion is the 84-year-old prophetess named Anna. In fact, she is never missing from the temple. In that very hour she comes near and begins giving thanks to God and speaking about Jesus to all those who will listen.
◆ When was it apparently the custom to give a baby Israelite boy his name?
◆ What was required of an Israelite mother when her son was 40 days old, and how did the fulfilling of this requirement reveal Mary’s economic situation?
◆ Who recognized the identity of Jesus on this occasion, and how?