36There 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, 37then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38At 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. 39When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
There is a second voice of prophecy in the temple – Anna is an elderly woman. The translation of verse 37 can mean that she was a widow for 84 years, or that she was 84 years old. Most translators take it to mean she was 84 years old. Luke says Anna never left the temple, but worshiped with fasting and prayer night and day. One wonders what her life must have been – did she have a little space in the temple courts where she slept? Notice in the attached picture of the Jerusalem model, the temple covered a large area, with covered porticos all around a large central area (compare to the neighborhoods around it). It is not inconceivable that one, or a small group of devout women, might have lived there. Although she fasted, she must have eaten something, some of the time? But Luke does not answer any of these questions – to him it is perfectly clear that there were people who lived in the temple courts, praying night and day. What does call for our attention is that she came upon the young family immediately after Simeon. While Mary and Joseph were still wondering about Simeon’s prophecy, Anna came up to them. She, too, had been guided by the Spirit to be in the very place where they were at this moment. And Anna praised God and spoke about who this child would be to those who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Who were those who looked forward to the redemption of Jerusalem? This would have been the devout, the faithful, those who believed God’s promise of a redeemer. They knew the text of Isaiah, and read it with hope. Notice, Anna speaks of the redemption of Jerusalem, while Simeon spoke of Israel. The truth would be, Jesus would warn Israel and would weep over Jerusalem, for both rejected him and his redemption. The redemption he brought would be for the entire world – and for that we are grateful.
Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Today, we grieve as well for Jerusalem. For many years the people of three major faiths and many nationalities have shared the city with some level of peace. Yesterday, that peace was shattered. We grieve the loss of life in persons at prayer, in persons at all for that matter, but especially when people have turned to God in prayer. Let us pray for the families of those killed, and let us pray for peace, in Jerusalem.