When Jesus was just a baby, his parents took him to the temple to “present him to the Lord” (Luke 2:22). While Joseph and Mary were in the temple, offering the sacrifice required for their firstborn son, two individuals approached them and praised God on behalf of their child. One was Simeon, a “righteous and devout” man who was “looking forward to Israel’s consolation” (2:25). The other was Anna- an elderly widow.
Luke, in Luke 2:36-38, paints a brief biographical sketch of Anna and shows the important role she played in identifying the Redeemer.
In his biographical sketch, Luke introduces Anna as a prophetess, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. He also tells us that she was an elderly widow who had, since her husband passed away, devoted herself to full-time temple service. Despite her age and marital status, Anna made the most of her time by serving God “night and day with fasting and prayers” (v. 37). In doing so, she became a prototype of the kind of widow who could be recognized as worthy of support by God’s people (see 1 Timothy 1:9-16).
In addition to the biographical information, Luke reveals the important role she played in identifying the Redeemer of Jerusalem. Anna was already in the temple when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus in, but after Simeon offered praise to God, she came up and “began to thank God and speak about him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (v. 37). Those God-fearing, redemption-expecting Jews to whom Anna spoke would have recognized her as a prophetess and a servant of the Lord. They would have confessed, also, that she was speaking on behalf of God when she identified Jesus as the one who would redeem Jerusalem. Those who listened to and believed Anna would have been strengthened in their faith and given thanks to God for the redemption that was on the horizon!
Even though Anna was old and had been a widow for most of her life, God chose to use and honor her- allowing her to be one of the first individuals to recognize and proclaim the true identity of Jesus.
Is Anna an anomaly? I don’t think so. God still works with righteous women of all ages and relationship statuses to do his work on earth.