I was reading the Christmas story again and was struck with three “ordinary” persons, intimately connected with the events: Simeon the just man, Anna the Prophetess and Joseph the Carpenter, another just man.
You will have, by now, recognized my desire to search for and write about the so-called lesser known characters of the Bible, like Ananias, who prayed for Saul of Tarsus. You might also recall my post on Jehaziel, mentioned only once, who advised King Jehoshaphat: “Do not be afraid, the battle is not yours but God’s”. God used these, what some call the second fiddlers for exemplary works. What was their secret? None, but faith in God, plain honesty and hard work. Simeon, Anna and Joseph admirably fit in this group.
Interestingly, the greatest herald of the Saviour’s birth was conveyed by the angels, by passing the elites, to the lowly shepherds; making them the first visitors to the Holy Family. Again, the Creator of the universe made few changes to the galaxy in order to guide the so-called Gentile Wise Men from the East to the stable, while those with the books missed the whole thing. Doesn’t it say something? Is that a warning for the religious?
Did old Simeon happen to be the right person, at the right time, and at the right place to bless Jesus and Mary? No! He was in the mix long-term. Scripture simply says: “There was a man in Jerusalem, same expression as Ananias, whose name was Simeon and this man was JUST and devout (Luke 2:25)…….., and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple.……..he took him (Jesus) up in his arms and blessed God and said ‘Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word. For my eyes have seen salvation’” (Luke 2:25-30 NKJV – shortened).
Simeon added the following important words: “A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles” (v32). St. Paul would have loved to hear this when he was writing the letters to the Romans or the Galatians. Let me go further. St. Peter could have avoided his enigma or hesitation to go to the Cornelius family with the gospel, had he discovered the depth of Simeon’s words!
Simeon actually went further when he told Mary: “Behold this child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel….yes, a sword shall pierce through your own soul…and thoughts of many be revealed” (v35). Wow, what a man, what a revelation! Mary remembered those words!
Anna was different. She was a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher. Her husband died seven years into their marriage, and she remained a widow for the next eighty-four years. She did not depart from the temple but served God with fasting and prayer night and day…..She gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of him (Jesus) to all those who looked for the redemption of Israel” (v36-38 NKJV). Was she kind of a first evangelist? She proved the work of the Holy Spirit –there was no gender preference nor age restriction!
As to Joseph, a very important man in the life of Jesus, there was not one recorded word of what Joseph spoke or wrote. That caught my attention. He was known as Joseph, the Carpenter of Nazareth. “Is not this the Carpenter’s son they asked?” A statement which borders around infradig (below dignity) – a local village labourer.
There is no Caste System, Upper or Lower Class in Christianity. I shudder when few call themselves as one who has heard “a higher calling”, as though there are “lower callings”!
I believe the Catholics, Anglicans, and traditional churches grant greater recognition to Joseph. Some call him the Patron Saint of Workers, Families, and Expectant Mothers. Few have set aside an annual feast on St. Joseph’s day.
All we know about Joseph is from the Scriptures, possibly an older man engaged to a younger woman. Along with that was the matter of Mary carrying a child from the Spirit. This definitely must have raised eyebrows. Mathew gave a clear conclusive answer as recorded in Mathew 1:18-25. Give attention to verse 19: “Joseph her husband being a JUST MAN and not wanting to make a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.” This JUST man walked instead of just talk.
It was not easy for him at that time and culture, to take the ire of the community, and to wander and flee from pillar to post with a wife and child. Joseph obeyed God. Reminds me of Micah 6:8: “Oh man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”. In some ways, he resembled his forefather Joseph of old – having dreams. He did experience a second dream where an angel directed him to leave Nazareth and flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus and a third dream when to return to Israel. Wow!
It is often one just person- an Abraham or Moses or Barnabas that have made a difference. It is also true in world affairs – a Gandhi, a Martin Luther King, a Mandela, or a Desmond Tutu. So also were there ordinary folk like Simeon, Anna and Joseph that made an extraordinary world of difference.
God bless, Danny Paul