Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. – Luke 2.36-38
We get to meet one more ‘minor character’ in Luke’s gospel before we move on to the life of Christ in earnest.
Here we read of Anna the prophetess. She was old. Depending on how we read the passage she was either 84, or had been a widow for 84 years. She might have been over 100. Either way she was really, really old considering when she lived.
I think most people today would have considered Anna a bit odd. She was that sweet old lady who was always at the Temple fasting and praying and talking about Messiah coming. I think most of us can think of someone like this. I remember a little old lady when we lived on Hillsboro Road in Huntsville back in the late 60s. She went to the nearby Baptist church and she called by every Saturday to visit us and invite us kids to Sunday School. If mom wasn’t home we used to hide from her. But there she was week after week after week. She had a burden for that houseful of kids. I am certain in retrospect that she backed up those visits with prayer.
That is kind of how I have always imagined Anna. The sweet old lady who, every time you went to the Temple would say something like ‘Did you know Messiah the Redeemer is coming?’
The Temple workers knew about her – she was the only lady who spent all day fasting and praying. She had lived a long time and had been doing this forever. I am sure the naysayers would have wondered why she stayed at it.
But suddenly it all changed! She ‘just happened’ to come in when Jesus was in the Temple. ‘He is here! Messiah had brought redemption to us!
Praise God for Anna’s faithful ministry of fasting and prayer. Ministry is not always at the battlefront. It is not always in the pulpit. It is rarely in the limelight. May each of us be challenged by her example.
And lest I forget - praise God for that dear sweet saint on Hillsboro Road who kept up a faithful and thankless ministry to six little Parrow children.