Mary in the Temple

The godly and devout character of Mary and Joseph is testified to by their careful attention, in every particular, to the Word of God. Both in respect of the circumcision of the Holy Child Jesus, and in Mary's own purification, they were found in exact obedience to the prescriptions of the law (see Leviticus 13), as likewise in the presentation of Jesus to the Lord, "as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord." Forty days were to elapse before Mary could thus appear in the temple at Jerusalem; and it was during this time that the visit of the wise men from the east, as recorded by Matthew, must have occurred. In that scene, as in the visit of the shepherds, Mary is in the background, and we may surely say that she was there willingly. In communion with God's mind, at least in her measure, she would delight in the recognition of the coming glory of the One who was "born King of the Jews"; and she would in no wise be astonished when she saw them fall down and worship Him, or when they opened their treasures and presented to Him gifts - gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. It was her joy that she had been the chosen vessel of His birth; but she had thenceforward to learn that to be in relationship and identification with God's Anointed would entail upon her the persecution of the god of this world. The moment God's Man-child was born, the dragon (Satan), who had been waiting for the event, sought to devour Him. Mary, with Joseph, as well as Jesus, became the object of the enmity of the wicked king; but sheltered by divine protection and guidance, when they had to flee into Egypt, and again, after they had returned to the land of Israel, into Galilee to their former home, they enjoyed the inestimable honour and privilege of ministering to Him who was no less than the Son of God.

Recalling these incidents to connect the narrative, we may now consider the scene in the temple. Malachi had written, "The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple," and lo? He had come - "when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him after the custom of the law." Jerusalem that day was pursuing her course, her people were. buying and selling, attending to their household duties and their daily avocations; their Idumean king, blood-thirsty and cruel, miserable and unhappy, but blinding his subjects with his munificence and the splendour of his edifices, was bent as ever upon the gratification of his evil lusts; and all alike were in ignorance of the wondrous fact that God had visited His people, that the glorious Messiah of whom the prophets had sung, and whose kingdom should extend throughout the earth (see Psalm 72), was already in their midst, and being carried into the sacred precincts of the temple.

But God, whatever the attitude and unbelief of the nation, always secured the acknowledgment of His beloved Son, in whatever character He was presented. So in this instance He had prepared the hearts of a few, those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem, to welcome His Christ; and of these, two had been chosen to behold Him at this time with their eyes. Mary and Joseph had trodden the streets of the city with their precious charge, as any other humble Jewish saints might have done in similar circumstances, and they had entered unobserved and unnoticed into the sacred enclosure, knowing nothing of what God had been doing. But, as the evangelist writes, "There was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon: and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple." Here then was one, and one under the complete control of the Holy Ghost, whom God had called and qualified to receive His Son, when Mary and Joseph brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him after the custom of the law.

This wondrous scene may well and profitably occupy our attention before proceeding with our subject; and as we consider it may we remember that we are standing upon holy ground. We read that Simeon "took" Jesus up in his arms; it should be "received Him into his arms"; and every reverent soul will at once perceive that this is the more suitable, as, indeed, it is the correct word. He received Him into his arms, we may be sure, from the hands of Mary. What a sight! That pious and devoted mother handing her Child into the arms of the aged Simeon, and Simeon to have the inestimable privilege of receiving into his arms that Child in whom all the counsels of God were to be established and perfected!

And who was that Child? He was the Word become flesh, of whom it is written, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the WORD WAS GOD." (John 1:1.) He was "the image of the invisible God, the Firstborn of every creature: for by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: and He is before all things, and by ["in"] Him all things consist." He was the One in whom "all the fulness was pleased to dwell" (Col. 1:15-19); He was the "Son whom God hath appointed the Heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds … the brightness of [the] glory, and the express image of His Person, and upholding all things by the word of His power." (Hebrews 1:2-3.) On the other hand, as born into this world, He was the Seed of the woman, the Seed of Abraham, and the Son of David. All these glories, and many more, for He was a Divine Person who had deigned to become flesh, circle around, and shine out from that Holy Babe whom Mary gave into the arms of Simeon. Let us gaze to the full, and reverently, upon this divine mystery; for the more we gaze, the more will our hearts be bowed with adoration in the presence of God's unspeakable gift, before such unfathomable grace and such knowledge-surpassing love.

*There are three prepositions here used, the force of which may be given in the words of one competent to speak upon this subject. He says, " 'Er, in the power of whose Person. He was the One whose intrinsic power characterized the creation. It exists as His creature; Sea, the instrumental power, eis, 'for.' Thus en, dia, eis the characteristic power, active instrument, and end."

Simeon stood before God with THIS CHILD in his arms; and with an overflowing heart he blessed God, and said, "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word: for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel." All his desires were satisfied, every link with earth was broken as soon as he possessed God's salvation, and he was ready to depart in peace. Like Moses also, yea, beyond the experience of Moses when he stood on Pisgah and saw the land which God had provided for His people, Simeon, with the Holy Child in his arms, was at the centre of God's counsels, and thence he looked onward to the time when the Gentiles would be brought into the light, and when Christ would be the glory of His people Israel.

Joseph and the Child's mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of Him, as well they might, for here we only know in part; it is only gradually we acquire and come into the power of the truth we profess to acknowledge. Two things follow. To be associated with Christ in this world brings both blessing and sorrow, and this is here exemplified in Mary. Simeon had "blessed" God, and now he blessed them - Joseph and Mary; and then, addressing Mary, he said, "Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (yea, a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." God thus in tender grace, through His servant Simeon, prepared Mary for her Child's path of sorrow and rejection. And who can doubt that it was chiefly when she stood by the cross of Jesus, and beheld His sorrow, that the sword pierced through her own soul also? How merciful it is in the ways of God that it is only gradually we approach our sorrows, and that we find when they come upon us that they are "lustred with His love"! Mary would never forget these words, but "pondering them in her heart," she would be constantly laying them out before God in her meditations and prayers. But if through her life she had to live under the shadow of the cross, she would find, we may be assured, ample compensation and sustainment in the company of her Son. There would be much she would not understand, but she would certainly rest in the knowledge that Jesus, Jehovah the Saviour, was with her, and hence that, in all the earth, there was no one endowed with such an unspeakable privilege and blessing. For His sake, and from love to Him, she would be enabled to survey the future, and to leave it all in the hands of Him who had chosen her for the path.

The poverty of Joseph and Mary is incidentally seen in the sacrifice they brought in connection with the presentation of Jesus. In Leviticus we read, concerning the law of purifying for a woman who has borne a child: "If she be not able to bring a lamb [for a burnt offering], then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean." (Chapter 12:8.) Mary was "not able" to bring a lamb; and the Spirit of God thus calls our attention to the fact that our Lord was born in the circumstances of humble life, that His "mind" was, from the outset, yea, before He came to earth, to humble Himself. What mother would not, if she could, surround her child with every comfort and even luxury? But all was ordered by divine wisdom, and as we consider not only the circumstances of our Lord's birth, but the pathway of Him who had not where to lay His head, we are only the more impressed with His unspeakable grace.

The rites of the temple, together with Simeon's prophetic utterances, were ended, and when Joseph and Mary "had performed all things according to the law of the Lord," they left the temple, went down the steps, and through the temple gates with their precious charge, and "they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth," where they pursued their daily avocations, possessed of a divine secret which no one in Nazareth knew but themselves.