Anna the prophetess is only mentioned in three verses in the second chapter of Luke's gospel. When Jesus' parents brought Him to the temple to perform the ceremony of the redemption of the firstborn one month after His birth, they met Anna there. In these three verses, readers learn who she was and how her encounter with the infant Messiah affected her life (Luke 2:36–38).
Anna is first identified as a prophetess, which is a woman who speaks forth the Word of God to its intended audience (Luke 2:36). Her family lineage is then shared as she is identified as the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher (Luke 2:36). Some from this tribe returned to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover when King Hezekiah called them to repentance (2 Chronicles 30:9–27). Perhaps her ancestors had answered that call, which could explain her role as faithful prophetess in Jerusalem these many generations later.
Anna's age and personal history are then revealed as Luke wrote, "She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four" (Luke 2:36b-37a). In this phrase, we learn that Anna was a faithful wife but became widowed at a young age. Most women would have remarried and gone on to have children in the prime years of their lives. However, Luke records, "She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day" (Luke 2:37). Thus, Anna dedicated her life to serving the Lord in the temple rather than remarrying and raising a family. In a time of grief, when she could have turned away from God due to the emotional suffering she was experiencing, she instead continued to trust God and His plan for her life.
Anna the prophetess had spent well over half a century serving God in the temple by the time Jesus' parents brought Him there for this ceremony. Because of her faithful service in the temple—trusting God daily and regularly listening to His Spirit—Anna immediately recognized the infant Jesus as the promised Messiah. Luke recorded, "And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem" (Luke 2:38).
Upon seeing the Savior, Anna's first response was to thank God. She recognized that God was fulfilling His promises out of consistency with His own character and that no nation of humans could have earned this privilege. She did not praise the Jewish people for their obedience to God's law or commend the priests for their faithful-enough service that earned them the coming of the Messiah. It was by God's grace alone, so her first reaction was to thank our good and gracious God.
Her second response was to share this good news with those around her. Because of her reputation as a faithful prophetess who had been serving in the temple for years, her words would have carried weight. People respected her and that reputation allowed her the opportunity to tell them the truth about who Jesus is.
Anna's life is an encouragement about the positive impact that can happen when a person entrusts his/her life to the Lord. She recognized the Messiah and was able to tell others because she had spent a lifetime trusting and serving God despite the personal tragedies she experienced. May the rest of us learn to trust God so completely and serve Him so faithfully that we, too, may know our Messiah personally and have the opportunity to share the good news with others.
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