Thursday, April 12, 2018

A Prophecy of Pain

"Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against” (Luke 2:34).

Some time before the birth of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit told a man named Simeon “that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26). Doubtless many people regarded Simeon as presumptuous or insane, but he believed what God had told him and “was waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25).

One day he went to the Temple to see if the Messiah had arrived. He saw a poor family offering the purification sacrifices prescribed in Exodus 13 and Leviticus 12. Instantly he knew that this child was the Anointed One, the Christ, for whom he had waited. Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and sang a song of praise to God (Luke 2:29–32). We call this song after the first two words in its Latin translation, the Nunc Dimittis. The church has sung it for 2,000 years, often at the close of worship.
Then Simeon uttered three prophecies to Mary. The first states that Jesus would cause the falling of many in Israel, but also that He would cause others to rise. There would be no neutrality. Men would be blessed or cursed according to how they responded to Jesus Christ.

Second, “the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed” (v. 35) as people respond to the revelation of Jesus. Simeon calls the revelation of Christ “a sign that will be spoken against.” The word sign here means something visible and demonstrative, a miracle. The visible revelation of Jesus Christ would provoke hostility, because fallen man hates and rejects God.

Finally, the prophecy becomes more poignant and personal, with a word of sadness to Mary: “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” This can only refer to the sufferings of Christ, which Mary His mother had to watch. She was there when her Son was crucified. As she offered sacrifices in the Temple, she knew her Son was destined to be the final and complete Sacrifice for sin and death.

“In this world you will have tribulation,” said Jesus. What began as a prophecy for His mother was extended through history as some suffer for the Gospel and others suffer in their rejection of it. If today you are suffering for righteousness sake, pray for sustaining strength from the One who has overcome the world (John 16:33).