Take, for example, the bit in Luke 2 where Mary and Joseph bring the week old Jesus to the Jerusalem Temple to fulfil the customary obligations of their faith. There they are met by an old man called Simeon who has been mysteriously promised he won’t die until he has seen God’s promised ‘Messiah’. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, Simeon welcomes the infant destined to save the world, saying,
‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
You now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
Which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
A light for revelation to the Gentiles
And for glory to your people Israel.’
I sometimes read this passage with people who are terminally ill in their last days or hours. This is seriously good news. We can face death and depart this life with calm confidence, if in faith we have looked to the Saviour God provided! Simeon was now at peace, ready for whatever would come in the assurance of God’s all-sufficient grace, not just to him and his ethnic people, but to ‘all people’.
Good stuff so far.
But then Simeon steps closer and speaks specifically to Mary.
‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.’
And then the old prophet adds this, I imagine with a note of tenderness to the young mother,
‘And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’
(Luke 2 v 29-35)
Praise God Who has done something forever great and wonderful in giving us His Son that we may be saved from the guilt and consequence of our rebellion against heaven!
But like everything great and good, in a fallen, twisted world we can expect it to be controversial and divisive. Sins of the heart such as pride and jealousy will be exposed as many refuse to follow God’s appointed Rescuer and Leader. A day would come when Mary would witness her firstborn son spoken against, falsely condemned and brutally executed. A sword in the soul for any mother!
God’s Word is truth, perfectly describing the world we live in, where love and kindness are often matched by selfish prejudice and cruelty.
Yet now, if we read this passage back to front as it were, we find deep wisdom and comfort.
As individuals have we at times felt disappointment, heartbreak, tragedy like a sword in our souls? Have we watched the news in horror and seen the same injustice and suffering and even worse around the world? Have we wondered about the mix of beauty, genius and self- destructive madness, this anomaly that is the human race which, if we’re honest we sometimes find loitering in our own hearts?
We should not be surprised for it is exactly as predicted by God’s revealed Word.
And into this very world God has come in the Person of His Son, Who lived in the thick of it, with all the political tensions, religious intolerance and sexual drama. He was here, close with real people like us, yet stayed pure, like a light shining in a dark place. He suffered injustice, humiliation, torture and agonising death, the worst we could devise. But insodoing Jesus dealt with that universal sin issue, so that anyone who turns and humbly welcomes, trusts and follows Him can face this world and not only survive, but live and thrive and shine a beacon of hope to others!
Then, when the time comes, we can depart this fading scene for better, calm and confident in our Saviour/Master/Friend.