“Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word:
For my eyes have seen your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, and the glory of Your people Israel.”
And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him.
And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed – and a sword will pierce even your own soul – to the end that the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:29-35)
This is an incredible prophecy. The appearance of baby Jesus in the temple created a prophetic swirl. The Holy Spirit desires to unfold to us the Person and purposes of Christ. And He does so on so many levels. Consider the following profound truths revealed in just a moment in the temple:
1. The old man Simeon had been holding on to a promise from God that he would not die until he personally saw the Savior. When Jesus arrived as an eight day old baby, Simeon was filled with joy and recognized God’s gift. The old man was able to die deeply satisfied and at peace.
2. Mary and Joseph already knew the Baby was special, but now God is faithful to give even more details. Total strangers came up to them in the temple to tell them about the incredible destiny of the Child. This added to the great joy they were already experiencing.
3. The prophet speaks about the pain and trouble that will come. The incredible joy of the moment is now tempered with the reality that the Child has a destiny to be rejected by men and to become the scapegoat for all of us. His cruel murder will be witnessed by His mother. God is so kind to already be preparing the woman for the challenges of the distant future. Additionally, does Simeon exclude Joseph in these comments because he is not Jesus’ real father or because Joseph will already have died before the troublesome events come to pass? I think the latter is the case. Mary is being warned ahead of time that she will face tremendous suffering and that without the comfort of her beloved husband.
I find that there is something in each of these prophetic facts that are applicable to each of us today as well.
1. God still speaks personal promises to His people. The Bible is the story of God speaking personally to people through out the ages. He is still a God who speaks to His people. But be warned. Be careful to always connect God’s personal promises to you with His big promise in Christ. If you separate the two you may find yourself disillusioned when inevitable troubles come or when the promise tarries. God will make good all of His promises in the Person and work of His Son. Never separate your experience from the great narrative of Christ.
2. The Holy Spirit always has more of the wonder and glory of Jesus to reveal to each of us and this is calculated to bring us unimaginable joy. Don’t settle for today’s level of understanding only. Expect God to unfold even more of His heart and His plans to you. Revelation is progressive because the focus of revelation is an infinitely glorious Savior. As we come to know Him more deeply our joy will equally increase.
3. Prepare for temporary suffering that always yields eternal joy. “In this world you will have trouble”, was a promise Jesus gave His disciples. But He followed with, “But be of good courage for I have overcome the world.” This is why everything that happens to us must be processed through the paradigm of the big story of Christ Jesus. Yes, there are at times swords that pierce our souls and crosses that darken the way. But every sorrow and every grave must give way to glorious resurrection for those who have trusted Christ. Suffering helps us anticipate the future God has promised and prepares us for that greater joy. This is a reality greater than any earthly fact.
So in this season of reflecting upon the earthly birth of our Lord, let us remember that God is still revealing Himself to us through His Son today. God is as real and present with us as He was with Mary and Joseph and the shepherds in the field. But hold on to everything in this earthly realm loosely. Suffering is bound to come to remind us that everything must soon give way to eternity’s call. Jesus has prepared the way for us. He’s waiting on the other side, insuring our safe passage.