33And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. 34Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against 35(yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
Simeon was a devout man who had waited a long time for the Christ. Even though we expect this to be a moment of great joy and celebration, Simeon delivers a message of danger. He tells Jesus’ mother, Mary, that Jesus will be a tremendous troublemaker. Simeon knows his Old Testament. He knows that the prophets don’t promise a Christ as someone who gets along with everyone and never upsets the powerful. Simeon speaks of the “consolation” or comfort of Israel, and when Isaiah uses that language we see that the Christ is coming to “contend with him who contends with you” (Is. 49:25) and to “feed those who oppress you with their own flesh” (Is. 49:26). In a similar message, the Lord told the prophet Jeremiah that “I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant” (Jer. 1:9,10). We might think that this would be a shocking and troubling revelation for Jesus’ mother. It means certain doom for her Son. One doesn’t take on King Herod and the Roman Empire without provoking a deathly reaction. Simeon even promises Mary that “a sword will pierce through your own soul.” Disturbing claims, but this isn’t really news to Mary. She, herself, had sung similar words about her Son’s dangerous work. She knew that in Jesus, the Father, “has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty” (Lk. 1:51-52). She knew Simeon’s words were true. Jesus would be a premier troublemaker for the enemies of God. He came to pull them down, to overthrow them by the Spirit, and to lift up the people of God. The birth of Jesus is just the beginning of this path of the “fall and rising of many.” The world would never be the same. The enemies of God had little clue about the dramatic consequences of Christmas.
—Pastor Douglas Jones, Trinity Church, Moscow, ID
O Father, thank you for the fall and raising of many that Jesus still brings to us. Thank you for the privilege of serving in Christ’s kingdom. We praise You for allowing us to be part of this adventure. Give us eyes to recognize His enemies and friends. Give us the courage to pull down and to build up. Give Your church the strength to withstand those who seek to frighten us. Let us rejoice in the work of Christ. AMEN.
Discuss with your family what sort of enemies Christ would seek to pull down today. What enemies today resemble King Herod and ancient Rome? What sorts of Christians provoke the sort of anger and deathly retaliation that Jesus provoked? Why does our celebration of Christmas often try to hide the more dangerous side of Jesus’ mission?