Luke 2:25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah…34 Then Simeon blessed (Mary and Joseph) and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
I find v.34-35 really interesting. Reading the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life it’s clear that people were often conflicted about him. Some believed him to be the promised Messiah, especially the poor, afflicted, and dispossessed. The privileged often dismissed him as a simple radical trouble-maker, particularly the religious authorities of his day.
“and a sword will pierce your own soul too”
This verse reminds me of Matthew 10:34 when Jesus said, “I come not to bring peace, but a sword”. I expect the sword is a metaphor for the moment of decision confronting everyone who encountered Jesus. Who was he and how should one respond? Some people followed him, some didn’t. There was conflict within and often conflict without.
I’m inclined to think Simeon was predicting a conflicted experience for Mary as well, though perhaps a different kind of conflict than others. She well knew Jesus was the Son of God given the manner of his conception. But I’m guessing she expected Jesus to be a Messiah in the conventional sense – a military/political leader who would restore Israel to Jewish rule and dominion.
At some point I expect she realized this was not at all what was in store for Jesus. He would suffer and die on a cross like a common criminal. The sword of truth would have cut Mary’s soul (her inner being) creating a sense of fear, confusion, even doubt. Can’t he just run away and save himself?! Must my boy die in this gruesome manner? Is this all necessary? I can only imagine her pain and grief as events unfolded. Yet, despite all of this, Mary never fell away. She was with him to the end and was part of the early Christian church after Jesus ascended to heaven. She was an incredible woman of faith.
I am confronted with fear and doubt all the time. What am I doing? How should I respond? Is this pain really necessary? Isn’t there an easier way? The calling of Christ invites me to the cross. Again and again. It’s the invitation to let go of my own agenda, wants, and needs and conform to what the Lord has in store for me – especially when those two things are very different. Sometimes I follow, sometimes I don’t. Jesus the sword pierces my soul. Over and over.
Gracious God, have mercy on me for all the ways I fall short of your expectations for me. My sin and brokenness get in the way all the time. Give me grace that I might be more like Mary, that I might embrace the crosses required of me rather than run away from them. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.