Simeon began by praising God for being faithful to his promises. He then expanded that promise that had been given to him and shared it with all in attendance. He told those gathered this child isn’t just for me, he is the promised one for you too.
Simeon had been promised by God that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. Upon seeing this promise fulfilled Simeon says God is faithful and yet there is more to come. But if salvation has arrived what more could possibly lay ahead?
Simeon says hearts will be revealed.
Even though Mary and Joseph were aware of the importance of their son these versus still say they were amazed by all that Simeon was saying. It is here that Simeon turns his words to the parents for their benefit.
This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed
Simeon has already referred to this child as “a light for revelation.” Jesus is light. Throughout his ministry, he is referred to as the light of the world. Jesus even refers to himself as the light. In Isaiah God is referred to as a light to the world.
The thing about a light is that once it is turned on shadows are cast and what was once hidden in darkness is now seen.
When I was in junior high our youth group went to a yearly conference. I bring this up because I remember them sharing that one day we would stand before the judgment throne of God. It was described to me, and terrified me, that one day our entire life and all our hidden sins would flash on a big screen for all to see. All the stolen kisses, impure thoughts, or any other number of adolescent discrepancies plagued me as I thought that one day they would be showcased in a tv show for the world’s enjoyment. It was a scare tactic to live right. For the most part, it worked, at least outwardly, the problem was fear does not change the heart it only stops the behavior for a time. True repentance mixed with grace and love changes hearts.
But today… I see this idea playing out in our own culture. Very few things are hidden as cameras catch most of our day’s movements, Alexa and Siri are listening in waiting to answer us, and social media has become a platform for victims to find their voice and bring to light those who have victimized them. Time’s people of the year for 2017 highlighted the #metoo movement. Misogyny and sexual harassment that was once accepted as “part of the job” or “boys will be boys” is being highlighted for the evil that it is and what was once done in darkness is having light shined on it. Change is coming.
Now in this moment, I may sound like a conspiracy theorist. I’m not I promise. What I see is light shining in dark places. As light shines the ugly places are revealed. A sign of a coming salvation has to first shine light on where the oppression is. You can not free the hurt without first calling out those who are hurting them.
There is a story of an elephant standing on the tail of a mouse. To turn a blind eye and not say to the elephant, hey your standing on that mouse’s tail, is the same as saying go right ahead doing what you are doing I didn’t care about the mouse anyway.
It is not easy for us to admit that we are not a blameless people. We prefer the shadowy streets of the world, rather than walking in God’s light.
As inner thoughts are revealed, some people will fall and others will rise. Hearts will be revealed.
Simeon says salvation is painful.
Simeon has a word of caution for the new parents….
— and a sword will pierce your own soul too.
These words foreshadow the cross. They tell of pain to come. At the cross, the sword that pierces Jesus’ side pierced Mary’s heart. God honored Mary by choosing her to be the mother of the Messiah, but the honor will not include an easy life. What could be more painful than a mother seeing her son, the one promised as the Messiah, rejected by so many and eventually executed as a common criminal?
Salvation is painful because until one is willing to sacrifice of themselves, to step down from the comfort of their own life and reach into the margins of someone else’s, it cannot occur. One has to give of themselves to experience the pain and need of the one needing to be saved. That pain is not felt in a vacuum. As Americans, we focus so strongly on individualism but there is nothing in this story that is done in a vacuum. The decisions made, the census, the family, the crowd of angels, the birth, the shepherds, the outer court… this is a community interweaved into this story of redemption. Mary did not stand alone, neither did Joseph and neither did Christ. His pain was felt by everyone who loved him.
Do Simeon’s words speak to you? What do you hear in them? Is it a promise of hope or a promise of pain? Share with us in the comments.