A Savior Who Divides, A Savior Opposed

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When the long-promised, long-awaited Savior finally comes to his nation he will not be welcomed by all.

This is the nineteenth post in the series The Musical That Changed The World.

It would be natural to expect the nativity story to end on a note of joy and glory. For all the angelic appearances, miraculous conceptions, songs, promises, and messianic expectations, when the story brings baby Jesus into the Temple for the customary blessing of the firstborn son, we find that it closes on a dark, prophetic note.

And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35 ESV)

He is appointed for two things. First, he is to cause the fall and rise of many, not outside of Israel, but within the very nation that looked forward to his coming. Yet, this isn’t a surprise. The prophet Malachi warned of this:

But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers ‘soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver,…” (Malachi 3:2-3 ESV)

mary_simeonThe day of the Messiah’s coming is not something many will be able to stand. The Savior will divide the nation. The rising and falling is seen right off the bat in Jesus’ ministry as he chose to invest himself in 12 common men, not those from the political and religious leaders of Israel.

Second, he is appointed to be a sign that is opposed. That means many will oppose him as a legitimate Messiah. He won’t just be ignored or dismissed, he will be actively opposed. He will not just face indifference, he will face battle from his own. We will see this opposition in chapter 4 of Luke where Jesus is preaching in the synagogue of his own home town, and the response was not one of joy.

When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. (Luke 4:28-29 ESV)

And the last note is particularly devastating to Mary, and it doesn’t take much imagination to see that this sword that will pierce her heart is the sword of seeing her son beaten and crucified. This crucifixion reveals those who belong to God and those who do not.

Read the previous post A Light to Gentiles, Glory to Israel.

See the index of the series The Musical That Changed The World.

A Light to the Gentiles, Glory to Israel

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The Salvation that comes to the world for all peoples will have a different impact on these peoples when it is received.

This is the eighteenth post in the series The Musical That Changed The World.

As Simeon has just praised God for this child which represents God’s salvation that has been prepared in the presence of all nations and peoples, he does recognize that how this salvation works out has some difference between different people groups.

“…a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
Luke 2:32 ESV

templeFor the Gentiles, this salvation is a different experience than it was for the Jews. The Gentiles have never seen salvation in their idols and pagan worship, and so this coming of Christ will be a light that reveals God’s salvation to them. Even though it’s been prepared in their presence, their eyes were dark and unable to see it for what it was. Zechariah used the same light metaphor in his song when he called the Messiah the rising sun that pierces the darkness.

For the nation of Israel this salvation that comes through this child will be glory to them as a people. Why glory? Because they have been the people through whom God prepared this salvation in prophecies, promises, and pictures found in their ceremonies, festivals and religious practices.

Paul speaks of this in his letter to the Romans:

They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
(Romans 9:4-5 ESV)

The Jews already had this light of revelation in the Old Testament era, and they were ridiculed and persecuted for their worship of God. But now they will be vindicated as the Gentiles receive the light of revelation which leads them to embrace this very same God.

Read the previous post Prepared In The Presence of All Peoples

See the index of the series The Musical That Changed The World.

Prepared In The Presence of All Peoples

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The coming of the savior was not something shrouded in mystery, it was prepared in history before the eyes of all people.

This is the seventeenth post in the series The Musical That Changed The World.

As this elderly servant of God, Simeon, holds the baby Jesus in his hands, he makes a remarkable statement. Now that he has seen this child he is ready to die in peace. This is not a sentimental statement. He’s only just met this child and his parents.

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,…”
Luke 2:29-31 ESV

He identifies this baby as the salvation of the Lord. Remember, God promised Simeon that he would see this salvation before he died, and now is the moment of his seeing.

All four of the nativity songs have identified Mary’s child as the salvation of God, sent by his mercy, not in response to our merit. This is so significant a purpose of this child that this man Simeon’s life hinges on seeing the advent of this salvific promise in flesh and blood.

This Salvation is No Mystery

Then he makes this odd statement about this salvation being “prepared in the presence of all peoples.” What does that mean? I think if we were to write a blessing for Simeon to recite at this time I don’t think this statement would cross anyones mind, unless we had a firm grasp of the Old Testament sweep. We might understand the statement but I doubt we would esteem it over other things we would choose to say.

TMTCTW_blogseries_simeonSimeon is simply saying that this act of God in bringing salvation wasn’t hidden from mankind. It didn’t just happen out of the blue. God has been very open with the preparation of this savior child throughout history.

How did he do that? For thousands of years God has been promising, prophecying and foreshadowing this child and his work through his prophets and through the agency of Israel, but not limited to the nation. Salvation is the universal offer of God to all mankind, and it has been prepared in the presence of everyone without discrimination. This is one reason John can say, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” (John 3:16.)

This is worthy of our consideration and rejoicing. God is the of both Jews and Gentiles of all ages of history. It’s a remarkable truth that should remain on the forefront of our Christmas celebrations.

Read the previous post The Heavens Rejoice.

See the index of the series The Musical That Changed The World

The Musical That Changed the World: The Index

As we are going through quite a lengthy blog series looking at the four songs of the nativity story, we’ve created this page for easy reference.  It’s our heart that this series will encourage many to look at these songs deeper and discover they are gazing at a beautiful portrait of the person and work of Jesus Christ, our merciful Warrior King who came to save. I would encourage church leaders to teach these songs to their flocks, and parents to teach them to their children. May we recover these songs that should dominate our Christmas season if we seek to make Christ the center.

Introduction

Video: Why is The Promise a Musical?

1. The Musical That Changed the World

2. How Do Our Christmas Carols Stack Up Against the Songs of the Nativity?

3. The Nativity Proclamations Paint a Marvelous Portrait of Jesus Christ

Mary’s Song of Joy

Video: Mary’s Song of Joy

4. What’s Behind Mary’s Magnificent Song of Joy?

5. Magnificent Praise for a Magnificent God

6. His Mercy is For Those Who Fear Him

7. The Savior is a Revolutionary World Changer

Zechariah’s Song of Blessing

Video: Zechariah’s Song of Blessing

8. What Then Will This Child Be?

9. The Warrior King’s Deliverance is the Epic of All Epics

10. A Prophet to Prepare an Unprepared People

11. The Preparation of Salvation

12. The Mercy of God and the Light of the Savior

The Angelic Birth Announcement

Video: The Angelic Birth Announcement

13. Great Expectations Yet a Humble Birth.

14. Good News of Great Joy.

15. The Savior, Christ the Lord.

16. The Heavens Rejoice.

Simeon’s Song of Blessing

Video: Simeon’s Song of Blessing

Post 17. Prepared in the Presence of All Peoples

Post 18. A Light to the Gentiles, Glory to Israel

Post 19. A Savior who Divides, A Savior Opposed

 

Bibliography

These are the books I used in my research for both the script for “The Promise” and this blog series.

Bloomberg, Craig L., Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey, Second Edition, B&H Academic, 2009.

Bock, Darrell, L., Luke (NIV Application Commentary), Zondervan, 1996

Bock, Darrell L., Luke 1:1-9:50 (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), Baker Academic, 1994.

Calvin, John, Commentary on The Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark,  and Luke, Calvin Translation Society, Digital Edition by Olive Tree.

Carson, D. A., and Beale, G. K., Commentary on The New Testament Use of the Old Testament, Baker Academic, 2007.

Carson, D. A., Gaebelein, Frank E., and Douglas, J. D.  Matthew, Vol. 1 (Ch. 1-12), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Zondervan, 1995.

Carson, D. A., and Moo, Douglas J., An Introduction to the New Testament, Zondervan, 2005.

Lloyd-Jones, Martyn, Magnify The Lord: Luke 1:46-55, Christian Heritage, 2011

MacArthur, John, Luke 1-5: MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Moody Publishers, 2009.

MacArthur, John, The Miracle of Christmas, Zondervan, 1993.

Ryle, J. C., Luke Volume 1 (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels), Banner of Truth, 1986

Tiede, David L., Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: Luke, Fortress Press, 1988