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.

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