CHRISTMAS: BAD NEWS TO SOME, GOOD NEWS TO OTHERS

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Luke 2:34, 35

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Simeon, as you recall, was the “silent server,” a faithful follower of Yahweh, waiting patiently and praying for the coming of the Messiah. When Joseph and Mary came to the Temple in Jerusalem to present their offerings, along with their 8-day old Son, Jesus, Simeon recognized immediately that this Baby was the long awaited Messiah. As soon as he took the Baby in his arms. Simeon the “secret server” became a prophet, empowered by the Holy Spirit, as verse 25 suggests,

…the Holy Spirit was on him.

Simeon’s word of prophecy was brief, but powerful; each phrase full of meaning and deserving of our attention.

1. The Mission of Christ

These words must have been startling for Mary and Joseph to hear:

This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel… (verse 34a)

This prophecy was given directly to Mary and Joseph, but it concerned all of Israel, and in fact has implications that reach around the world, down through time to this present day. The coming of this Baby into our world would result in a moral, ethical, and spiritual crisis in the Israel of His day, and even in our world today. The people of Israel, and eventually people around the world world, would be faced with a decision: respond positively to the call of grace or reject it. Later on in the New Testament, we read the same thing like this:

For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” (1 Peter 2:6-8)

Many in Israel would fall because of their response to Jesus. Others would “rise,” that is, they would receive eternal life. While this prophecy, both here in Luke, and in Peter, where he quotes from Isaiah and the Psalms, applies directly to the nation of Israel, its principle is universal because it directly applies to the eternal destiny of all people, of all time. The absolute most important decision any human being can make is what to do with Jesus Christ.

We can look at how it happened to Jesus. He had a huge following for much of His earthly ministry, but later on, when His preaching became stern, when He started talking about the cost of following Him, many of His disciples fell:

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (John 6:60)

After this, the crowds got smaller and smaller. Many fell away.

Of course, there were some followers of Jesus who had to fall first. For example, Saul fell off His donkey before he rose again, a new creation, becoming Paul, the great evangelist. Zaccaeus had to “come down” when Christ called him to a life of discipleship. Maybe some of you have to be “brought down” before Christ could do anything with you.

Yes, Jesus is very bad news for those who reject Him.

For Israel, though, He was “bad news” because by in large His people would have nothing to do with Him. They foolishly, though prophetically, rejected the Messiah. However, He will in time be the best news ever, for though Israel as a nation has fallen, she will rise when her Messiah comes:

In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’” (Romans 9:26, also Hosea 1:10)

2. The character of Christ

[The child will] be a sign that will be spoken against…(verse 34b)

It was Isaiah who spoke these thrilling words hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

A sign could point to something good or something bad. A sign can be very comforting, like when you have been driving all day and you see a sign that your destination is just around the corner. Or a sign can serve as a warning. In Christ, as a sign, He is—

The red light of danger.

Jesus Christ, the sign, is a sign of danger to those who refuse to accept His gracious gift of grace and salvation. The foreknowledge of God is absolutely infallible; He knows who will accept His freely offered grace and those who will not. He forces neither choice on anyone, but allows people to chose for themselves. Those who turn Him down, will fall, and it is God’s will that they should perish. But, when God’s grace offered in Christ is accepted by sinful man, God raises them up from sin and death.

The yellow light of caution.

Sometimes Jesus is a sign of “caution,” warning you to be careful. To those of us who have accepted Him as Savior, sometimes we think we can simply live for ourselves; that we can treat Jesus like a salt shaker, taking Him out every once in a while when we think we need Him. Thank God He doesn’t treat us like that! Thank God our Savior is far more loyal to us than we are to Him. When we get a little too independent in our thinking, Jesus can be a sign of warning, of caution, to get back to Him. But we have to heed the sign, for again, He won’t force us to live right. It must be our own choice.

The green light of safety.

To the believing, trusting, and obedient, Jesus is like a green light. When you are walking with Him, there is no need for fear or apprehension. When you are living your best for Him, you need never be ashamed to pray or to wait in His presence. Jesus Christ will always show you the way to go, with green lights all the way. But you have to trust Him first and you have to put forth an effort to live in a real relationship with Jesus. We have a good example of a man who was embarrassed to pray, not because of the state of his life, but that of his people:

I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. (Ezra 9:6)

But you never need to feel like that! When you are living for Christ, He’s the green light.

3. The influence of Christ

so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed… (verse 35a)

To come into contact with Jesus is to have your thoughts revealed, too. Did you know there is nothing about you hidden from Him? You can hide your thoughts and even your motives from most people, but never from God.

Jesus Christ is the living Word; He is the discerner of thoughts and knows the intents of the heart. He knows all about us, and what we think of Jesus is revealed not only by our thoughts, but by our actions as well. Words are pretty cheap these days; we may say we love Jesus and we may claim that He is our Savior, but do our actions support our words or betray them?

Jesus Christ is the touchstone of truth by which all people are judged. There are a couple of interesting verses about Jesus that should never be taken alone, without the other in its shadow:

If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. (John 12:47)

For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind. (John 9:39)

The mission of Jesus, revealed by His character, was not to try, but to redeem, but in doing so the character of man would have to be severely tested. When anybody is confronted with the living Truth, that person will, of necessity, be forced to make a choice: follow or not follow. Jesus came to redeem that person, but that person must make the choice; the decision is his. As Jesus lived and walked among His people, their hearts were revealed—those whose hearts were right heard His voice and followed, but those who preferred darkness turned away.

Today, the Gospel remains the touchstone of human character. There are those who want nothing to do with the light of God. They may be moral and ethical people, but their hearts prefer the darkness over the Light. They will reject Christ. But there are others whose hearts, consciously or unconsciously, are searching for more; they know this life is not all there is. These people find ultimate fulfillment and satisfaction in a relationship with Jesus Christ. What a person does with Jesus reveals what is truly in their heart.

And a sword will pierce your own soul too. (verse 35b)

This was a personal word to Mary, the mother of Jesus. But she wasn’t just His mother, she would become His disciple, as well. And so her “piercing of the soul” carried with it a double-whammy. As His mother, her soul must have been shattered when she saw her Son’s suffering and on the Cross. As one of Jesus’ disciples, her soul was pierced when she faced the jeers and persecution all of His disciples faced and face to this very day.

Jesus Christ; was there ever a Man born whose influence was so diverse and so pervasive? Jesus Christ: a stumbling stone to some, a stepping stone to others, and a touchstone to all.

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