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, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel. The prophets Simeon and Anna both greet Jesus at the temple for his dedication, and together they announce to the world that this child is the Messiah, the anointed one to redeem Israel from their centuries of shame and suffering at the hands of foreign occupiers.
But how does Jesus redeem Israel from their shame, suffering and humiliation? This is something Simeon and Anna can’t imagine. No one could. They thought what everyone thought, that this little baby would be the liberating messiah, the warrior king who will wage a war of liberation against occupying Rome and rescue Israel. And it’s true Jesus would relieve Israel if their shame and suffering. But instead of relieving the suffering of his people by inflicting it upon others, as the world dictates and as everyone expected, Jesus does something completely unprecedented in human history. When you go through suffering and shame and suffering, you get out of it by inflicting it upon someone else. That’s the way the world works. Whether it be schoolyard bullies who get out of being the one picked upon by finding someone else to pile it upon, to long-suffering nations who finally find the wherewithal to escape their own suffering by inflicting upon some other peoples, it is just a virus that spreads throughout history. Shame and suffering spreads through nations, one to the next.
But – Jesus doesn’t do this. He rescues Israel from shame and suffering not by finding someone else to inflict it upon, or transmit the virus into, but instead by sharing their shame and suffering into himself. He absorbs their shame, suffering and humiliation into himself, he does not inflict it upon others. We sinned all of our anger, all of our pain, all of our sins into Jesus, and he he returns all that sin, shame, and suffering not by projecting it upon some other victim, but by offering unconditional, complete forgiveness. And this is how Jesus Christ becomes the Lamb of God who takes away sin of world…
Jesus heals us by absorbing the shame, the humiliation, the suffering, not recycling it and heaping it upon someone else. He allows it to die in himself. And so by his wounds we are healed…
Part of Simeon’s prophecy to Mary is and a sword will pierce through your own soul also. This is the kind of prophecy that can only be understood in retrospect. We can not understand it when it is given, but after certain events occur, we can look back and see “that’s what he was talking about.”
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. Jesus will be responsible for the fall and rising of Israel itself. Israel is to be re born through Jesus. Jesus is israel, He embodies Israel and that all God intends to do through Israel. He is the seed of Abraham, he is the Son of David. He is the true Israelite. He himself will fall into death only to be raised in resurrection to give Israel a new definition, a new meaning.
Simeon says the child is a sign to be opposed to reveal the hearts of many. If we oppose teachings of Jesus, like, say, the Sermon on the Mount, it reveals our own dark inner thoughts, fears, and motivations. We really don’t like to admit we oppose Jesus. But when it comes to the Sermon on Mount, loving our enemies, forgiving seventy times seven, we just chalk these up to things we need forgiveness for ourselves. After all, Jesus died to forgive my sins, right? Opposition to Jesus and the Jesus Way, to his teachings like (especially) the Sermon on the Mount reveals the dark thoughts and intentions of our hearts, so we fall. But when we fall, we let that darkness fall away from ourselves. Then we are able to be raised again into a new way of thinking, a new way of being. We are raised into a new light of understanding. Jesus is a light to enlighten nations.
Mary would live to see Jesus crucified. She would see Jerusalem reject Jesus and crucify him. She would live to feel that sword pierce her very own soul. But she would also see him raised from the dead. She would live to see the Son (her son) rise in resurrection. She would live to see Jesus crucified, but also vindicated. He wasn’t crazy. He was the true son of God who gives us a new way of being “only human”. His crucifixion was supposed to be the end of just another failed Messiah. But his resurrection gave us all a new beginning, a second chance, a real hope. Hope that we don’t have to spread the virus of shame, humiliation and suffering forever. Hope that we can all have a new beginning living the Jesus Way. A new beginning not dependent on force and might, but instead love and forgiveness.
Today, we all have a new beginning.
“And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “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, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 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.” And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”
Luke 2:22-38 ESV