I have often wondered where the thorns are for the roses in our lives. For some who are looking for meaning there is an expectation that meaning and destiny needs to be forged into something that is only sweet and God forbid bittersweet.
“The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce)[ so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:33-35).
Here is where the bittersweet comes in. In what was written by Luke previously could be reduced to a nice Christian Hallmark card of a sweet old man who holds and blesses sweet baby Jesus who would grow up to be a sweet blessing for the world. Do those perceptions still hold true? Yes but not by themselves. The Good news has to have the hard news on its coattails.
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him— It is an important starting point in being a disciples of Jesus, which is what Joseph and Mary would amount to, in being amazed. I am not talking about goosebumps. They come and go in if we rely on those for our turning points in the Divine we will be putting God into a performance position. God is not our clown but where his thinking is above our thinking it will inherently blow our minds.
and Simeon blessed them—- If there could be any last anesthetic for the hard news of being a disciple of Jesus it is that God intends to bless you. He wants to bless the world and will preface words and deeds with that bias.
Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel—- This is notable when we consider that Simeon has now directed his comments to only Mary the mother who would likely be the only one of those two when Jesus would come into his ministry. Mary is a humble young woman in a backwater town but of great significance as we have seen in the eyes of God. Being full of grace as we can see in the original Greek as a past and completing act she stands as an icon of God flipping over the paradigms that the carnal mind would be predisposed to.
and to be a sign that will be contradicted— Jesus would be intertwined with the message of the cross.
but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength (1 Corinthians 1:23-25).
It is fitting that Mary get this message. She had been told “The Lord is with you” and Blessed are you among women” which historically were military conquest phrases. Through Jesus who she had born the universal message of the Cross through the Church would rock the world.
and you yourself a sword will pierce—- But first Jesus and the cross would rock her world. For some who have seen the Passion of the Christ they come away that it could also be of Mary’s passion in seeing her son die on the cross. Her hope was in God but her heart was broken that her son would suffer. But for the good of the world would she still cooperate with that? In a way she did later when she brokered the logistics for Jesus to start his ministry in changing water to wine.
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed— This is important because Jesus in the gospel brings in many turning points who encounter the message and what it calls for. This “sign” would change everything in conversion because the word of God exposes those things that are and are not of God and necessitates our own turning points.
“Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
As Christ is experienced in the fullest, much is illuminated. The soul and spirit is the psyche of our lives versus the God-life that is given to us. The joints and marrow is about our means of accessing life and fulfillment. Are the means ordered or disordered? And as for reflections and thoughts of the heart, that is the crux of treasuring in our hears the baby Jesus, the Nazarene Jesus, The Risen Jesus and the Coming Jesus. We must always remember, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).