If you are a parent, are you able to look backwards to your first child being born? Do you remember the joy, pride and thankfulness? Surely this experience was true for Mary in particular and in a lesser way for Joseph who was the stepfather. Parenting is a joy but it carries many hardships. We, however, shall not go through the hardships that awaited Mary. Please read the next section in Luke chapter 2 before we return to the Book of Acts:
Lk 2:33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 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, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
1) Proud parents. Most men and women desiring to be parents become proud parents of their new born sons or daughters. This was true of Mary and Joseph, but there was more!
(1) It was to Joseph the angel said:
Mt 1:20 an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
We don’t know whether Joseph understood the full impact of the angel’s words. He would have known the prophecies about Messiah and the fact that Matthew adds:
Mt 1:22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”
must have given him some idea of what this child would grow up to be.
(2) To Mary, Luke records for us what happened between the angel and herself:
Lk 1:29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
Without a doubt she understood the miraculous conception, the miraculous birth and that this child would be special … and even Messiah … following the blood line of the great king David as she and Joseph did. Both Mary and Joseph understood there was something extraordinary about this child, but they did not grasp the magnitude of God Incarnate.
(3) Simeon has something special to add … and we read:
Lk 2:33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.
Proud parents indeed. It is normal that this is the way parenthood starts … but there are many struggles throughout the life of the child in the home. Parenting is tough and needs to be saturated in prayer. Simeon “blessed” them … most likely a prayer to God for His blessings upon them. Then we find a further prophecy regarding the child … and Simeon directs this to Mary:
Lk 2:34 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, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Even if she understood it completely, it would have sliced deeply into her heart and soul.
(i) Falling and rising. Leon Morris in his commentary (I paraphrase some of what he writes) says that there are two ways to interpret … This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel.
(a) If Simeon means one group of people, then people need to lose all pride in their own spiritual achievements, otherwise there is no place for them. They need to fall and take a lowly place before they can rise. He points out a good example given by Jesus:
Lk 18:9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
If our righteousness is in what we have done and achieved we are to be pitied! Our righteousness must be imputed! Unless Jesus’ righteousness is credited to our account before God we are lost in our sin.
(b) If Simeon means two groups it means Jesus will divide people into those who reject him and in the end will “fall” and those who accept Him and in the end they shall “rise”. Try and read Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43. Here is an extract:
Mt 13:30 “‘Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'”
Mt 13:40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”
Both ideas of Morris have deep consequences for you and me. Will we fall into the fiery pit because we have rejected Jesus or will we rise through faith in Him to enjoy His glory?
Lord, grant us assurance of faith. Amen.