There are always those who don’t like the pastor of their Church. The pastor has not necessary done anything wrong, it’s more the fact they miss their previous pastor or perhaps the new pastor is confrontational in his expositions saying things they don’t like. Congregants at times would like to design their ideal pastor … as to his looks and appearance, the way he preachers and what he says, how he does visitation and counseling and how available he is … especially when they want their six year old problems that no one else could help solve, solved immediately. A scenario such as this sets the platform for some congregants to speak badly of the pastor to others, both in the Church and outside the Church. Did Jesus not say:
Jn 15:20 “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”
Today we read:
Lk 2:34 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.”
Simeon continues his prophetic words to Mary …
(i) Spoken against. Yesterday we saw that Jesus would cause the rising and falling of many in Israel. The Gospel is provocative. It is challenging. It exposes sin and belief systems. It causes men and women to make decisions. Choices can be difficult at the best of times … and when it comes to the Gospel the only options are yes and no. There are no “maybes, I’m not ready, let me weigh up my options”. You either chose for Jesus or against Jesus. You either accept Him on His terms or your reject Him on your terms. So here’s the thing … rejecting is causing you to fall … fall away and be damned … and rising is to receive Him as your personal Lord and Savior with the assurance of eternal glory. The rising and falling is the reason Jesus will be … a sign that will be spoken against. There are two things in this short phrase …
(a) The “sign” seems vague, but must mean that He will be a sign from God. Like John the Baptist, He would not speak His own words but those of God. There would be no vagueness … the teaching would be provocative and confrontational because of sin. There is no other way to arrest the heart. He needed to address sin! He was God’s sign to them!
(b) The problem with this type of preaching is that the so called “righteous” Jews of Jesus’ day were offended and rejected what He was saying. This resulted in them speaking against Him and His ministry. These two issues are still real today. Jesus remains God’s sign … His Gospel Sign. At the same time, many hate His direct, pointed, sin exposing way of preaching. You can’t get away from what He is saying … and He says what He says to you. Still today people speak against Jesus and His teaching. They hate Him because He shows them how bad they are … but sadly they can’t see that without showing one the depth of depravity they are in, they can’t decide to move away from the inevitable consequences of their sin. They cannot grasp that Jesus loves us so much that He exposes our problem to bring restoration. He is the spiritual doctor performing a spiritual diagnoses. Once the diagnosis has been done … only then can spiritual healing begin. Rather than listen to this “heart doctor” they reject Him and speak badly of Him.
(ii) Exposing hearts. Once the Gospel is preached, many shall rise but even more shall fall resulting in many bad mouthing Jesus, His Gospel, His Word (The Bible) and His people (The Church). What they cannot grasp is that their reaction exposes their hearts to God
Lk 2:35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
Let’s take the journey again … whatever you permit to enter into the ears, mouth, eyes, nose and mind are channeled directly to your heart. The heart is the center of your being where all decisions and actions are approved or withheld. The saying … “garbage in, garbage out” is real when it comes to us filling the heart with garbage … sin. Whatever you “in-put” will cause an “out-put”. This is why Jesus used the illustration of the heart … He is speaking into the context of eating food without washing your hands:
Mt 15:17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’”
Whatever you feed the heart comes out … and if you feed the heart with sin … sin in its various forms will come out of the heart. The way the Jews who rejected Jesus responded to His teaching show that what was in their hearts … sin … came out of their hearts … that is … the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. This is why we need to be cautious about what we fill our hearts with. The Word of God applied through prayer is what is needed!
(iii) Piercing of the soul. Remember that Simeon is speaking to Mary and he ends his prophecy with these words
Lk 2:35 And a sword will pierce your own soul too.
This is the saddest words any mother could hear. In Mary’s case, she would have seen these words in the context of Isaiah 53. The word for “sword” is not a small one but a huge sword. It refers to Mary witnessing her son’s execution at Calvary. However limited she understood the work of Messiah giving Himself to save His people from their sins was … the climax of these words were experienced as she watched Jesus dying on that Cross. It must have been excruciating … and she watched! The little comfort Jesus gave her when He appointed John to care for her was small. In reviewing Simeon’s prophecy, no one can remain neutral. You are either for Jesus or you are against Jesus. Will you rise to new life in glory or fall to eternal destruction in hell?
Lord Jesus, thank You for coming to our planet to save lost souls through Your penal, substitutionary, sacrificial death. Help me to remain true to You and stay on Your side, rising to eternal life, to be with You in Your glory forever. Amen.