Jesus The Disrupter: Luke 2:34–35

 Some forty days had passed and it was time for Mary to purify herself, according to Levitical law. By a miracle, Mary had bore the baby Jesus but had not slept with any man at this point. 

Here we meet the famous Simeon, who had been promised to see the Savior in the flesh during his lifetime. He praised God and announced to everyone in the temple courts how the baby would bring Salvation to all people.

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Yet, those were not his last words concerning Jesus. Imagine Simeon holding baby Jesus in his arms and declaring the future Salvation, but then pivoting his stance towards Mary to speak a blessing to a her:

“. .  . this child is appointed for the fall and [rise] of many in Israel, and for a sign that is [spoken against] (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:34–35 ESV

Jesus was the Savior, and this required a great disruption to people’s lives. He later said about himself: 

“Do not think I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” Matthew 10:34–36

But doesn’t this contradict the famous line, “peace on earth” (alluding to Luke 2:14)? Jesus the disrupter—isn’t that totally opposite of the Christmas message?  In one sense, Jesus did come to bring peace to the earth, after all he did not come to condemn the world (John 3:17). Yet, the very next verse in John 3 says that those who do not believe have already been condemned (John 3:18).

So yes, Simeon’s blessing does go against “peace on earth”, but it doesn’t entirely invalidate world peace either.

Destined for Disruption

“This child is appointed for[:] the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign [that is spoken against]. . .”

According to Simeon, Jesus was “destined” (literally: placed) for three roles (but not exclusively) in his life. He would be the downfall of many and the exaltation of others. Jesus challenged the religious authorities and the rich and exalted the poor, the prostitutes, and the tax collectors. 

As a social disrupter, Jesus was like the prophets of old who gave God’s message to the people. He was not only a prophet but was the sign of God, God himself in human flesh, that foretold God’s future judgement and love. Yet, he was to be a sign that was spoken against—as he turned social circles on their heads and told people to repent, people would oppose God’s clearest sign: himself as a person! The people rejected him anyway.

Costly Closeness to Christ 

“. . . and a sword will pierce through your own soul also. . .”

Ironically this is a blessing (literally: a good word) for Mary—that Jesus would be a source of bitterness to her (the mater dolorosa). Part of the blessing may be Simeon’s forthrightness that closeness with Jesus is costly. 

Jesus would face opposition and great offense as the spoken against sign. The word “also” (Gk: δε) means that Jesus’ soul would be pierced with a sword. Mary would share in the pain Jesus felt due to opposition and persecution. All believers share the experience of having their souls pierced with a sword, feeling what Jesus felt when he was opposed.

Horrible & Humble Hearts Revealed

“[Jesus would fulfil three roles] so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

The reason Jesus was destined to be a fall, rise, and an opposed sign was so that the thoughts of many hearts’ thoughts would be revealed. The Greek makes it clear that if Jesus was not destined for these roles, then it is possible that the thoughts of many hearts would not have been revealed.

When Jesus flipped earthly expectation with eternal understanding, people’s reactions were strong. People’s reactions to Jesus’ ministry, whether aloud or internal, revealed whether they were truly interested in God’s love or just in self-promotion. When a Pharisee was rebuked, their reaction revealed their heart’s motives. When an ill man was healed their gratitude or lack thereof showed the thoughts of their heart (the Ten Lepers in Luke 17:11-19 is a great example of this).

In a larger sense, the thoughts of the heart of every person (“from many hearts”) are revealed when Jesus humbles us, reveals us for who we truly are, and invites us to submit to him. 

When we think of the baby Jesus, we often think of the great peace he brought to the world. Praise God for this! But Simeon, by inspiration of the Spirit, saw and knew that Jesus had not been sent as a cute, harmless baby or a morally inspirational teacher. Jesus came to deal with sin and had to die without just cause. That is a serious tale. 

So when you think about the Christmas story, think beyond the peaceful baby Jesus. Think of a powerful God, who came to rescue many and humiliate others—wrapped in the form of a baby. One day this would be the man that would change world history forever. 


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