The Advent of Jesus is not just a time of joy; it is also a time of conflict.
In the latter half of Simeon’s proclamation in Luke 2:33–35, He explains that the Child will also bring conflict. He says, “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), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (verse 34–35). The Child that Simeon has now just handed back to Joseph and Mary, this Child will cause people in Israel to fall and rise. He will be a sign that is opposed. In other words, the Child will create conflict because people will either accept Him or reject Him, and it is a choice that ultimately leads to life or death.
The conflict arises because this Child challenges everything about the world.
He challenges the world’s conceptions of power and wealth. He confronts the world’s conceptions of God and belief. He challenges the world’s conceptions of humanity. This Child will either outright offend people or bring them joy and, as a result, there will be many in Israel, there will be many Jewish people, who are offended by this Child. If we were to continue reading Luke, we would quickly see how many Jewish people are offended by Jesus, from religious leaders to the commoners to the rulers, how they subsequently reject Jesus – and in doing so choose death. Moreover, this rejection creates a division between Jesus’ followers and non-believing Jews. The book of Acts clearly depicts this conflict as the non-believing Jews persecute the believing Jews. This is the tension that Jesus brings.
The turmoil does not only exist among Jewish people.
Simeon expands it in verse 35: “that thoughts from many hearts…” This Child will actually set all humanity in opposition. This is not just an issue of Jews and Greeks, but rather between all who receive Jesus and all who reject Jesus. There will be a gulf between these two categories of people because Jesus divides. Jesus offers a completely different narrative than the worlds. Jesus presents a different vision of God and of humanity than the world does. This is why the Child will bring conflict.
Finally, Simeon adds that the Child will bring judgment.
In Luke 2:35a, he uses sword language that harkens back to the OT prophets. In these instances, the sword referred to God’s judgment, and the sword of judgment would come upon the people unless they returned to God, unless they embraced God and His ways. It is in this way that Simeon speaks of the sword. He is essentially telling Mary and Joseph, “If you do not embrace the Child as God’s salvation, the sword of God’s judgment will certainly pierce you. Even though you are the Child’s mother, you are not privileged above anyone else. You too must make a decision about this Child.” Likewise, for all humanity, a sword hangs in the balance. The sword of God’s judgment will come upon all people who reject Jesus, but for those who accept and embrace Him, they will be spared from the sword. So much hangs upon this Child.
So let us embrace Jesus today and, in doing so, accept the conflict that this embrace will bring.
Missed our Taleh advent post from last week? You can read it here.