Why were Mary and Joseph amazed? What did Simeon tell Mary about the mission of Jesus? What did he predict for her?
Verses 33–35: And Joseph and his mother marveled at those things which were spoken of him. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
Although Mary and Joseph knew about the conception and birth of Jesus, they marveled at those things which were spoken of him. Why were they amazed? Perhaps it was amazement that God already had revealed to others the uniqueness of Jesus. Perhaps it was the enlarged view of the mission of Jesus to all people. Mary knew much about Jesus, but God had not revealed everything to her.
Simeon praised God and blessed Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Then he addressed his words to Mary. Speaking as a prophet, he predicted some disturbing things. He made four predictions. First, he said, “This child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel” (HCSB). There is more than one way to interpret this falling and rising. One approach is to understand it to refer to the same person falling and rising. When people fall humbly in repentance, Jesus will raise them up to salvation and new life. The other view understands the meaning to refer to two different groups. Jesus came to bring salvation for all people. He came to shine His light on all, but some people reject Him and fall into judgment by their own decision. Others receive Jesus and His salvation. They rise to a new, eternal life. The latter view is my preference.
The second prediction was that Jesus was a sign which shall be spoken against. Mary was told that her son would meet opposition. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). When Jesus tried to tell His disciples about His coming rejection, they did not believe Him. But early in Jesus’ life, Simeon predicted this.
The third prediction concerned Mary’s own pain: A sword shall pass through thy own soul also. The word for sword was used of “a large sword, properly a long Thracian javelin. It occurs in the LXX [the Greek translation of the Old Testament] of Goliath’s sword (1 Sam. 17:51). How little Mary understood the meaning of Simeon’s words that seemed so out of place in the midst of the glorious things already spoken, a sharp thorn in their roses, a veritable bitter-sweet. But one day Mary will stand by the Cross of Christ with this Thracian sword clean through her soul.” Simeon seems to have been the first in Jesus’ day to see the truth of Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah (Isa. 53).
The fourth prediction was that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. “This means that God, who already knows the secret inclinations of the heart of man, will so bring it about that the appearance of Christ will cause a clear division between those who already serve Him and those who are hostile to Him. Through the acceptance or rejection of Christ it will become clear what is really everyone’s real bent and bias, what he thinks of himself (whether he is humble or arrogant), and what he thinks of God (whether he really loves Him and is devoted to Him or not).”
Simeon did not have a full understanding of salvation, but he was on target about three aspects of it. First of all, the reference to the consolation of Israel (v. 25) implies that he saw salvation in spiritual terms rather than in political terms. “For Luke this referred not to the fulfillment of Jewish political hopes involving deliverance from their enemies and restoration of David’s throne but rather to the salvation Jesus brought.” Second, he was one of the first to recognize that the good news was for all people. The angel had revealed this to the shepherds (vv. 8–10), but Simeon was the first to explicitly apply this to Gentiles (v. 32). The debate about receiving Gentiles was probably the biggest issue for first-century Christians. Paul followed Stephen and Philip in championing the inclusion of Gentiles on the basis of faith. Luke wrote the Book of Acts to show how this happened. His Gospel magnifies this emphasis, showing that God’s intention always had been to offer salvation to all people.
The third aspect of salvation in Simeon’s words was the revelation that salvation would be made possible through suffering. Mary’s pain was not part of the sufferings of Jesus as He bore our sins, but His sufferings pierced her soul. Simeon did not clearly predict the sufferings of Jesus, but part of Jesus’ pain was His concern for Mary (John 19:25–27). The prediction of her sufferings implied His sufferings. Thus from the beginning the shadow of the cross lay across Jesus’ path.
One lesson from these words about Simeon is that we should finish whatever God calls us to do. We should trust God to fulfill His Word even after we are gone.
What are the lasting truths in Luke 2:33–35?
God amazes us by revealing more of His plan to us.
2. Following Christ involves suffering.
3. We should appreciate God’s great salvation.