Some Unpleasant Truths
SOME UNPLEASANT TRUTHS
Luke 2:22-40 (esp. vv. 34-35)
I’ve heard it said many times that Christmas is the time of the year that gives us all a special feeling. I know what they’re saying, but I’m not sure exactly what that feeling is we all should experience. If I don’t get that feeling does that mean that Christmas hasn’t happened for me?
The Bible will not allow Christmas to be reduced to the level of feelings. In fact, if we read the entire Christmas story, as both Matthew and Luke tell it, we won’t end up with a whole lot of good feelings. Actually, we’ll be confronted with some very unpleasant truths.
The episode out of the Christmas story about Simeon and Anna is one that really touches the emotions. But it doesn’t just produce in us pleasant feelings. If we read the story thoroughly, it can also stir up within us some unpleasant feelings. Why? Simply because it forces us to consider honestly what Jesus’ coming into our world meant for mankind as a whole.
We miss so much of the glory and grandeur of the Christmas story when we allow our desire for good feelings to sentimentalize it. If we allow our feelings to rule our minds, we’ll miss the truth about Jesus that Dr. Luke intended for us to gain from the story; particularly this part about Simeon.
Simeon spoke some unpleasant truths we must hear. What are they>
When it comes to Jesus, we all must decide for or against Him (v. 34a).
Simeon said, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel.” That means Jesus’ coming was divinely destined by God to cause many to stumble and fall and others to rise to new heights in life.
Jesus’ coming into the world creates a crisis for each of us. It’s not enough to acknowledge that He’s come. You must decide for or against Him. You must decide if He’s the Savior of the world, or He isn’t.
Matthew and Luke weave this crisis of decision into the very fabric of their gospels. For instance:
- Jesus’ coming forced Joseph to decide whether he would wed Mary or divorce her. Joseph, with divine help, decided to marry her.
- Jesus’ coming forced Herod to decide whether he would serve this new king, as the Wise Men identified Him, or seek to kill him. Herod decided to try to kill Jesus. In the process of doing so, many innocent children lost their lives.
- The Wise Men had to decide whether to believe that Herod was telling the truth when he told them to return and let him know where the child was so he could go and worship him, or believe a dream that warned them about Herod’s plan. They chose to believe the dream, and headed home another way.
- We have to decide as well. We simply can’t turn the other way and ignore Jesus’ coming. To ignore Him is to reject Him.
ILLUS. I read somewhere of a courthouse in the Midwest that situated in a unique position. Rain that falls on one side of the courthouse roof runs of and travels by way of the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. Rain that falls on the other side of the roof runs off and travels to the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Think about it: a breath of wind can determine which way a drop of rain travels.
A.T. Robertson, the famous British Bible scholar, observed that “Jesus is the magnet of the ages –He draws some and repels others.” Jesus drew Nicodemus to Himself, while He repelled all the others who made up the Sanhedrin, who ultimately decided to have Jesus crucified.
- What about when Jesus was crucified? One of the criminals who was crucified along with Jesus decided to trust his guilty soul to Jesus, while the other criminal cursed Jesus.
- The gospels also record that when Jesus rose from the dead, some of Jesus’ disciples believed and worshiped Him, while others doubted.
Simeon’s words were anything but sentimental. They were downright realistic. Many years later, the apostle Paul found this out. (READ 1 Cor. 1:23-24)
If we truly celebrate Christmas, it’s because we celebrate the fact that Jesus is the Savior of the World, and we’ve decided for Him.
When it comes to Jesus, His coming results in opposition from us all (vv. 34b-35a).
Jesus arouses opposition simply because of who He is, and because of what those who believe in Him say about Him. His birth, His life, His death, and His resurrection confront us with God’s demands. Most sinners reject those demands.
Simeon said to Mary, “Behold, this child is appointed . . .for a sign to be opposed. . .and a sword will pierce even your own soul. . .” Mary was anything but a passive participant in Jesus’ life. As any mother understands, she would be closer to Jesus than anyone. We’re told that Mary hid the many miraculous things about Jesus’ birth in her heart, but even she didn’t understand the implications of Jesus’ coming. If anything said to her got Mary’s attention it was Simeon’s words, “a sword will pierce even your own soul.” What mother would want to hear that? Mary, however, had no choice in the matter of whether or not to listen to Simeon. Jesus was appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and, as we know, in the entire world.
Of course, we can’t pick and choose what we like about Jesus. The rich, young ruler liked what Jesus had to say about inheriting eternal life, but He rejected Jesus’ call for him to go and sell all he had and come follow Him in order to have it for himself.
ILLUS. I’m reminded of a cartoon I saw once. It showed a little boy trying to lead a huge Saint Bernard on a leash. The dog was dragging the boy along behind him, headed in a different direction from that the little boy wanted to go in. The little boy was bracing his feet and shouting at the top of his voice, “Let’s get this straight! You are my dog. I’m not your boy!”
Lets’ get this straight. Jesus Christ is Lord. We’re not lord of anything. We may decide to go our own way in life, not giving it a second thought that “God has laid on him the iniquity of us all,” but we’ll pay an eternally heavy price if we do.
- Jesus is Lord because He created us. As St. Augustine recognized, she at whose breasts Jesus nursed, was created by her child!
- Jesus is Lord because He obeyed His heavenly Father in everything.
- Jesus is Lord because He knows the thoughts and intentions of every person’s heart. Scripture tells us that Jesus needed no one to tell Him what was in a person’s heart.
This is the real Jesus that came that night in Bethlehem, and the One we must decide for or against. He’s the One most people in this world do not want. Had He come in our day, we would crucify Him too.
We really shouldn’t be surprised that Jesus created so much opposition to Himself. He was divinely appointed to be the Great Divider. He Himself said he didn’t come to bring peace but a sword. What this means for us is that if we decide for Him, and live according to His standards, we’ll be opposed too. (READ John 1:11-12)
There’s a final unpleasant truth that we learn from this episode in the birth story of Jesus.
When it comes to Jesus, His coming reveals our hearts (v. 35).
Opposition always reveals what’s in a person’s heart. The way we respond to opposition reveals what’s in our hearts.
We can’t read hearts. The best we can do is read the emotions in people’s faces and actions. And often we interpret others wrongly. But God can read others like a book. He knows where we stand when it comes to our acceptance or rejection of Him. Jesus knew those who were for or against Him. He knows whether or not we’re wearing a mask.
J. Edwin Orr, in his book entitled Full Surrender, told about a crisis he faced in his own Christian life. He knew His commitment to Christ was only partial. He knelt in prayer one day with a friend and told the Lord he was willing to do (and I quote), “anything to be surrendered and filled.”
An inner voice said to him, “What about your will?” The question upset him. What was the Lord saying to Him? Did He want him to be a missionary? If so, he was willing. Yet the inner voice kept asking, “What about your will?”
Orr said he thought about the new romance that had come into his life recently. Was he being asked to sacrifice that for Jesus’ sake? Orr confessed that he was saying yes with his lips, but not with his heart.
How many of us have faced such a crisis?
John Huffman points out (and I quote him), “That’s what Jesus is talking about in the renunciation of self. Are you holding on to something that is undercutting God’s will for your life? If so, you cannot be His disciple.”
I know that’s not a very pleasant thought, but it’s one that confronts us in the New Testament just about any place we’re confronted with Jesus, whose birthday we celebrate. You and I must decide, as millions through the years have had to do, whether or not we’ll give Jesus our heart in its totality. We have no choice but to choose,
It’s not a pleasant thought to think that Jesus causes a sword to pierce our heart, just like it did that of Mary, Jesus’ siblings, and everyone else. What will we do with Jesus? is THE question of the ages. If you’ve decided for Him, celebrate His birth. If not, don’t put it off any longer.