In the book, The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey tells about a Jesuit missionary who went to China in the sixteenth century. He took samples of religious art to illustrate the story of Jesus. He discovered that the Chinese loved the pictures of the Virgin Mary holding her child, but were horrified by pictures of the crucifixion. They insisted on worshiping the Virgin Mary rather than the crucified Jesus.
Yancey says we do pretty much the same thing. Go through any stack of Christmas cards, and even the Christian-themed cards have been purged of any reminder of how the story that began in Bethlehem turned out at Calvary.
When Jesus was eight days old, Mary and Joseph took him to the temple in Jerusalem to be circumcised. They met a man named Simeon who told them wonderful things about what Jesus was to become. Then he told Mary, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many…. The thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Over and over throughout his ministry, Jesus said the same things.
Imagine for a moment that you’re Mary. You followed your Son’s life and ministry with the interest that only a mother has. You saw how he revealed people’s hearts. You saw how the light came on as people believed, and then you saw the rejection and the trial.
And then you saw him hanging on the cross.
I wonder. As Mary stood helplessly in front of her son on the cross, did she think back to that day in the temple 33 years before? Did she think, “I always wondered what Simeon meant. This has got to be it. This is a sword through my soul. A sword through my body would be preferable to this.”
And so, Simeon’s warning has to be part of the Christmas story. We can’t just settle for the baby Jesus.
Jesus stepped into our world, knowing that he would divide people.
He knew that when he revealed their hearts, most would reject him, yet he willingly went to the cross for them.
He was pierced so that we could be healed.