30 March 2014

Luke 2:33-35

“A sword will pierce your own soul too.” (v. 35)


This brief passage, selected because today is Mothering Sunday, is the conclusion of the account of the baby Jesus being brought by his parents to the temple in Jerusalem, where the aged Simeon takes him in his arms and praises God because at last he has seen God's salvation, "a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to [God's] people Israel" (v. 32). This is what amazes Mary and Joseph (verse 33).

But then the mood changes from rejoicing to warning. Although Jesus will bring the light of salvation he will not be universally welcomed. In fact he will be a divisive figure, uplifting many but causing the fall of others.

We see this as the story unfolds in Luke's Gospel. In Luke 6:17-26 Jesus blesses the poor, but pronounces woe upon the rich. His ministry is marked by controversy with religious leaders, and his life ends upon a cross.

What are we to make of the end of verse 35? Perhaps it forecasts the anguish Mary will feel at all Jesus has to go through, though Luke (unlike John's Gospel - John 19:25-27) does not depict Mary at the cross. Perhaps, rather, it is that Mary too will find her son a divisive person, her love tested by his leaving home and setting his mission above his duty to her (see Luke 8:19-21). At all events she will discover that love brings pain.

To Ponder

  • Religion is often divisive. In what sense ought we to expect that?
  • Reflect on your own experiences of love bringing pain. How have you dealt with them?

Bible notes author

The Revd Brian Beck

Brian Beck is a Methodist minister, now retired, and a former president and secretary of the Methodist Conference. A large part of his ministry has been spent in theological education, both in Limuru, Kenya, and in Cambridge, England..