Sunday 26 March 2017

Bible Book:

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

Luke 2:33-35 Sunday 26 March 2017

Psalm: Psalm 34


Today is Mothering Sunday, and many of our churches will befilled with daffodils as we give thanks for our mothers and allthey have given us. Yet for some, Mothering Sunday brings regret aswell as joy, as we remember mothers who are no longer with us; aswe think about children who are lost to us, or who are living inways we find hard to understand; as we grapple with hopes anddreams that have not come to fruition in the ways we longedfor.

All these conflicting emotions are caught up in these fewverses. Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple 40 days afterhis birth, according to the Jewish law. They brought the offeringprescribed for poor people (Luke2:24; compare with Leviticus 12:6-8). For a faithful Jewish couplelike them, this would have been a God-given opportunity to givethanks for the birth of their son. Yet with Simeon's words, thescene takes a very different turn.

Simeon was a man of God, full of the Holy Spirit, full of hopethat God would comfort Israel (Luke2:25). The Spirit had revealed to him that he would not dieuntil he had seen the Messiah. Was it a surprise to him that therevelation focused on a baby, six weeks old? In response, heprophesied in the words sometimes known as the Nunc Dimittis,celebrating the gift of the child who will be "a light forrevelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel" (Luke2:32). Then, in the verses we read today, he turned directly tothe child's parents and focused his attention on Mary.

His first words must have brought Mary a jolt of surprise. Shehad sung of a God who had "brought down the powerful from theirthrones, and lifted up the lowly" (Luke1:52). Now Simeon was speaking in a similar way about her son.What would it mean for her child to be central to God's programmeof transformation and reversal? Simeon was quick to spell out theimplications. Jesus would be a controversial figure - "a sign thatwill be opposed" (v. 34)- and Mary's own heart would be pierced bya sword. And before this chapter of the Gospel ends, that piercinghad already begun, with the story of Mary and Joseph's franticsearch for their twelve-year-old son, lost in Jerusalem - and hisblunt words "Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that Imust be in my Father's house?" (Luke2:49). The shadow of the cross was already on the littlefamily; but so was the reassurance that this is held within God'spurposes.

To Ponder

  • What might Mary and Joseph have said to each other, one-to-one,about this encounter?
  • How far does our society use the images and language ofmotherhood helpfully?
  • When the sword of pain pierces us, where do Christians findcomfort?
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