Simeon’s Prophetic Warning

Rembrandt – “Circumcision”

Mary and Joseph stood there, awestruck over what was being said about their baby. Simeon then blessed them and prophesied over Mary, saying: “A painful sword will one day pierce your inner being, for your child will be rejected by many in Israel. And the destiny of your child is this: he will be laid down as a miracle sign for the downfall and resurrection of many in Israel. Many will oppose this sign, but it will expose to all the innermost thoughts of their hearts before God.” 

(Luke 2:34–35)

After a long lifetime of waiting and watching, Simeon has finally laid his dimming eyes upon the promised Seed through Whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed. He can now depart in peace. 

But wait. As he holds the 40-day-old infant, the spirit of prophecy moves him. After speaking a blessing over the parents, he brings words of stark warning—for both the mother and the nation he loves. He sees heartache in Mary’s future. The source of her pain will be the rejection of her Son by many of his countrymen. Jesus’ presence and preaching will expose the true nature of hearts. Some will respond in a way that will lead to a resurrection—a new birth. Others will reject Him, to their everlasting “downfall.”

Indeed, the gospels reveal that Jesus will go through all the villages and synagogues of both Judea and Galilee. (Matthew 9:35) His preaching will be filled with classic Old Testament prophetic vocabulary, frequently warning of a fiery judgment coming to that generation of Israelites. (Scan Luke’s gospel and count how many times Jesus uses the phrase “this generation.”)

And, consistent with Simeon’s prophecy, His illustrations will frequently describe a sorting and dividing of the people who hear his message. Jesus will speak of wheat being separated from chaff. And wheat from tares. He will speak of the sorting of sheep and goats. And of fish after a catch. He will describe His Words of Life as seeds falling on four different kinds of soil. 

By the Spirit, Simeon saw what so many other Scripture experts of his day completely missed. The Messiah hadn’t come to unify the Jewish people against Rome. On the contrary, He was destined to divide them. For some He would be “the way” to new life. For many others, He would become a stone over which they would stumble and fall. (John 6:60-65)

Everything Simeon prophesies on this day will came to pass. The reactions to Jesus’ words will reveal the true nature of hearts. Many among the pious Pharisees and other religious elites will not only reject Him but despise Him. Yet many of those who had long ago abandoned both the ethics and observances of the Mosaic Law will return to God with joyful tears.

Finally, Simeon sees past the Jesus’ ministry as a prophet to His service as a priest—as both High Priest and sacrifice Lamb. He will be “laid down” (on a cross) and then lifted up as a “miracle sign” to the nation. 

Prayer of Declaration:

Jesus—Prophet, Priest and King—you willingly laid your life down so that I, and countless others around the world, and throughout history might receive eternal life. My heart is soft toward you. My ears are attuned to your voice. I’m good soil for your Words of Life!