Following Jesus Does Not Exempt Us from Problems

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27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
(Luke 2:27–35 ESV)

In Luke 2:22–39, Mary and Joseph present Jesus to God in the Jerusalem temple. In doing so, they encounter Simeon. In Luke’s retelling of their meeting, we see important themes from Luke 1 return again. For example, all three adults display devout character similar to that of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Zechariah and Elizabeth are characterized as upright before God and blameless with regard to God’s commandments (1:7). In chapter 2, Luke notes that Joseph and Mary faithfully take Jesus to the temple for purification just “as it is written in the Law of the Lord” (2:23–24). Furthermore, Simeon is singled out as “righteous and devout” (2:25). Truly, these were trustworthy, faithful people.

Luke also notes, as in chapter 1, the continued working of the Holy Spirit. Within a mere three verses (2:25–27), Luke mentions the Holy Spirit in relation to Simeon three times. Luke’s emphasis on the work of the Spirit provides one more indicator of the profound significance of these people and the events in which they were caught up.

At the center of this passage stand Simeon and his blessing of Joseph and Mary. Luke characterizes Simeon in a manner that prepares us to feel the impact of his words; he is “righteous and devout” and the Holy Spirit is upon him (2:25). But, Luke also tells us he waited for the “consolation of Israel” (2:26), words that recall Isaiah’s prophecy of Israel’s deliverance (Isaiah 40:1–2; 49:13). Finally, the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die before he saw “the Lord’s Christ” (ESV) or “Messiah” (2:26).

Simeon’s message to Joseph and Mary consisted of thanksgiving to God for the child plus a prediction about the coming impact of Jesus’ life. Let’s look at both elements.

First, Simeon gives thanks that he has been allowed to see God’s “salvation” (v. 30). Jesus as a bringer of divine salvation is a theme unique to Luke. As with the term “consolation,” it refers to God’s deliverance of Israel and the nations from their rebellion against God.

But second, after blessing the couple (1:34), Simeon spoke a troubling word to Mary (1:34–35). He predicted that Jesus would cause division within Israel, provoking opposition against himself. Furthermore, Mary would experience great sorrow as a result of what happens to Jesus. The reader who knows how the gospel ends understands all too well of what Simeon speaks.

Mary had proven to be a model of faithfulness to God. Then she learns that the journey upon which she and her child have begun will cost her dearly. Faithfulness to God within the purposes of God do not exempt her from life pain.

Our pain incurred in following Jesus will be far less than Mary experienced. We are more likely to face social ostracism, though in some cases jobs and livelihoods could be threatened. But, like Mary, following Jesus does not exempt us from difficulty.

Questions for Reflection

  1. In what ways do you find following Jesus difficult?
  2. By what means do you find encouragement to faithfully follow Jesus in spite of problems you encounter?

Jesus sums up the entire biblical message as follows: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27 NRSV). But what does that love look like where we live? Where we work? With the people we do life with everyday?

In answer to such questions, Jim Miller draws practical lessons from Luke’s Gospel in order to help us live a life modeled after the example of Jesus Christ. This involves his pattern of prayer, relating to others, establishing holy priorities, and a host of day-to-day issues that together establish what Jesus himself called the abundant life. Get the Bible study from our store here.

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Dr. Jim Miller is Professor of Inductive Biblical Studies and New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary and Director of the Center for the Study of World Christian Revitalization Movements.

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