Reflection: Luke 2:25 – 35.
Handel’s dazzling oratorio, the Messiah, is synonymously linked with Christmas as both celebrate God’s indescribable gift to man. After listening to the glorious Hallelujah chorus, I looked up the origin of the chorus’ lyrics from the Revelation to John (19). It affirms emphatically the Lordship of Jesus Christ in heaven and on earth. However, these verses also indicate a scenario that is far from being purely celebrative, as the Lord, on a white horse, is horrifically attired in a garment soaked with the blood of His enemies, and the words ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ inscribed on it and on His thigh! It brought to mind Simeon’s ominous prophetic insight as he held the eight-day-old infant Jesus at the temple; ‘this child is destined to make many fall and many rise in Israel and to set up a standard which many will attack – for he will expose the secret thoughts of many hearts, and for you (Mary), your very soul will be pierced by a sword.’ The prospect of ‘goodwill towards man’ is mingled with a sword! He is a polarizing agent between men, and in the hearts of men. This is the sober flip side, to the congenial Christmas message, that is not often heard, for Divine peace comes at a price.
Jesus was and still is an extremely divisive figure! As THE King and Lord, He either owns us entirely or we are against Him, there is clearly no middle ground as the self-satisfied lukewarm Laodicean church discovered (Rev 3:15-16). He relentlessly thrusts His demands on man, and repeatedly uses provocative analogies to chastise them; if you are no longer salted, you will be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men (Matt 5:13); if your right eye make you stumble, tear it out (Matt 5:29); even if you cast out demons, prophesy and perform miracles in my Name, I do not know you (Matt 7:21-23); and, go and sell all you possess and give to the poor (Mark 10:21), to cite a few incidents. What attracts us to Jesus are His genuine humility, wisdom, and loving compassion, for no one authentically walked his talk the way He did, but His standards are such that we either love and follow Him all the way or hate Him! Jesus is unequivocal in His claims that He ONLY is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6) and only those who are of the truth hears His voice (Jn 18:36). It explains why many turn away from His absolute requirements of allegiance, obedience, and adoration to persecute Him and His church, to this day (Acts 9:4-5).
The sword that judges between the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12) is still unsheathed, although the Lord does not specify how He will disclose man’s deepest thoughts (cf Luke 12:3), the notion nevertheless sends shudders down my spine. For anyone running a tight ship, and His Kingdom is one such, we would expect an unearthly high standard of discipline (1Cor 9:24-27). We are undeniably work-in-progress, and our path to peace and joy will entail our daily repentance and obedience, a denying of self in order to follow Him (Matt 16:24-27) – all by the grace and enabling of His Holy Spirit. Only a narcissist would think otherwise. It means putting loyalty to Jesus before self-preservation, and therefore, self-interests. Jesus Himself uncannily echoed Simeon years later, ‘do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword’ (Matt 10:34).