[The following devotional is a part of our 2014 Advent Devotional Guide. We will be posting a devotional each day on this blog between November 30 – December 31, 2014.]
The Rest of the Story by Mark Robinson
Read: Luke 2:22-35
4 score, and several days ago, Daniel Day Lewis became Abraham Lincoln for Steven Spielberg’s epic movie about the sixteenth President. Obviously I have never heard the real President Lincoln speak before, but watching DDL relate to Civil War life felt amazingly real and true to life.
Watching any movie about President Lincoln is an interesting experience for someone who knows how his life ended. You watch his successes, and you are sad his life is cut short, preventing even more triumphs. You watch his enemies, and you wonder if they will ultimately contribute to his demise.
Reading the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus has similar effect. Knowing Jesus is crucified near the end of the story, we take the opposition He faces early in His life VERY seriously.
As I read Luke 2:22-35, however, I am also reminded that my experience of knowing that the cross cast a shadow over Jesus’ entire life was not unique to my 21st century perspective. The reality is that Joseph and Mary were familiar with Jesus’ fate from very early in His life.
According to Jewish Law, the mother of a male child was considered unclean for about 40 days after the birth of the baby. At the end of this time, the family would present an offering to God for cleansing. A wealthy family would present a lamb and a poorer family would present two turtle doves (no mention of a partridge in a pear tree). Mary and Joseph’s offering of birds indicates their meager financial means.
When they showed up at the Temple, a man named Simeon is there and is prompted by the Spirit of God that Jesus is the Messiah. Simeon picks up the infant Jesus and confirms His identity as the Christ. This would have merely been a CONFIRMATION to Mary and Joseph about their child. However, as Simeon continued to talk, the Holy Spirit speaks forth an important CLARIFICATION about the content of Jesus’ life that would have shaken His earthly parents.
It is totally possible that Mary and Joseph assumed (as many in Israel did at that time) that the victory Messiah would win would be largely political. However, just 40 days into His earthly life, Simeon informs His parents that Jesus life would experience significant conflict, and that Mary, especially, would experience sorrow in her soul regarding how Jesus would be treated.
Simeon’s prophecy would have given Mary and Joseph full knowledge of the difficult future Jesus would have. Knowing this, I wonder how they felt watching their child grow up. They had to wait with great anticipation wondering how Jesus could experience both such a triumph AND such sorrow.
History would reveal that the Messiah’s mission would be layered. His first coming would win an epic SPIRITUAL victory, with His death on the cross (that no doubt was soul piercing for Mary to witness) securing forgiveness and eternal life for God’s people. Jesus also promised a second coming when the full extent of His epic PHYSICAL/POLITICAL triumph would be revealed.
As we celebrate Christmas, we are blessed by the events that brought sorrow to Mary, but spiritual life to all who embrace Christ by faith. We cannot reflect on the life of Jesus without pondering His death on the cross and its significance to our lives — making payment for the penalty of all our sins.
At Christmas, we also can celebrate the promised future when Christ will return and complete His Messianic destiny . . . ruling the earth from David’s throne in a Kingdom that knows no end, free from sin’s destructive forces.
When Simeon saw Jesus in the Temple, He saw both the joy and the pain that Messiah would face. When we look at the manger, do we see the same thing?
- Have you ever thought about what it would have been like to be the parents to Jesus Christ?
- What about the first coming of Jesus (on Christmas) encourages you? What are you looking forward to about the future return of Jesus to the earth?
- Ask God to help you feel the joy of adoring Jesus (not only for Advent) but for the rest of your life.