************ Sermon on Luke 2:34-35 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 28, 2003
"Jesus Brings Division"
During the past twenty years we have seen Saddam Hussein, the Ayatollah Khomeini, Osama Bin Laden, and various other Muslim leaders call for a "jihad," a holy war, against America and western society. Every Muslim who loses their life in a jihad is promised direct and automatic entrance into the glory of Paradise. According to this way of thinking, Allah & Mohammed are the Great Divide: either you believe in them and are granted entrance into Paradise, or you don't believe and you are called an infidel.
Simeon, holding the baby Jesus in his arms, has a message for Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Osama Bin Laden: it is Jesus, not Allah, not Mohammed, Who is the Great Divide. Either you believe in Jesus and are saved, or you don't believe and are called an unbeliever.
Jesus is the Great Divide. In speaking of this, Simeon tells us that the little baby in his arms is: a stone of division, a sign of division, and a sword of division.
I A Stone of Division
A Holding the Christ-Child, the baby Jesus, in his arms, Simeon says, "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel." We have here an instance of the building-stone image that the Old and New Testaments use to explain the reaction of the Jews to Jesus Christ (cf Rom 9:33; 1 Pt 2:4-8).
For some Jews, as Isaiah 8:14 puts it, Jesus is "a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." The allusion here is to someone wandering in the night who suddenly stumbles over a stone and falls painfully to the ground; or, the allusion is to a workman who stumbles and trips over a stone in the work-place. Some Jews cannot accept the Gospel because, for them, Jesus is a stumbling stone and a rock of offense. To the people in His home town of Nazareth, for instance, Jesus became a stumbling stone because He, the son of Joseph, claimed to be the Messiah (Lk 4:13-30). The Pharisees and the teachers of the law stumbled over Jesus because he forgave a paralytic's sins and thereby claimed to be God (Lk 5:21), because He did not observe the fence of rules and regulations they had placed around the law (Lk 5:30; 6:2; 7:7), and because He welcomed sinners and ate with them (Lk 15:2). For some of the Jews, then, Jesus was a stumbling stone and a rock of offense.
For other Jews, as Isaiah 28:16 puts it, Jesus is "a tested stone, a precious corner stone for a sure foundation." The image here is of a stone or rock upon which the whole structure is built. The corner stone is the most important stone. It is the stone which ties two walls together. Without it, the entire structure is weak and easily collapses. For some in Israel, Jesus is a precious corner stone. He is the foundation of their religion, faith, and belief; He is the bedrock upon which their soul rests; He is their only comfort in life and in death. Standing on Jesus, theirs is a sure foundation and a steadfast trust. These Jews welcomed Jesus in faith. I think of Nicodemus, who confessed his faith in Christ (John 3:2). Or, I think of Peter, who said,
(Jn 6:68-69) "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (69) We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
According to Simeon, Jesus will "cause the falling and rising of many in Israel." He is a stone of division. He is the Great Divide. For some in Israel He is a stumbling stone; for others He is a corner stone. Some have faith in Jesus and believe in Him; others reject Him and want nothing to do with Him.
B Notice, Simeon tells us that Jesus is "destined" to be a stone of division. That word "destined" points to the plan and foreknowledge of God. God has "appointed, set, foreordained" Jesus to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel.
Returning to the building stone imagery, we are to see God as the Master Builder Who places Jesus where He is a corner stone for some and a stumbling stone for others. In God's eternal plan, Jesus is meant to be accepted only by some as Savior and Lord. As for others, because of the wickedness and stubbornness of their hearts, they will reject Jesus and stumble over Him. The Christ-Child, as Simeon observes in his song, is the Savior and is more than able to save all people. By God's plan, some will accept Him as Savior. And others, because of their rebellious hearts, they will reject Him.
C Notice, Luke places "fall" before "rise." He wants to emphasize the "falling." There were Jews who did accept Jesus at the beginning; but the majority did not. It is for this reason that Paul's ministry was to the Gentiles (cf Acts 28:25-28). Unlike the majority of the Jews, many of them could and would accept Christ.
Now, what about you? Is Christ for you a stumbling stone and a rock of offense, or is He to you a corner stone, the foundation of your faith and life? He has to be either one or the other for, don't forget, He is a stone of division.
Topic: RepentanceWhat a powerful thought. God has already taken the initiative in salvation. Christ died for you. Now, by grace, it is your move! Either you will accept Christ or you will reject Him; either you will stake your body and soul on Him or you will stumble over Him to your doom. It's your move! What will it be? Will Christ be to you a stumbling stone or a corner stone?
Title: It's your move!
As you travel along I-10 in Louisiana there is a large billboard which catches your eye. It stands high above the city just as you start up the Mississippi River bridge. On it is a picture of Jesus Christ hanging on the cross of Calvary, head bowed. The caption underneath says in bold letters, "It's Your Move!"
II A Sign of Division
A It has been given to Simeon to see that most of his fellow Jews will fall over Jesus. This pessimistic tone is reinforced by the next line. The Christ-Child is a "sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed." The thoughts that will be revealed are hostile, unbelieving, doubting thoughts.
God gives His people signs so that they will believe (cf Jn 20:31). God gives His people signs as proof of the reliability of what He has said. To a disbelieving generation Isaiah says,
(Is 7:14) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.To Mary, the angel says,
(Luke 1:36) Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month.To astonished shepherds, the angel says,
(Lk 2:12) This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
B When some see the sign that God gives, they believe. The shepherds, for instance, saw the sign the angel told them about and they believed. And, in their joy and jubilation, they told everyone they could about the Christ-Child.
Most of Israel, however, will not believe the sign the Lord has given. Simeon speaks of this when he says the Child "is a sign that will be spoken against." Many in Israel will oppose and resist Jesus and speak against Him at every opportunity. Simeon is anticipating the rejection of Jesus by the Jewish authorities and the rejection of the early Christian mission by the Jewish nation. In both instances, people scoff at the notion that Jesus is a sign from God. They contest, oppose, and resist Jesus as a sign.
For these people Jesus becomes a sign of judgment. Says Jesus,
(Luke 11:29-32) "This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. (30) For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation ... (32) The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.Those who reject the sign are judged and condemned for that rejection.
C Again, Christ means division. And I ask, what is Christ to you? Is Jesus a sign you believe? If He is, then you have life in His name. If He isn't, then at the judgment you stand condemned before the men of Nineveh. Is He to you a sign of salvation or of judgment? He has to be either one or the other for, don't forget, He is a sign of division.
III A Sword of Division
A Simeon also tells us that Jesus is a sword of division. Turning to Mary, he says "And a sword will pierce your own soul too."
Simeon is making reference here to the words of the prophet Ezekiel: "Let the sword pass throughout the land" (Ezek 14:17). Ezekiel is thinking of a selective sword of judgment, destroying some and sparing others, a sword of discrimination and division. It was this sword of division at work in Egypt when the Angel of the Lord went through the land striking down some and sparing others.
Jesus makes reference to this sword when He speaks to His disciples of His mission on earth:
(Mat 10:34-36) "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. (35) For I have come to turn "'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law-- (36) a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'
This sword is at work when some members – but not all members – of a family believe in the Lord Jesus. The sword divides the believers from the unbelievers: punishing the one and saving the other.
B Simeon warns Mary that this "sword will pierce your own soul too."
We see this sword doing its work of discrimination in what Mark tells us in his Gospel:
(Mark 3:31-35) Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. (32) A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you." (33) "Who are my mother and my brothers?" he asked. (34) Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! (35) Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."What a strong statement! Jesus announces the replacement of His natural family. This might even be read as a rejection of all blood relatives. And, how this must have hurt Mary. How this must have pierced her soul! Can you imagine your own child rejecting you and claiming others as family?
Jesus, of course, was not really rejecting Mary. Rather, He was telling her that being a blood relative – His mother or brother – is no guarantee that the sword of judgment will not strike. Mary has no special claim on Christ simply because she gave Him birth. Mary has to realize that with Jesus only one kind of relationship ultimately counts: a relationship based upon faith, belief, and obedience. Unless there is that kind of relationship, the sword of division and discrimination will do its work of judgment even in the life of Mary. Mary, then, has to recognize that even she has to get on her knees before Jesus and worship Him as Savior and Lord or else she will be cut off from Him. And, when we look at Luke's Gospel, we see that Mary does do that (Lk 8:19-21; Lk 1:45; Lk 1:38).
C Jesus is a sword of division. This means that you, like Mary, have to put your relationship with Jesus as Savior and Lord before family ties. For if you don't, the sword will strike you down. Perhaps the dreadful consequences of this sword are evident in your own family – some have put Jesus first, and others haven't.
How do you spell "division"? You spell it J-E-S-U-S. There stands Simeon holding Jesus in his arms and he tells us that Jesus is a stone of division, a sign of division, and a sword of division. He divides and separates mankind into two basic categories: believers and unbelievers. Jesus, not Mohammed, not Allah, is the Great Divide.
Jesus is the Great Divide. Each one of us, by grace, has the opportunity to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the Master of the universe. Or, we can be an unbeliever. So which one are you?
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