Imagine two scenarios:
Imagine a faithful, loyal, trustworthy servant of a king—a servant whom the king knows he can depend upon. Imagine that this servant has been assigned to stand at the gate of the city to wait for the arrival of the king’s beloved son. The servant stands at the gate to the city through the long, hot days of summer. And the servant stands at the gate to the city throughout the bitterly cold nights of winter. Knowing that the king’s son will arrive one day, but not knowing when that day will arrive, the servant stays there waiting, and waiting, and waiting, anxious to welcome the king’s son as soon as he appears. Years come, and years go, and the servant remains at his post. Finally the son arrives. The servant throws his arms around the king’s son and welcomes him to the castle. He shouts out the good news of the arrival. Then the faithful servant asks permission to go home, at last, to rest.
That’s the picture Luke gives of an old man named Simeon. He had been waiting and waiting and waiting for the Messiah—the King’s Son—to arrive. He had been standing at his post, waiting faithfully throughout the years. Now, at last, when Mary and Joseph bring their baby to the temple to be dedicated, Simeon takes the baby into his arms, welcoming the King’s Son. Then Simeon asks permission to go home. Simeon greets the arrival of Jesus with a song of great joy! (Luke 2:25-32)
Now, imagine a young man—we’ll call him Jack—who is in love with a wonderful young woman—we’ll call her Janet. Though they live for away from each other, they write the most heart-touching letters back and forth, and both have promised their undying love to one another. Closer to Jack’s home, though, is another young woman—we’ll call her Kathy. Jack enjoys the company of Kathy. He enjoys the beauty of her face, her beautiful eyes, her lovely smile, her attractive figure. It thrills him when she touches his hand or puts her arms around him, or when they press their lips together. Jack and Kathy have been getting serious and have begun to talk about moving in together. As it so happens, though, Janet suddenly, and surprisingly, shows up at Jack’s door one afternoon—just as Jack is heading out on a date with Kathy. Suddenly Jack faces a dilemma. So long as Kathy was here and Janet was far away, Jack could get by. He could enjoy his heart-touching love letters with Janet and his kisses with Kathy. But as soon as Janet arrives at his home, Jack must make a choice. He has to choose between the two of them.
In a rough way, that’s what Simeon addresses when he says of Jesus, “This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed” (Luke 2:33-35). So long as God stays in heaven, we can send lovely prayers upward, promising our undying devotion to God, while enjoying on earth whatever sins we want to engage in, but when God suddenly appears on earth—or in our lives—we have to make a choice. Will we live faithfully or unfaithfully? Jesus’ arrival causes the thoughts of many hearts to be revealed. In this way, Jesus causes the falling and the rising of many people.
Will we live as faithfully as Simeon? Or as unfaithfully as “Jack”?