The Piercing Sword

The prophet Simeon said said to Mary, His mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the rising and falling of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against; and a sword will pierce through your own soul also, so that the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

A sword will pierce through her own soul also. Surely a sword pierced the heart of Mary when Jesus was rejected by the religious leaders. Her Son, the outcast. Surely a sword pierced her heart when He was threatened and spoken evil of. Her Son, the mocked. Surely a sword pierced her soul when Mary watched her Son nailed to a tree and murdered by the will her people at the hands of the Gentiles. What mother’s heart would not be pierced and bleed at these things? Every mother’s heart is broken when her child is left out, made fun of, rejected, told that he is not liked and is laughed at. Every mother’s heart is pierced and bleeds and aches when she watches her child suffer and finally die.

But those are not the swords of which Simeon speaks. He does not say to Mary that a sword shall pierce her heart to say to her that she will suffer the pains and pangs of watching her only Son be rejected, laughed at, beaten and finally killed. The sword that pierces her soul is not one of pain for Jesus, one of an emotional roller coaster of wincing and grieving for her Son, though certainly she winces when He is beaten and grieves when He is murdered. But Mary will hear with the other women of Jerusalem her Son’s words, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me but for yourselves.” Jesus doesn’t need His mother’s pity, and it is not her pity that is her grief. The sword that pierced the soul of Mary is the word of God, that sword of truth sharper than any double-edged sword; the sword that separates sinner from sin as bone from its marrow. It is the sword that proceeds from the mouth of God, it is the Word of God.

The Holy Spirit tells Mary that a sword will pierce her soul also to say that her Spirit-conceived Son is her Savior also.  The sword pierces the hearts of all – and Mary’s too – so that the thoughts from the hearts of all men – and from her heart – will be made known. Mary, too, will betray her Son. This is her grief. What greater piercing is there for a mother than to know she has betrayed and murdered her own child?

Yet that is what the sins of Mary did. They delivered her Son up to be crucified. They drove the nails into His flesh and set the crown of thorns on His head. They drove the whip that split and opened His flesh. They are finally what killed her Son. And not her sins only, but the sins of the whole world; your sins and mine.

Yet for this purpose He was born: to die the death of all men once for all; a death to sin to be the life of righteousness for all men. Such is the cause of the falling and rising of many. Many fall because of Him because they do not believe that He bears the sins of the whole world. Many fall because of Him, unable and unwilling to accept that a man is God. They cannot accept that they are sinners. They cannot accept that they are the cause of His death. They deny their sin and His atonement and they fall. They speak against Him and they are spoken against by Him. For whoever denies Him before men, He will deny before His Father in heaven.

But there are many who are raised because of Him, like Mary. Their heart is pierced by the sword of truth that it is their sins that crucified the Lord of Glory and delivered Him up to the hands of wicked men, and they cry out for mercy. They stand at the foot of the cross with the centurion and proclaim with him that surly this man is the Son of God. And they weep, not for Jesus, but for their sins; sins that condemned an innocent man to death; they mourn the sins that caused a righteous man to die. These that mourn are raised up. They are comforted. Their sins are forgiven.

For the sword that pierces also heals. The sword that kills the sinner also brings the righteous to life. The sword that divides also reconciles. It divides sinner from sin and so reconciles God to sinners. Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King; peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinner reconciled!” Veiled in flesh the God-head see, Hail the incarnate Deity! Pleased as Man with man to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel!


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