An encounter in the Temple
Like churches worldwide, my church celebrated Christmas this past December. As a congregation, we read the Book of Luke, Chapter 2, which recounted Jesus' birth in Bethlehem.
At the time Jesus was born, there had been a holy man living in Jerusalem named Simeon. Not long after Jesus' birth, Mary and Joseph brought him to the Temple to be dedicated to God, as was the custom with first born boys. That day, Simeon was at the Temple as well. Simeon was a devout man, and like many Jews, he was waiting for the Messiah â the one whom God had promised would come and rescue Israel. When Simeon saw Jesus he took the baby in his arms, gave thanks to God and said:
"This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him.As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed."
You can find the story about this encounter in verses 25 to 35 of Luke 2.
What I thought was significant about Simeon's prophesy was that Jesus would inevitably be a polarising figure.
During Jesus' lifetime, he was followed by many people, such as his disciples who in some cases left behind lucrative professions or businesses to devote themselves to him. But Jesus was also rejected and opposed by the religious elite like the Pharisees.
He didn't fit into the conventional expectations the Jews had about what their Saviour would be like: he wasn't a powerful and well-connected political figure; a benevolent wealthy official; or a military radical who would overthrow the oppressors of the ruling empire.
Jews in Nazareth had a hard time imagining that the son of a carpenter from a humble family they knew, a man who had been born under a cloud of scandal having been conceived in dubious circumstances, was the son of God he claimed to be (see Matthew 13 verses 55 to 56).
For many, with utterances like those, he was committing blasphemy. Though some people accepted him, like the Samaritan woman he spoke with at the well (John 4), others tried to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4 verse 29). He was eventually betrayed and crucified- a type of death that was considered a public disgrace.
People generally didn't have lukewarm or ambivalent reactions to Jesus. You either loved him or hated him.
Jesus a sword?
Jesus himself said he would bring a "sword" â a figurative instrument of separation.
"I have come to set a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
Your enemies will be right in your own household."
(see Matthew 10 verses 35 to 36)
This meant that even within the same family people would have very strong and conflicting attitudes towards Jesus. As a consequence, domestic harmony would be disturbed.
Even today, how we view Jesus still divides people. Religions around the world have contrasting opinions on Jesus. For many non-religious people, Jesus was just a man who lived a long time ago, did good things and preached love. For some, he was a benign but misguided man, or worse, a conman.
For others, he was the Saviour of the world, reuniting humankind with God, restoring a relationship severed by sin by bringing peace.
As Simeon said that day in the Temple, and as his own reaction illustrated, how you see Jesus really reveals the deepest thoughts of your heart.
So don't shy away from confronting who Jesus was and making a decision for yourself. Christians believe that the position you take on Jesus will determine your eternal future: a future that will either be unending fellowship with God or separation forever.
If you haven't considered where you stand on Jesus, think about it today, investigate who he was and ask questions of Christians you know. Your future depends on it.
Sharma considers herself a child of the Caribbean, having visited, studied, worked and lived in several Caribbean islands. But when she arrived in New Zealand, she discovered that she is also a kiwi at heart. She holds a PhD in Law from the Victoria University of Wellington.
Sharma Taylor's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sharma-taylor.html