“Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also” – Luke 2:35
The incarnation of Jesus Christ, God the Son, was profound. What was another great wonder was the Crucifixion, for although the Jews were waiting for their Messiah, they were not expecting a suffering servant but a conquering King, despite the revelation contained in Scripture. The scene played true to their expectation – the angel Gabriel declaring to Mary that Jesus would be great, called the Son of the Highest, be given by God the throne of His father David, reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there would be no end; angels rejoicing and declaring a Saviour born; wise men seeking the One born King of the Jews; Simeon declaring Jesus to be a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of God’s people Israel. Yet, there was one last aspect attached, which Simeon proclaimed to Mary, “This child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” In the midst of this prophecy, he includes, “Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also”. What a statement to make in the face of all the glories revealed. Heartache, sorrow, trauma, pain, suffering – all encompassed. Simeon did not say “prick” but “pierce”; he did not say “touch” but “through”; he did not say “skin” but “soul”! The Greek word used here for soul, psuchē, represents the heart, life, mind and soul. It represents all of a person. In context, that piercing would have a penetrating impact upon Mary’s heart and life and mind and soul, and it would not be pleasant but wretched!
In the devotional posted on August 15, 2022, titled “A Biblical Perspective on a Christian’s Trials”, James 1:2 was the text, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials”. It was then revealed how contrary to human nature such an attitude is, requiring nothing less than the full import of the Holy Spirit to adopt that mind-set. Its address was towards the one suffering the trial. Now, however, it needs to be disclosed that the testing of our faith is not necessarily related to our own direct trial. Yes, our faith can also be tested through the suffering of another.
Here is Mary, the mother of our beloved Lord, and the words of this week’s text are addressed directly to her. Until that point, only words of rejoicing, victory and salvation had been proclaimed about this little babe, Jesus. Mary’s heart could only have contained delight, for her and Joseph marvelled at those things which were spoken of Him. Then comes the last statement, the final verdict of the child’s impact upon her – “a sword will pierce through your own soul also”! What sharp and chilling words spoken about a small, tender darling being nursed by a loving mother. Surely, could this be true? Could two complete opposites prevail? How could such a happening arise as a result of the One who would reign on David’s throne forever, given to Him by God Himself? Furthermore, Scripture says that after these events, the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him (Luke 2:40). What more could a devout, God-fearing mother desire of her son? What joy Jesus must have brought to her heart. The grace of God was upon Him, what could befall Him? Yet, her heart would still be pierced through, by a trial unimaginable.
Because of the life of Christ and the recording of those events, one easily forgets that Mary was nevertheless His earthly mother. Jesus was her son, her firstborn. She had nursed Him, fed Him, cared for Him, taught Him, watched over Him, comforted Him, encouraged Him, protected Him and loved Him. Without crossing the line into that deadly doctrine of veneration, it cannot be overlooked that Mary’s attachment to our Lord held the position of a true and loving mother.
At Calvary, God did not remove humanity, He removed sin and the consequences thereof. It was stark reality for Mary, and she was not spared the agony of a mother nor removed from the trauma attached to the observation of His trial. At the Cross she stood, His pierced hands and feet, beaten and broken body and bleeding brow before her. The very flesh her womb had brought forth into life was now hanging mercilessly on a cross before her at the gates of death. Did her eyes not shed tears? Did her lips not quiver? Did her heart not grieve and body not pain because of anguish experienced as a result of another’s trial? And when that Roman soldier’s spear pierced her son’s side, would it not have had the emotional effect of piercing her heart too? Simeon’s words foretold would then have been fully realised. Mary, like the disciples, did not understand that Jesus had to bear our punishment upon His shoulders that through Him we may be reconciled to God and set free. Nevertheless, as God did not remove the punishment due to us but made another bear it, so too was human influence not removed, and Mary bore it.
O soul, pierced through because of another’s trial, let your faith not falter! God may be testing you too – your love and surrender to Him. Do you still trust Him? Do you still believe Him, love Him, obey Him and understand that He is complete righteousness and justice? Know that the testing of your faith, even through the trial of another, produces patience. And patience needs to have its perfect work. Let your eyes shed their tears, let your heart pain from being pierced through, but run not from the Lord thy God! Run to Him, run to the throne of grace! Let Him embrace you with His tender mercies and loving kindness, which He bestows liberally upon those whom He loves. Yes, push through the crowd on that Day of Pentecost, that first Pentecost when Calvary was over and Christ had already ascended to heaven, and seek out Mary. Where is she to be found? She is nowhere! Has she departed and run from her God? Behold, no! There she is! Look, O you pained heart, she’s in the upper room with the rest of the disciples, continuing with one accord in prayer and supplication!