Simeon’s song, the Nunc Dimittis, states that the saving work of Jesus benefits not only the Jews but the entire world (Luke 2:25–32). As we see in today’s passage, Mary and Joseph marveled at this news (v. 33), presumably because they were still coming to grips with the full import of the child entrusted to their care. The earthly parents of our Lord are models of faith, but we should not think that they had a full understanding of His person and work from the very beginning. Like us, they had to grow in their comprehension of Jesus.
Luke 2:34–35 tells us that in addition to singing a prophetic song, Simeon also blessed the family and then expanded on his prophecy with further words about the work of Jesus. His remarks make it clear that Jesus would not be met with universal acclaim. Yes, many would benefit from Christ, for He would cause many in Israel to rise (v. 34). Those who humble themselves and receive Him as God’s agent of salvation would finally be exalted (Luke 1:51–52, 68–75; see Isa. 66:1–2; John 1:12–13). Yet Jesus would also be the cause of the falling of other Israelites, for many would oppose Him (Luke 2:34). This is the first indication in Luke’s gospel that not everyone responds to Jesus in faith. The Messiah brings salvation to the world, but many in the world despise Him and do not benefit from His redemption, as Isaiah 53:3 predicts. We are not to be taken off guard when people reject Jesus, and this foreseen rejection warns us against trying to water down His message so that people will find it easier to accept. Many Christians, often with good intentions because they long to see people saved, downplay the fact that following Christ is often incompatible with the values of the world, presenting a Savior who does not really demand much from His people. This leads to worldliness in the church. But if we remember that Jesus was rejected, we will be less tempted to change our definition of Him to avoid rejection and will be more encouraged to tell the full truth about His way. John Calvin comments, “Instances of [the rejection of Jesus], therefore, ought not to take us by surprise; but, on the contrary, our faith, provided with this armor, ought to be prepared to fight with the contradiction of the world.”
Mary’s soul, Simeon said, would be pierced as she witnessed the response to Jesus. That is, she would be perplexed by His mission and mourn as He suffers. Yet the response of people to Jesus reveals the true state of their hearts to themselves and others (Luke 2:35). Those who love the biblical Christ are in a right relationship with God.