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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Reed

The Shadow of the Cross

After Jesus was born, Luke tells us his parents took him to the temple, as was custom, to dedicate him and offer sacrifices to the Lord. While they were there, two very special people enter the scene to further confirm the special, unique calling of this newborn.

The first person we see in this narrative is Simeon (Luke 2: 25-35). Simeon had been told by the Lord that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. What a beautiful promise! As Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus enter the temple, the Spirit directs Simeon to them where he then proclaims, "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel" (Luke 2:29-32). We then read that Mary and Joseph "marveled" at what Simeon just told them. Simeon continues with a blessing to them, and then proceeds to tell Mary this: "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed and a sword shall pierce through your own soul also, so that the hearts of many shall be revealed" (Luke 2: 34-35).

What a strange thing to say to a new mother! I can imagine Mary being a bit taken aback by such a statement. Certainly, as most mothers will attest, any time someone says something negative about the future of her baby, indignation and fear rise in her heart. And, for Mary, those fears became a dark reality.

Simeon's words predicted the Cross.

His first statement regarding falling and rising lead us to note that people would fall, then after falling, they would rise (regarding falling in humble recognition of sin, then rising with the hope of salvation).

He then declares that this baby would be "spoken against". And, truly, he was. He was despised, rejected, ridiculed, mocked.

Simeon's words end with the truth that this baby would cause the hearts of many to be revealed. "There will be something about this boy that tears away the curtains of deception and self-deception from human hearts. He will do a work that reveals and changes the human heart" (Ash, Christopher. "Repeat the Sounding Joy": p.132).

And, then, what he says to Mary specifically: "a sword will pierce through your own soul also" (Luke 2:35). Why would he say this?

The plan for this baby was unprecedented. This baby would, indeed, change the world. His life would be unparalleled. His death would be devastating. And, as his mother would watch him bleeding and dying, her heart would be pierced in anguish.

Yet, this piercing, this anguish, this costly darkness was necessary. For Jesus could "only be light by entering darkness; he [could] only save sinners by bearing wrath; he [could] only be glorious with the glory of God's self-giving love" (Ash, 133).

And, this falling and rising; this rejection; this revealing of hearts- makes perfect sense now to those who have felt their hearts pierced by the mingled love and pain of the Cross. And, that pain is what compels, motivates, and becomes our striving. For, in our daily struggles to die to the flesh, we recognize the Cross is but a shadow of the things to come! The cross we daily bear for Christ is painful. Yet, its anticipated, future glories are what compel us and cause us to shine as lights in this dark world.

Because, once Christmas is over, and the glitter and beauty of the season has passed, the daily grind remains. The shadows are still there. The painful relationships. The striving with sin. The costly obedience. Yet all these and more are a precursor to the glory that awaits us. How well are you filling up with the sufferings of Christ that his glory may be seen through you? Do you daily recognize the pain of the Cross? The piercing of your heart that it may be filled for his glory? The shadow of the Cross covered the Baby from his first moments on earth. Yet its darkness could not mar his glory. May we live, pierced and broken; fallen, yet rising; our hearts revealing the light of his glorious gospel, anticipating the glories to come!

"Tiny baby; weary mother; can there be no fuller feeling?

Sleeping still upon her breast in innocence demanding.

Yet on this Babe, loved and treasured, a shadow has been cast-

A shadow deep, which time cannot erase-

The mother's heart, pierced and broken-

The shadow of the Cross.

Growing lad; marveling mother; can there be no stranger contemplation?

Once helpless Babe, now he ponders, teaches, and amazes.

Yet as this Boy lectures with the learned, a shadow has been cast-

A shadow deep, which time cannot erase-

The mother's heart, pierced and broken-

The shadow of the Cross.

Travelling teacher; patient mother; can there be no stranger role?

For this Son, once unobtrusive, performs miracles, wonders, signs.

Yet on this Man, compassion bearing, a shadow has been cast-

A shadow deep which time cannot erase-

The mother's heart, pierced and broken-

The shadow of the Cross.

Dying Son; grieving mother; can there be no greater sorrow?

The shadow cast has now come to pass as the Son hangs in bleeding shame.

As in darkness now he suffers, bearing sin upon the Cross-

The shadow's time has fully come.

Both mother and Son, hearts pierced and broken-

The sorrow of the Cross.

O, the Cross! The blood-stained Cross! Yet its darkness was not the end!

Dying Savior! O, live forever! In your glory, you will reign!

Risen Savior; wond'ring mother; can there be no greater joy?

For death and hell could not keep him; he has risen now to reign!

As in death, the shadow deepened, now glory takes its place.

The shadow's time has now ended-

For all hearts, pierced and broken-

Now by the Cross, are healed.

Fallen sinner; pleading Savior; can there be no greater myst'ry?

Wand'ring, stubborn, filled with pride, grov'ling in the darkness.

Yet as my trembling heart cowers in shadows-

His love compels me thus-

The cross of shadows has become my glory-

Pierced and broken now, he bids me rise!

Redeemed, forgiven; blessed Savior; can there be no better calling?

Called, compelled, crushed, yet rising- living in the light of grace!

For the cross, so dark, so heavy, weighs upon my back-

Yet my heart, once pierced and broken,

For his glory striving still, I embrace with joy,

The shadows of the Cross!

O, the Cross! The mighty Cross! Yet its darkness is not the end!

Risen Savior, mine forever! In your glory I will stand!"

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