Luke 2:34 Then Simeon blessed them and told His mother Mary: “Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed — (v35b) that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.”
Jesus came in humility to serve and die. And although humble, He was the Truth and the sign that God had arrived. Because many had expected Him to come in the form of a king, not a carpenter, in majesty rather than a poor man, with a scepter rather than with the towel of a servant, they opposed him. They opposed the sign. How could He be the sign? Someone they had expected to come and humble them was too humble himself to deflate their self-righteousness. Yet, in their refusal to accept the Truth, they fell.
The one man, Jesus, had two opposite effects. Some rose. Some fell.
Why? Because Truth is an independent variable in our experiment with life.
Life is like research in many ways. Our life’s experiences are locked into a chain of cause-effect events that teach us how nature operates and responds. In research, we talk of independent and dependent variables. The independent variables are those that are unchanging and when applied in an experiment have an effect on what’s observed and measured by the researcher; the dependent variables.
The great overarching independent variable in life is truth. Consider that truth is never newly introduced into our mix, but rather it is revealed through events in life. Truth has always been and it is never changed. For the person to whom it’s been revealed, however, it is as if a new independent variable just got tossed into the test-tube of life. Whether we develop or regress (rise or fall) depends on whether we accommodate truth or not.
Accommodating truth is the process by which we develop. (I believe the theory was first put forth by Piaget.) Consider that “object permanence” is true. That objects may leave your view but still exist is something that we learn around the age of 3 or so. We all at that age accommodated the truth of object permanence and it had an effect on us. We no longer cried when our mom left the room and peek-a-boo became a lot less interesting. Why? We knew that people and things don’t just disappear. A new aspect of truth was revealed to us and it had an effect, like an independent variable does on a dependent one.
Whether we accommodate truth or not, it will always change us when it’s revealed to us. When we accommodate it, we will develop and rise, but when we reject it, we devolve and fall.
Those who reject truth foolishly see themselves as the independent variable and truth as the dependent one. This is called relativism.
But the truth is truth is never changed. Rather, it is always the agent of it. We either accept it and rise or we deny it and fall. Either way, we are always changed in the face of truth.
So it was prophesied of Jesus, the Truth being manifest in a new way – in Immanuel – and many would accommodate Truth in this humble form and rise or they would oppose it and fall.
Why would anyone ever oppose truth?
It could be based in our desire to know. The thirst for knowledge can lead us into self-righteousness like a blind man searching for water with a forked stick might be led over the edge of a cliff to a river below.
Consider that self-righteousness follows a desire for power. The first sin was not born out of self-righteousness but rather a desire to know like God; a knowledge that equates to a desire for power.
In the beginning, man had a knowledge of God. Peter writes in the beginning of his second epistle that through the knowledge of God we have everything for life. A knowledge of God is vital! But that’s different than having a knowledge like God. This was Eve’s temptation, to know like God. Because the more you know, the more you can do, knowledge becomes the base of greater power. Self-righteousness follows. Why? Because power in its purest form is ultimate and sovereign control, no man can achieve it even over his own members, let alone others. So, in the hopeless pursuit of its attainment, there becomes a heightened awareness of one’s innate imperfections; imperfections that can only be ignored by a white-wash of self-righteousness (the self-application of artificial rightness for others to view).
Herein lies the importance of recognizing God’s sovereign power and control. If He has it all, then you and I have none. Does this impinge on free will? Not at all. God allows you to exercise your free will but to think that His power is somehow subservient to your will is simply antithetical to Scripture. God has the power. That is truth.
And humility follows truth. 1 John 1:8 says that if we say we have no sin, the truth is not in us. In other words self-righteousness and truth are mutually exclusive. As humility follows divine truth, so self-righteousness follows human power. They’re like two sets of brothers from opposing families.
So why did Simeon say that in the fall of many, the thoughts of hearts would be revealed?
Self-righteousness is the strange hope of painting over blemishes with a belief it will fix them. Truth and Humility – the embodiment of Immanuel – strip self-righteousness like acetone strips paint. What’s revealed? The real grain of a person. The blemishes in our makeup might be compared to dents and dings in a hand-crafted piece of wooden furniture. We can keep trying to paint over them with self-righteousness or we can accommodate Truth and embrace Humility to strip the paint. It’s only then that God will take His tools to us for the finish He wants.