The Sword, the Ax, and the Winnowing Fork

The Messiah brings salvation and judgement (Luke 2-3)

When Simeon meets Joseph and Mary in the temple courtyard, he blessed them but also warned Mary (Joseph and Mary may have wondered why the warning was directed to her) that, in the midst of Jesus causing the hearts of people to be revealed, a sword would pierce her own soul. Later on as John begins his ministry, he warns the people about the coming wrath and about the ax that will cut down every unfruitful tree. John also warns about the Messiah that will use the winnowing fork to separate the wheat from the chaff and that the chaff will be burnt up with unquenchable fire.

The same Messiah that would come to proclaim peace and good news would also confront the evil in this world. In order to bring peace the evil must be dealt with. For those who desire to turn from sin there is a path of restoration, but for everyone else there will be judgment. The angels may have proclaimed good news – but that would only be for those on whom God’s favor rests. For everyone else the news meant there would be consequences and a confrontation for their rebellion – they will be cut down and sifted by the one who knows their hearts.

I cannot fathom the pain of those who would bear the weight of their own judgement, because of what we know of the cost born by the Messiah who would bear the pain that we deserve. What could Mary’s frame of mind have been when she witnessed the suffering of her son and her soul was pierced by the sword that reveals all our hearts? Is it possible that any of us can grieve enough for suffering Jesus endured for us? Is it possible that any of us could be thankful enough for the salvation he offers in spite of ourselves?

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