Knowing Genuine Jesus from the Counterfeits
“Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Listen carefully: this Child is appointed and destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign that is to be opposed— and a sword [of deep sorrow] will pierce through your own soul—so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”” (Luke 2: 34-35, AMP)
Just over a month after Jesus’ birth, Mary and Joseph took their newborn to Jerusalem to dedicate Him back to the Lord, as was customary for firstborn sons in that time. They were prepared to sacrifice two turtle doves in the temple and present Him as His parents back to God.
What they didn’t expect to encounter was Simeon.
The Bible describes Simeon as a devout and righteous man that knew the Holy Spirit personally.
Because he was familiar and communicated with the Holy Spirit, he knew that he would not die until he saw the Messiah, so on the day that Jesus was presented at the temple, the Holy Spirit prodded Simeon to be there.
This is probably one of my favorite parts of the Christmas story, although it takes place over a month after that well-known night in Bethlehem’s stable. For me, the scene plays out so vividly in my mind: Mary and Joseph struggling through the initial days of being new parents, striving to check all the boxes of raising Jesus respectively as one of their own. Simeon was patiently waiting for the Messiah that would not only save the world from sin but who would also serve as an indication that the Lord was going to release him from his earthly body and take him home to Heaven.
So when I really try to picture it, I am awestruck by the emotion that had to have been dripping out of this moment. Mary and Joseph must have been taken aback by this older man who lovingly takes baby Jesus into his arms and blesses the child, praising and thanking the Lord for this long-awaited moment.
Simeon must have wept, as he looked down at this small baby that was meant to save both Jew and Gentile, foreshadowed and positioned from the very beginnings of time. Part of me thinks that Simeon was one of the few that actually understood the full extent of what Jesus came to earth to do, and at that moment, I can just imagine his wonder for this child’s existence on his whole countenance.
But the part that really gets me is when Simeon turns to Mary and addresses her. “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be spoken against so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (NIV)
Essentially, Simeon tells Mary that her son, at just over one-month-old, would be the spark and the downfall for many people in Israel. He is truth embodied, and because of that, he would be misunderstood. Any man using religion for selfish gain would be found out and lose their station. Many seemingly qualified people would be rejected in the light of who Jesus would become, and because of that, Jesus would be rejected. He even prophesied that the pain of that rejection would be fully felt by Mary, as she would be present for it all.
And we know that did happen. Jesus shook up the world wherever He went. When those that had been cheating faith in favor of religion came in contact with Jesus, they were exposed for their hypocrisy. They lost the credibility that they spent their lives trying to manipulate. He completely turned the church-at-large on its head. At the same time, He healed the sick, taught about the Father and the Holy Spirit, and renewed people’s lives. He discipled people that would carry on ministering to the people long after He was gone. He fostered fishermen, prostitutes, and tax collectors alike into salvation and sparked their spiritual callings. Most importantly, He loved people and built them up.
Here’s the thing: even though Jesus doesn’t physically walk among us today, His truth still finds people out. It still elevates those people who are only trying to purely preach the Gospel and it leaves those that don’t to their own devices.
But just like we discussed a few weeks ago about the wise men and spiritual discernment, it is our job as followers of Jesus to know the difference between people who are genuinely sold out for Christ and those who are simply looking to be impressive or overly-spiritual.
I’m not telling you that you have to have this great spiritual gift of discernment. Yes, some Christians naturally have that, but most of us will have to forge that within ourselves. How? By studying the Lord and His character; by knowing who He is for ourselves, not just the third-party version of Him that someone else has experienced.
Let’s get real: we need to get serious about knowing Jesus, and there is no better way than reading His word. There is no better method than honest devotion. There is no podcast, there is no Youtube sermon series, and– if I’m being totally honest– there is no Soul Deep Devotion that can replace the full and actual Bible. There is nothing that can replace studying His character from the book that He left us and endorsed as His living and breathing words.
Simeon didn’t settle. He patiently waited to meet the Savior baby. He spent so much time with the Holy Spirit that the Bible indicates him as a man that had the Spirit all over him, so much so that He knew He wouldn’t die until he saw Jesus for himself. That is devotion. That is long-suffering passion for Jesus– that He would know Jesus’ purpose before He was even old enough to form the words to tell the world Himself; that He would recognize Jesus out of everyone walking through the temple that day.
Please, please, please, friend. If for nothing else, take this away from my words: don’t settle for a counterfeit Jesus. The enemy isn’t stupid. He knows how to fool a Christian just as easily as he knows how to fool a sinner. Don’t seek an emotion that looks, tastes, sounds, or feels like Jesus. Don’t follow another person who says they know Jesus just because they’re impressive or well-spoken.
Instead, devote the time and energy and seek the real deal. He will never hide Himself from you. He will never bait-and-switch you. But if you don’t seek Him in the entirety of who He is, you will always be fooled by someone who wants to manipulate the truth for their own gain. Jesus is Truth, and the Bible is the standard by which we can develop the discernment to know that Truth.
Know Jesus for real, because there could never be any substitution as good, as passionate, or as awesome, and once you know Him like that, the counterfeits are easy to spot.