In Luke 2:21-35, Mary and Joseph go to the temple in accordance with the law of Moses. They go for two reasons. According to the Mosaic law, women were ritually unclean for 40 days after childbirth. After that time, they were to go to the temple for a purification ceremony (Lev. 12:1-8). The law also required that the firstborn son be consecrated to the Lord (Ex. 13:2). Luke is careful to record Joseph and Mary’s full obedience to the law of Moses. In order for Jesus to be our atoning sacrifice, He first had to fulfill all righteousness. His life had to fulfill the law through perfect obedience, so He could grant us the righteousness we need to be saved. This fulfillment began with the actions of His parents.
What Mary doesn’t yet realize is that for Christ to fulfill all righteousness, he would have to absorb God’s requirement for substitutionary atonement in His own body. She would watch as her son was crucified for her sins and ours.
Simeon blesses Mary and Joseph for the calling they have been given as Jesus’ parents. But it is a double-edged blessing, which includes great sorrow. He says to Mary, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
Perhaps it was God’s mercy that Mary did not receive the details of what this sword through her soul would mean. But the events that would bring her unthinkable agony as a mother, provided unparalleled hope for the world.
For us, the crucifixion secures forgiveness and eternal life, and therefore brings us great joy. But for Mary it was the day that a sword pierced her soul, as she watched her son be tortured and die a slow painful death.
Putting ourselves in Mary’s shoes should sober us, and ultimately deepen our gratitude for all that is ours because of a baby boy who was born to die.