Born to Die

What Christ does in everyone’s lives
(whether they know it or not)

by Alan Morrison

“Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).


If we meditate on the Incarnation of God the Son – the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ – what do we see?

We see that before He was conceived in the womb of the Virgin, He was God — enjoying the glory and fellowship of the Father and the Spirit as God (e.g. Mic.5:2; John 8:58; 17:5; Col.1:17; Heb.1:10-12; Heb.13:8; etc.). He existed eternally in heaven as one of the members of the Divine Being of God.

We see also that He made a number of appearances on earth in human form – referred to variously as “the Angel of the Lord”, “the Angel of His presence” or “Commander of the Lord’s Army” – even though He had not yet been born (e.g. Gen.16:7-13; 18:1-33; 22:11-18; Jos.5:13-15; Exod.3:2-6; 23:20-21; Jdg.2:1-6; 6:11-24; 13:20-22; Dan.3:25,28; etc.). These are known as “theophanies” and were events designed to strengthen believers and equip them in special ways to do God’s work on earth.

We see also how He was SENT on a mission from heaven to be the Saviour of the world – the One to whom people can turn in order to find their way back to a relationship with God. And we see that the reason He came to this earth as a human being was, as the Apostle John says: “to destroy the works of the devil” – the fallen angel that we now know as Satan (1 Jn.3:8). These works of the devil which the Lord Jesus came to destroy are the bringing of the Lie into the world, spiritual darkness, sin (the inbuilt inclination to break God’s Law) and death in all its forms. He also came — ultimately — to judge the world and create a new universe.

Today, I want to ask the question: “What does Jesus do in everyone’s lives (whether they know it or not)?” And in order to pursue the answer to that question, I want to focus especially on a couple of verses in our reading, Lk.2:34-35.

“Behold, this Child is destined….”

That Child lay in a manger (derived from the French word manger, to eat). But that Baby in that animal feeding trough had a destiny — a destiny beyond the wildest imaginings of any of the praising angels, the shepherds, or even, at the time, His own mother.

“Behold, this Child is destined….”

Destined for what?

The announcement of the birth of Jesus Christ — although an occasion of “tidings of great joy” (Lk.2:10) — has another darker, deeper side to it. The Coming of Christ into space and time — conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a Virgin, God manifested in the flesh — was a perfect demonstration of divine power. The Greek word for such power is dunamis, from where we get our word ‘dynamite’. The coming of God as the babe, Jesus Christ, was DYNAMITE! Guaranteed to create havoc in the lives of demons and turn the world of men and women upside-down!

The truth is that regardless of whether or not people acknowledge the reality of the Son of God — regardless of whether or not they love Him or have any relationship with Him — whatever their view of Christianity, even if they claim indifference, the destiny of this little Child has a mighty impact on their lives, whether they know it or not.

How? In what ways?

You see, my friends, it is impossible to be impartial about the story of Christ. As we have said many times before, there can be no neutrality in this. Once you have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, your life can never be the same again. Never. Even if you think that you can ignore it… you cannot! Once you have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, your life is irrevocably changed. For in the hearing of the Gospel, Jesus Christ has an impact on people’s lives which they cannot fully comprehend at the time. This is also why the preaching of the Gospel is such a serious activity to be undertaken in a serious context. For “to the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor.2:16).

What, therefore, can we learn about this newborn Baby Christ from our text, Lk.2:34-35? The first thing that we learn is that


As our text says, He is destined to be “a sign which will be spoken against”, v.34.
Do you not find this extremely strange? God comes into the world in human form in order to draw people back to God and stir them up to dedicate their lives to Him and to the qualities of love, compassion and mercy… and yet He is hated beyond measure. Extraordinary! Why should that be? Literally, the Greek words here say that this little child Jesus was destined to be “a signal of contradiction”. His very presence in the world would create controversy. Jesus Himself predicted this when He said:

“I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Luke 12:49-53).

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the great divider. Truth divides the world but should always unite the church (I speak here of the true church, the Body of Christ). That is the essence of the doctrine of Christ. So this Child in the manger was destined to be a signal of contradiction – one who would be spoken against.

The fact that this was prophesied so explicitly must mean that it was not referring merely to gossip or the kind of defamation which you or I come up against on a regular basis in our Christian lives. It was to be far more poignant and poisonous than that. Far more.

Firstly, He was spoken against personally: He was accused of being a glutton, a drunkard (Matt.11:19), insane (Mk.3:21) and demon-possessed (Jn.8:52). He was blasphemed against (Mk.14:64). He — as the sinless Son of God — was spat upon and judged by the religious and political authorities to be a troublemaker and a lawbreaker. He was reviled beyond measure. He was “despised and rejected by men”(Isa.53:3).

Secondly, he was spoken against indirectly: At Antioch, “when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 13:45). Paul had only been speaking about Christ. At Ephesus, Paul “went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. But… some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude” (Acts 19:8-9). When they spoke evil of “the Way”, they were speaking evil of Christ, for it would not be the Way without Him. As Matthew Henry puts it: “The Christians are here said to be those of the way… Perhaps the Christians sometimes called themselves so, from Christ the Way”. If Christians are “the Way”, it is only because Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn.14:6) and no one comes to the Father except through Him.

“This Child is destined for a sign which will be spoken against”. And so it was. “For concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere” (Acts 28:22). Yes, the Lord Jesus was spoken against indirectly everywhere — for all attacks on the true church are attacks on its Founder. And so it is to this very day.

“This Child is destined for a sign which will be spoken against”. What a profound prophecy was spoken by Simeon when he said this to Mary. During the past 2000 years it has hardly decreased one iota. On December 25th a few years ago, a huge front-page headline appeared in one of the UK’s quality national newspapers, which read: “It Never Happened!” Above this headline was a portrait of the manger scene at the birth of Christ. The very existence of all this is in itself a sign.

There are many other ways of speaking against Him. Disregarding His laws is one way. Not to obey Him in the call of the Gospel is another way. For He came saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand, repent and believe the Gospel”. To disbelieve the Gospel is to disobey the command of Christ (2 Thess.1:8; 1 Pet.4:17).

But let us here spare a thought for Mary His mother in all this hatred directed towards her son.

One very rarely hears much about Mary from pulpits in what are known as Protestant Churches. No doubt the reason for this is because of the humanly-devised things which are believed about her in Roman Catholicism. For example, she is said to reign with Christ at the right hand of God in heaven. This is why, in Roman Catholic belief, she is called the “Queen of Heaven”. Then there is what they call the “Immaculate Conception”, a teaching devised in Rome in 1854, which officially declared Mary to be free from original sin, in spite of the fact that she refers to God as her “Saviour” (Lk.1:47). Yes, too much is made of Mary in many quarters of the visible church. Indeed, she is virtually worshipped as a goddess, while the Pope has said that people should pray to her. New Agers revere her as Mother Mary, one of the “Ascended Masters”.

But let us just leave aside all the dross and superstitions about Mary and look at a little something that is revealed about her here in our focus text. Bear in mind that these two verses (Lk.2:34-35) were spoken directly in prophecy to Mary about her Son. Anyone reading these words who is a mother will surely be able to identify with this. What if God revealed to you that your child was going to be such a controversial character who would be spoken against viciously and even fatally? And what about this final sentence: “A sword will pierce through your own soul also”. What does this mean?

What was the destiny of Jesus Christ? Why was He born? He was born in order that He should……..DIE!

And the destiny of Mary, His Mother, was to be a grieving mother. This is why the word “also” is used in our focus text. Not only would the Lord Jesus be pierced in His body and soul on the Cross, but His mother too would be pierced by the sword of grief. Most children outlive their parents; but not this One. Just imagine, for a moment, what it must have been like to be the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ. Think about this carefully.

First, you are told that you are going to become pregnant solely through the power of the Holy Spirit, and that this Child will be the long awaited Messiah, the Saviour of the world. Then He is born. You watch Him grow. One day, when he is 12, you lose Him on the way home from Jerusalem. When you go back there, you search for three days and then find Him sitting among the great teachers in the Temple where He is debating with them — at twelve years old! You have all the normal feelings a mother has towards her child; but yet you know that he is something extraordinarily, agonisingly, special. And all along, you have treasured up in your heart the prophecy of Simeon, that he will be badly received by the world and that because of him your own soul will be pierced also. Not until He is about 30 years old does His earthly ministry begin; and during that three years of His ministry you realise that He is being increasingly persecuted and that there are even death threats on His life. One day, when you are trying to see Him, He totally baffles you by saying that those who follow Him are His real family, rather than His earthly mother and brothers (Mt.12:46-50). Then one day, word is brought to you that He has been arrested and taken into custody. You hear the crowds all around you crying out for your own son’s crucifixion. Then you realise that the sentence of death is upon Him. You see Him carrying His own cross to the Place of the Skull outside the city of Jerusalem. You realise that He has been beaten to a pulp by the Roman garrison. You see the nails being hammered into His hands and feet, and you watch helplessly as He is raised up on the Cross. A mass of confusion runs through your whole being, as your intense feelings of motherhood are mingled with the Scriptures which you know only too well. He looks down at you out of His hideously battered face on the Cross and shows you your substitute son, saying: “Woman, behold your son” – and to the disciple, John, standing nearby, He says “Behold your mother” (Jn.19:26-27). How that Scripture must have spoken to her then, which says: “A sword will pierce through your own soul also”. At least she had been well prepared for it. But not all was doom and gloom. For later she would learn that her Son had risen from the dead, and we discover her after that in the Upper room with the disciples who brought news of His Ascension to heaven (Acts 1:11-14). What a life for a mother! What a death for her Son!
His mother’s soul was pierced also because her son was a “sign” which was spoken against.

So, first, we see that there is destined to be a huge amount of hatred directed against Him. He impacts the world, whether the world acknowledges this or not.

The second thing that we learn from our text, Lk.2:34-35, is that


v.35, “…that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

The wonderful fact is that an encounter with Jesus Christ will bring the Truth into the open — most of all the true state of a person’s heart. There can be no neutrality in this. People will be shown for who and what they are when they come into contact with Christ and His gospel.

When the words of Christ come to your ears what is your response? There is no more dynamic searcher of hearts than He: “…all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts” (Rev.2:23). When His light shines on you in the light of the Gospel, all will be revealed about you. For “everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you'” (Eph.5:13-14).

This searching out of human hearts and minds is not only the case with the Incarnate Word of God, but it is also the case with the written Word of Christ, the Bible. “‘Is not My word like a fire?’ says the Lord, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?'” (Jer.23:29). As He puts it elsewhere:

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb.4:12-13).

Once a person begins to tell people about the Truth concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and about the new spiritual kingdom He has come to build, it is guaranteed to cause an enormous stir. Those who are false Christians, who are secretly opposed to the truth about Christ, will all, sooner or later, be exposed in the light of Christ and His Word. And all those who are openly opposed to Christ and who refuse to have anything to do with His offer of eternal life — all these, by their own actions, will exclude themselves from His kingdom. The Living Word shows us for who and what we are. This Child in the manger is destined to reveal the thoughts of many hearts — if not in this life, then at the Day of Judgement, when all things will be revealed, with fire. The true believer is always willing to have his or her heart scrutinised by Christ: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psa.139:23-24). He loves the fact that the destiny of that Child was to reveal the thoughts of hearts and minds.

What is your response when you hear the words of Christ?

What is your response when you hear Pontius Pilate crying out: “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” (Mt.27:22). There was no neutrality then. And neither is there any now. Neither will there be at any time in the future. So where do you stand?

The third thing that we learn from our text, Lk.2:34-35, is that


v.34, “this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel” — and not merely in Israel but across the whole world. That is an amazing thing to say about a six-week old baby. What a destiny! But what does it mean? How does Jesus Christ bring about the “fall and rising” of people?

There is a teaching which runs right through the Bible about Jesus being “a stone”. He is known as both the Cornerstone (or foundation stone) and the Capstone (or topstone) of a building. In the Old Testament it plainly refers to YAHWEH; but in the New Testament these texts are then applied by the writers as being prophecies referring to Jesus. But the Lord Jesus is not just any old stone. He is the stone which the builders (unbelieving Israel) rejected and a stone over which people stumble. The first occurrence of this is in a prophecy in Psalm 118:22-23: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.”

This prophecy is then quoted by the apostle in a gospel sermon about Christ in Acts 4:10-12: “Jesus Christ of Nazareth… is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Again in 1 Pet.2:4-8, where these Old Testament Scriptures about Christ as the Stone are pulled together to great effect, we read about the importance of:

“Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.’ Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’ and ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.'”

But by far the most far-reaching of all these passages about Christ as the stumbling-stone occurs in Matt.21:42-44. What is interesting about this passage is that this is virtually a parallel text to our focus text in Luke 2:34. It reads like this:

“Jesus said to them, have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, And it is marvellous in our eyes’? Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder” (Matt.21:42-44).

Only two things can happen when you have an encounter with the Stone which is Jesus Christ: “Whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder”. You will either be broken or ground to powder. Those are the choices. There is no in-between pathway. This is the same as that “falling and rising” mentioned in Lk.2:34. Allow me to explain.

The Lord Jesus said “Whoever falls on this stone will be broken”. If you fall on the stone you will be broken. What does that mean? Surely, it refers to the humbling to repentance and the brokenness which is radically involved in any true conversion to Christianity. When you have a genuine encounter with Christ, you will be broken. No doubt about that. As David says in his great conversion psalm: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart — these, O God, You will not despise” (Psa.51:17). If you have not had your spirit broken by Christ then you have never been a Christian. That is what it means to fall on the stone (which symbolizes the Lord Jesus Christ) and then be broken to pieces. Such “brokenness” is necessary if one wants to come to Christ.

But the Lord Jesus also says here that the one on whom the Stone (Christ) falls will be crushed. The stark fact is that if you are not broken to pieces when you stumble across this stone — if you go through your whole life having never been broken by it — if you wilfully reject the truth about Christ and regard yourself as self-sufficient, then it will surely fall on you, and just as surely grind you to powder. Literally, that Stone will pulverize you.

Now THAT is the reality of this babe in the manger: “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many…”. Whoever is broken when they fall on this Stone will rise. But failing that, on whomever this stone falls, it crushes him to death.

You see, my friends, there is a sequel to the birth of this little Babe. In fact, there is a whole sequence of events which is not yet finished. That sequence of events is the Birth, Death, Resurrection, Ascension, and Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. These are the five aspects of the life of Christ and the destiny of this planet and its population. But we are in between the fourth and fifth elements. That last element is not yet fulfilled. The whole of human history is now poised, waiting for that final curtain to be raised. Let us take a Scripture to explain this. In Hebrews 9:27-28, we read: “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation”. Here we read that Christ was sacrificed “once to bear the sins of many”. How?

“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa.53:5-6)

The first time that Christ came, it was on account of our sin. He came to be our substitute on the Cross, taking in His own body and soul the punishment for our sins, if we will believe. Then we read that “To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” The Second Coming of Christ is not to save us from our sins. We had that chance after His first coming. When He comes again, it will be to save those who have believed and to bring in the Day of Judgement. For “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” When He comes again, He will not come as “gentle Jesus meek and mild”, but He will come as Judge of all the Earth — as the One who “treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Rev.19:15).

Once you have been told about the Christian Gospel — the glad tidings which are involved in the coming of the Christ — you can never be the same again. NEVER! NEVER!

So now you know the truth. You have heard it. But how will you respond to all this? How has this knowledge of who Jesus Christ really is affected your heart? Truth, in whatever form, always has the same twofold effect, wherever it burns. As John Gill put it in his exposition of 2 Cor.2:15-16: “It is the same fire which melts the wax as hardens the clay.” It will either humble you, or harden you. This is why we say that it is impossible to have a neutral attitude towards Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is the Inescapable One — sooner or later everyone must take up a position in regard to Him and must choose to be for or against Him. There can be no neutrality in our relationship to Jesus Christ. One day, we will all face Him when He comes again to judge the earth. That time may not be long away.

Here in Luke 2:34-35, we see clearly the fact that the “falling” means coming under Divine judgement as a result of not believing the Gospel. While the “rising” means being broken or humbled by Christ. This is what the Lord Jesus meant when He spoke about the fact that those who are first humbled will be exalted or raised up (Mt.23:12; Lk.14:11; 18:14b).


Our purpose in this brief meditation has been to put the Birth of Christ into its true perspective. For the Manger points directly to the Cross. He was born in that Manger to fulfil one purpose, and one purpose only: To take the punishment for our sins on that Cross and to die and be resurrected, then to ascend into heaven, where He will remain “until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21). He was born to die. He died that we may live. Thus, any celebration of the Incarnation of Christ has no meaning unless it is seen as merely the precursor to His death. In other words, the manger points directly to the cross.

So, in answer to the question: “What does Jesus do in everyone’s lives (whether they know it or not)?” what is the answer? The answer is that His entrance into your life determines your eternal situation. This you must believe and understand. He was “destined for the fall and rising of many”. He was a Child of Destiny — THE Child of Destiny. He was born in order that He should die. This was His destiny — and He knew it: “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’?” (Jn.12:27). Of course not! That is something that He could and would never say! As He answered His own question: “But for this purpose I came to this hour.” That was His destiny… and He followed it through — for us.

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (Jn.3:17-18).

Those are the Lord Jesus’ own words. How can we now refuse to believe them?

Reprinted with permission
© Alan Morrison 2004