Yesterday, December 25, 2022 was Christmas. Today we realize that Christmas Day has come and gone. Some decorations, lights and trees might still be around for a few days … but Christmas has come and gone … has it? You see, if we live for Christmas with all the presents and festivities, then it has come and gone and we need to wait another year for it to come again … and then go again! But if we understand the Rescue Plan of God … a People, a Place and a Rule … through God becoming Incarnate to be Messiah to save all upon whom His favor shall rest, then we shall see Christmas as remaining because it is vitally part of the Gospel message. Today I want to speed forward to Mary and Joseph taking “Jesus” to the temple in Jerusalem to be consecrated as their “first son”, their purification and to offer a sacrifice. There in Jerusalem was an elderly man, righteous and devout, by the name of Simeon. Please read the following passage. It is lengthy and might take a few notes to work through:
Lk 2:21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. Lk 2:22 When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
1) We live 2000 years after this. The account Luke provides is set just before the First Century … likely around 5 to 3 BC. To understand what happens here, we need to go backwards in time to the days of Jesus’ infancy. In those days, although most Jewish people lived a religious life of rituals, some were true believers. Religious life was however based upon the Law of Moses (The Torah – The First Five book of the Old Testament). It is important to understand this because it we don’t we shall fall into the trap of confused theology.
2) Temple Worship. When Luke refers to Jesus being taken to Jerusalem in verse 22, it means “to the temple”. In verse 27 we find the Holy Spirit moving Simeon to enter the temple courts where he took the “Baby” into his arms. So … according to the Law of Moses, rituals were conducted in the house of God.
3) Circumcision of all boy babies. This is based upon the covenant God gave to Abraham.
Ge 17:3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” 9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
Immediately you observe the three things we have considered over the past week … a Covenant which meant … a people, a place and a rule. The sign or seal of this Covenant would be the circumcision of all male babies on their 8th day of life. We might ask … why did Jesus have to be circumcised? After all, He himself was God … why would He need to be circumcised? He was born as human, under the Law, to Hebrew parents and this was the requirement. He needed to identify fully with the people. Failure would prevent His “real” ministry from taking place. You might recall that when He went to John the Baptist to be baptized, John was reluctant … we read:
Mt 3:13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
This might seem insignificant to us, but it was very important because be it the Covenant of Circumcision or John’s Baptism, Jesus was fulfilling all righteousness (Fulfilling the Law). Even though the circumcision was without His permission (He was a baby), it was religious culture and required ritual. He was identifying with God’s people the Jews. Although He came to save people from all people’s groups, His first target was His own people. Today there is nothing in the Bible requiring male circumcision, though it might assist with cleanliness and hygiene.
Our Father, help us to remember the two sacraments you have given Your Church … Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Where none save, both point to and remind us of our union with You through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.