The Circumcision and the Name of Jesus
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our Lord Jesus Christ has no need to keep the Covenant with the God of Abraham. He is the God of Abraham. But He submits to His own Law, feels the blade forged by human hands against His tender infant skin, and His blood flows for the sins of the world for the first time. He is circumcised according to, and in fulfillment of, the Law. Yet, despite His perfect obedience, He shall soon suffer the consequences as though He had broke the Law. He shall be cut off from His people. He shall be forsaken. He will again bleed when He dies a shameful death. And the Blood He sheds is the Blood that appeases the wrath of the Father, washes us clean, and fills the Chalice with the elixir of life. He will bear those scars, as badges of His Office, into eternity.
Thus, He was given the Name, JESUS. It is the name of Moses’ successor, the one who led his people through the Jordan on dry ground. Moses led them out of slavery. Joshua led them into the promised land. The name means, “The Lord saves.” As the angel Gabriel explained to St. Joseph, “He is to be named Jesus for He will save His people from their sins.” His mother and adopted father do have the honor of naming Him. For while Adam named all of earth’s creatures, this Child is not a creature. He is the Creator. He is the Alpha and the Omega, without beginning or end. He names Himself.
The first personal Name He gives is to Moses from the burning bush. It is the most seemingly ridiculous sounding of names. He says, “I AM WHO I AM. That’s My Name, I AM WHO I AM. Tell them I AM has sent you.” He is the God who is, and not only is there no other god who is, but there is nothing else that is. In Him, and in Him alone, is all that is, and apart from Him there is nothing. No leaf falls to the ground, no babies are conceived, no old men breathe their last breath, or mosquitoes are swatted apart from His providence. He is omniscient, knowing all things, and omnipresent, present throughout His creation. He is God. He is the Creator and Ruler of all things. There is none other. And when this God intervenes in His creation, humbling Himself to take up human flesh, to suffer and die for the redemption of men, He takes the Name, “Jesus,” meaning, “The Lord saves.” He is the God of Moses come to save mankind as the Prophet like Moses who liberates them from the Law of Moses.
His circumcision was the last. It was not for Him. It was for us. We are not circumcised because He was circumcised for us. He was circumcised so that we don’t have to be. He took up our flesh that He might bear our sins and die, and fulfill the Law for us. He transfers this to us in the waters of Holy Baptism where we receive His Name and all that goes with it: the service of angels, dominion over creation, the right to address God as Father, a perfect keeping of the Law, and heaven itself. His circumcision counts for us who bear this holy Name.
He is our circumcision. He is the flesh that was cut off, the sin that is separated from us forever. He is the mark on our foreheads that wards off the angel of death. We are clean, holy, just, and pure in Him, as though we never rebelled, never transgressed, never sinned. The God of Abraham has kept the Covenant for us in Himself. He is our God and we are His people by Divine proclamation, by His Grace, forever. For this One who submitted to the knife and then to the cross, rose from the dead and lives! He is exalted. He is under the Law no more. And He has expanded this Covenant. For the Old Covenant was only for males, only they were marked in this way. But the new Covenant, the entry into the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the bearing of His holy Name, this is for all believers. In Christ, there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, but only Christians, baptized into and belonging to Christ. They are the seed of Abraham and heirs according to the Promise.
This, O Christians, is your heritage. It will last as many millennia as are left, and beyond. He bled for you, so you don’t have to, to make you His people, to grant you His inheritance, to save you. Simply put, He loves you.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Ft. Wayne, Indiana