The Circumcision and the Name of Jesus
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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. His 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 not have the honor of naming Him. For while Adam named all of earth’s creatures, this Child is no creature. He is the Creator. He is the Alpha and the Omega, without beginning or end. He names Himself. He names Himself, “Jesus,” for He saves His people.
He had no personal need to keep the Covenant with the God of Abraham. He is the God of Abraham. He does not need to be marked as God’s own. But He submits to His own Law. He 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. Thus circumcision came to an end.
He was circumcised so that we Christians don’t have to be. He took up our flesh for this purpose: to be our circumcision, to be, in fact, the flesh that was cut off, the sin that is separated from us forever. Look here, O Christian: The God of Abraham has kept the Covenant for you in Himself. He transferred this to you in the waters of Holy Baptism, where, by Grace, you received 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 even heaven. His circumcision counts for those who bear His holy Name, whom He calls beloved, darling, children and whom we call “Christian.” Christ, Himself, is the watery cross marking your foreheads to ward off the angel of death. You are clean, holy, just, and pure in Him, as though you never rebelled, never transgressed, never sinned.
How can this be? By the satisfaction and appeasement of God’s wrath in Christ’s perfect death. He was circumcised according to, and in fulfillment of, the Law. And yet, despite His perfect obedience, His never once breaking the Law, He suffered the consequences for all those who had or would. He was cut off from His people, forsaken. He who subjected Himself to circumcision to fulfill the Law bled again when He died that shameful death for sins He did not commit. And the Blood He shed, by circumcision, by the mocking soldiers’ lashes, and on the cross, 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. While we will bear His mark, the sign of His love, His Name into eternity.
He is our God. We are His people. And this, by Divine proclamation, by His Grace, forever. He 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 therefore, neither are we. We are the seed of Abraham and heirs according to the Promise. He is our God. We are His people.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Ft. Wayne, Indiana