Circumcision and Name of Jesus 2008

The Holy Name of Jesus
Luke 2:21

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Having the Name of God gives us access to God. Imagine seeing a friend a hundred feet away in a mall full of Christmas shoppers. If you yell, “Hey you,” no one will answer. But if you call out his name he will hear it. It is amazing. Our ears are tuned to our names. That is why those we gossip about or small children, deaf to all else, can hear us even though we whisper in the next room.

The Name of God is given to Moses in the burning bush. He is the One Who Is. No one else, no other thing, is. When Moses goes to Pharaoh and asks to take his people out into the wilderness to worship the One Who Is, he is insulting Pharaoh. Because Pharaoh isn’t. He isn’t a god. He isn’t even real. He isn’t a man or anything at all apart from the Lord. He only lives and moves and has his being in and by the God of Moses. To make matters worse, what Moses wants to take out into the desert are the gods of Egypt in order to sacrifice them to the One Who Is. Not only is Pharaoh a fake but so are his gods.

The One Who Is, the Lord, promises to be the God of Moses and of Israel. He is the One Who Is and He is their God. You can’t separate the burning bush from Mt. Sinai. The Law unpacks the Name of the Lord. On Mt. Sinai, with the ten commandments, the Lord establishes a sort of constitutional monarchy. That means the people have rights. They don’t serve a tyrant. The Lord is their God. He will provide for them. He will save them. And He is attached to them in a way similar to the way kings are attached to their people and countries. He can’t abdicate. He can’t abandon them. His Name is on them and their names are upon Him. Nor is He above the Law. He is just. He will keep His Word. He will not simply enforce His Law against the people when it suits Him. But He Himself embodies and fulfills the Law. His Law and His Name are the same. Compared to the One Who Is, the Lord, King Arthur’s claims to not be above the law are absolutely wimpy, as bad as David.

The Law of the Lord certainly accuses the people. It establishes moral, ceremonial, and civil cleanliness. The Name of the Lord stands against them because they fail to meet the standard. They are unclean. They are not holy. But the Law does do more than accuse. Its primary objective is to provide a way of cleansing for the unclean. The purpose of the accusation is mainly diagnostic. The physician comes only for the sick. So the Lord establishes the Law, by which He promises to abide, and the Law accuses and damns the people. But that is mainly so that they would repent and believe, that they would recognize their frailty and need, that they would seek mercy. Because the Lord establishes means of sacrifice that cleanse the people and restore them to the Lord. The Lord, unlike Moses, does not give the Law in anger but in love.

Now, it is true that if they insist on holding their sins, on being judged by their works, they will be damned. But the Lord desires not the death of the sinner. The Law does not cause sin. The Law did not create Hell. Adam and his descendants, and the devil, get the credit for that. The Lord uses the Law to show what is good. It His Law, His holy will, and He is good. And it is the Law that establishes circumcision and sacrifices, the same Law that accuses the people also provides them means of cleansing that the people would continually regain access to the Lord. By these means the Lord puts His Law into their hearts and His Name upon them. By these, the people love His Law and His Will and rightly bear His Name. He keeps them as His people, despite their sins, because He is their God. Because He is not only merciful, forgiving sins, but also because He has given a Law and He honors and keeps His Word.

Thus when Our Lord took up flesh and became a Man the angel called Him “Jesus.” That is the Greek version of the Hebrew name “Joshua.” Joshua is the prophet who led the people over the Jordan and into the promised land. Moses and the accusing Law stay in the wilderness. There is no anger or vengeance or death in the promised land. “Joshua” is two words in Hebrew, “The Lord,” or “He Who Is,” “Yahweh,” the Name given in the burning bush, and the verb “to save.” The Name “Jesus” means “The Lord, the One Who Is, saves.” That is who Mary’s child is. He is the One Who Is who has entered into His creation as a creature in order to save His people. He has the Name given to Moses plus the verb. That is no small verb. The noun form is “Savior.” Jesus is the Savior. But it is better to leave it as a verb. Jesus is the Lord who saves.

In order to save He is born under the Law. He embodies and fulfills the Law. He makes Himself a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Because the Law established sacrifices. And He does us save us from the Law. He saves us by and for the Law. For His Name and the Law are the good and are the same.

And finally, that Name, “Jesus,” gives us access to Him. We can call Him from across the Mall or across the ocean, from behind the wheel or right in Church and He hears us. He saves us. He is. He is the Lord, the One Who Is, who abode in St. Mary’s womb but did not consume her, who has taken up our flesh to be a sacrifice for sins, to save us. He is born under the Law to fulfill the Law. Because He cannot be our King if we are not Holy, and He has promised to be our King. So He atones for us, declares us righteous, and places His Holy Name upon us even while taking our own names upon Himself. quite like a King and His people.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Pastor David Petersen

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