Circumcision and Name of Jesus
January 1, 2020 A+D
St. Luke 2:21
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
There are two actions that take place on the eighth day after Our Lord’s birth. In accordance with the Law, He is circumcised, and in accordance with the angel’s instructions, He is given the Name Jesus.
It was necessary for the Messiah to be born under the Law, that is, it was necessary that He would be accountable to the Law, required to obey it. As a Man, prior to His completion of the Atonement on the cross, He was not above it nor free from temptation.
We see many examples of His obedience and reverence for the Law in the Gospels. He not only kept the Biblical mandates and the moral law. He also kept the civil and ceremonial Law, and He even kept the customs, traditions, and liturgical practices that had grown up over time but which were not commanded by God. Thus He was not only circumcised, He was also Baptized. He went to Jerusalem for feasts. He sent cured lepers to the priests. He paid the Temple-tax. He attended Sabbath worship in synagogues. Perhaps surprising to our ears, He even bade the multitudes to obey the Scribes and Pharisees as those who sat in Moses’ place. In this we recognize, that Jesus is a perfect man. He loves God and neighbor without fail. He submits perfectly to the Law.
But to be born under the Law, also means that He will allow Himself to suffer the Law’s punishment for those who break it. This is His Divine prerogative. He appoints Himself the scapegoat and sacrifice, the substitute and ransom, the Temple built without hands and the priest in the order of Melchizedek. Circumcision was an Old Testament sacrament that marked sinners as being cut off from sin and being transferred into God’s family. In some sense, it is inappropriate to circumcise a man without sin, even as it is inappropriate to baptize a man without sin, but thus all righteousness is fulfilled. Christ appoints Himself a sinner in our place, for us, under the Law, God and Man in One Messiah that we might not only know good and evil but truly be like God.
So also then does the Messiah pray. According to His Divinity, He not ask His Father for anything, but He prays as one of us, for us, in our stead. He believes in His Father’s goodness. He trusts His Father’s promises. And He waits on His Father’s pleasure. He lived not just as a sinner, bearing our burden though He was innocent, but He lived also as a Christian. He was marked with Blood at circumcision and given a Name. Thus He has fulfilled all righteousness, paved the way for us and opened His Kingdom for all believers.
And there is something to that Name. He gets a human Name: Jesus. It is the Name of the prophet that followed Moses. Our Jesus is tied to history. Joshua, like David, is one of His ancestors. Our God is a Man and therefore approachable to us who are under the Law but in Him freed of the Law.
Moses gave us the Law and brought us out of slavery. Jesus takes us into the promised Land and gives us a home where we reap what we did not sow and live in houses we did not built and belong to a people though we were no people. The Name given to Moses was YHWH, “He is.” It proclaimed the central reality of God’s pervasive character. He is the one who is, the one who lives, by whom and in whom all things have there being, apart from whom there is nothing. He is the real and only God. Pharaoh’s gods are fake and Pharaoh himself is fake, unable to stand against YHWH who is.
But Jesus is more than just the God who is. Jesus is the One who Is who saves. The prohibition against graven images falls away. God has a face and a Name and is knowable, seeable, approachable, lovable, believable.
He places His Name upon us and binds us to Himself, bestowing His rights, privileges, and inheritance, and placing Himself under out power. We have access. We know Him. We call upon Him, and whatever we ask in His Name He gives. This too fulfills all righteousness.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.