+ Name and Circumcision of Jesus – January 1st, 2012 +
Text: Numbers 6:22-27; Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 2:21
In the Name of the Father and of + the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
That’s no typo. You read the bulletin right. Today the church celebrates the naming and circumcision of Jesus. The what? You’ve gotta be kidding, right? Circumcision? Ew, gross. Seems a bit awkward to talk about in church. What does that have to do with anything?
Think of Jesus’ circumcision like His Baptism…Jesus doesn’t need to be baptized; He’s perfect, sinless and steps into a sinner’s Baptism to take on our sin, to fulfill all righteousness.
So too with his circumcision; He’s already a child of the promise (in fact he is the promise!), the Son of God and the bearer of the covenant; blameless before God according to the Law of Moses. And yet for our sakes he is born of a woman, born under the law to redeem us who are under the law.
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. (Luke 2:21)
Only one short verse...probably a world record for a Sunday Gospel reading...but it is one important verse. Here the Lord of all receives circumcision on behalf of all. The mysterious infinite, all powerful YHWH takes on human flesh and takes a human name, Jesus, to place His name upon you. God becomes a child to make you children of God.
Thus, The Name and Circumcision and Jesus has everything to with your salvation.
It’s all in the details. Luke the historian loves the God-in-the-flesh details; look at the Christmas story. Joseph and Mary. Taxes, census and Caesar. Quirinius and Syria. Bethlehem and a crowded inn. Shepherds wondering and praising. Angels singing “Glory to God in the highest.” And all of the attention is where it should be – focused on the newborn baby in the manger.
But if you listen carefully to Luke’s account of Christmas there’s one rather significant detail left out. For seven days, He’s simply Mary’s first-born, a baby boy, lying in a manger. Only Mary and Joseph know the baby’s name – must have driven the relatives crazy. But, like a good historian, Luke waits to tell us Jesus’ name until it is given at his circumcision on the 8th day.
That was the custom: 8 day old Israelite males received their name on the day of circumcision. Kind of like Christians in Luther’s day received the name of the saint whose day they were Baptized on. But before Christ, circumcision was the main event. This was the sign of God’s covenant with Abraham and his offspring forever pointing to Christ and to Baptism. On the 8th day God names you and claims you as his own. Not the 7th or the 9th day. Not a day of the child’s own choosing or an age of accountability. The 8th day; just the way God set it up. That’s the way our Lord works. You don’t make Him your Lord; He declares Himself to be your Lord and places His mark of ownership on you. You don’t choose and claim Him; He chooses and claims you.
So on the 8th day, Jesus is circumcised according to the Law of Moses in order to fulfill the Law of Moses. In doing so, God Himself does what we cannot (and will not) do.
The Law is a brutal task master; it tells us to walk but gives us no legs. And if you’re guilty of one part you’re accountable for all of it (James 2:10). The 10 commandments don’t work like our new year’s resolutions from 2011: “Oh it’s ok, I’ll do better next year.” It’s do or do not. There is no try with the Law.
That’s why we confess…I a poor miserable sinner, confess until You all my sins and iniquities; what I’ve done and what I’ve left undone. Our sin cuts us off from God. This is why Jesus was born. Why he was circumcised and given the Name Jesus. So that when He goes to the cross He is the one cut off from God so that you are cut off from your sin forever.
For every sin you have done – for the sinner you are – Christ is not. He is perfect, perfectly good for you. For all that you do or do not do. Christ does, leaving nothing undone. He doesn't wait to get started on saving you. No days off. No breaks. Before Jesus walks, before He talks, before He takes his first step or crawls, before He can even hold his head up by Himself, His blood is shed for you.
That’s why we celebrate Jesus’ circumcision. Jesus does the Law perfectly, every commandment; His perfection; it’s yours by grace through faith in Christ. He bears the pain, the suffering, the blood the Law demands of the substitute, the vicarious victim. And you receive forgiveness, life, and salvation. You are all sons of the covenant, heirs of life, true offspring of Abraham, all thanks to 8-day-old-YHWH-in-the-flesh. Or better yet, you could say: we are all perfect Jews in Jesus, the one perfect Jew who kept the Torah down its smallest mark and letter.
You are holy because He is holy. You are righteous because He is righteous. You are perfect, because He is perfect. You are all these things not because you’ve resolved to make yourself a better person, but because God gives them to you through the flesh and blood of Jesus.
Jesus is you everything you need. Cut His flesh and He bleeds like you. Betray Him and He weeps like you. A loved one dies and He grieves like you. He carries disease and guilt for you…but greater, this Savior dies for you. And before He goes to the cross, He takes a Name for you and bleeds for you.
The circumcision and name of Jesus has everything to do with your salvation.
It’s true that Jesus is a perfectly ordinary human name. Any carpenter from Nazareth might have been named Jesus. Yet there’s always more to names in the Bible than sentimentality. Jesus is the NT version of Joshua or Isaiah – YHWH saves. Jesus literally does what his name means: YHWH saves.
But this is no ordinary name. The Name of Jesus also causes controversy, scandal and offense. The Name of Jesus causes thrones of kings to topple and sway. This Name causes the politically correct to be on edge. No other name causes such a ruckus.
And yet this is the only Name under heaven by which we are saved. This is the Name that is higher than any other name. King of kings. Lord of lords. Name of names. YHWH in human flesh. Jesus. This is the Name that causes devils to flee, the Name by which prayer is heard, the Name by which God in the flesh is known, the name by which we are saved.
This is the Name you need. For without the Name of Jesus your only name is sinner. It is precisely for you, that this child is given the Name, Jesus. Mary’s child is named Jesus in order to place his name upon you. God becomes a child to in order to make us children of God.
You were washed, sanctified (made holy), justified (declared righteous), in the Name of Jesus. You are gathered here, in the Name of Jesus. From Invocation to Benediction the Name of Jesus is placed into your ears. Sit down and count how many times and in the many various ways God’s name is in the liturgy; you’ll be surprised at how many times our Lord’s name is here to bless you.
You see, the circumcision and naming of Jesus have everything to do with your salvation.
So, on this day when resolutions are made about all the things you want to try & change, take comfort in this: Your unchanging Savior has resolved, before you were even born, to come into this world, to bleed for you and take a Name for you – to suffer and die for you.
No matter what happens this New Year, you belong to Jesus. The Law is fulfilled. Your sins are forgiven! You are His child. And that is one resolution that is always kept.
While the resolutions of men are quickly forgotten, the Father never forgets about Jesus’ blood covering your sins and he never forgets the saving Name he put upon you.
In the Name of the Father and of + the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.