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Circumcision of the Lord

This is a simple verse, but one which is loaded with information about how God is fulfilling his Covenant. In it we find the circumcision of Jesus on the eighth day as a sign that Jesus came to fulfil the law: to keep it completely in all its exhaustive detail—all aspects of the law, moral, civil, and ceremonial. His circumcision as a child (like his Baptism as an adult) indicated that he was under the obligations of the Covenant which God made with his people: “I will be your God and you will be my people.” But it is only Jesus who has kept all the Covenant regulations. All the rest of us (whether or not we have the sign of the Covenant upon us through Baptism) break the Covenant.

Jesus came to keep the law so that he could become a perfect sacrifice. But why did God ask for a sacrifice? Actually, God didn’t want a sacrifice. He wanted obedience. But where there is disobedience—sin—his justice demands that there also be punishment.

Since any (all) sin is lethal, everyone deserves the punishment of eternal death. The result would have been the total extermination of the human race. But God is not only a God of justice, but also a God of love; so he planned that a person who had not sinned could act as a substitute for sinners and receive their punishment, and thus free them from eternal death. Jesus offered his perfect life as a perfect substitute for his own people.

This is why he was given the name Jesus. The Hebrew word Joshua is the same as the Greek name Jesus, and both mean saviour. The name Jesus is his personal name (in modern terms, his first name). As was often the practice in the Middle East (and especially in the Bible) the names that were given to people had significance beyond just being an identifier. As we are told by Matthew, he was named Jesus “because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt 1.21)

Notice that he was given this name by the angel before he was conceived. With the invention of ultra-sound scanning of the uterus it is possible for parents to know the gender of their child and name him or her before birth. But have you ever heard of any of your friends naming a child before he or she was conceived!? Like Isaac, Jesus was announced by angels and was named before he was conceived. And like Isaac, he was the seed of the promise, the heir to the Covenant.

As the heir of the Covenant, he was circumcised on the eighth day. This was in keeping with the commands given to Abraham and Moses. But why the eighth day? Is it possible that this was typical of the new Sabbath which would come with the New Covenant Mediator—Jesus? The seventh day was the Old Covenant Sabbath. But it was on the eighth day that Jesus rose from the dead and removed (cut away) sin and death forever.

Today the New Covenant Sabbath is the Lord’s Day. It is on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) that you are called in a special way to turn to Jesus, the perfect law keeper, your saviour.

 


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