************ Sermon on Luke 2:21-24 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on January 12, 2014

Luke 2:21-24
"Jesus Meets the Law of Moses"

Did you notice the word that is repeated three times in our short Bible reading and two more times in the wider context? The word is "Law" (Lk 2:22, 23,24,28,39). In our passage we see that Jesus meets the Law of Moses. So what is the response? The response is obedience. Our Bible reading informs us of this obedience in three areas: the Law of Circumcision, the Law of Purification, and the Law of the Firstborn.

I find this to be amazing. As the Law giver, Jesus is above the Law; yet, He obeyed its demands. According to the Apostle Paul, Jesus was born under the Law (Gal 4:4). Meaning what? Meaning He submitted to the Law's demands. Meaning He fulfilled the requirements of the Law – for us, in our place.

On this Lord's Supper Sunday we rejoice in this obedience. We proclaim Jesus was born under the Law "to redeem those under law" (Gal 4:5).

I Jesus and the Law of Circumcision
A First, on this Lord's Supper Sunday we see that the requirements of the Law were met when Jesus was circumcised:
(Luke 2:21) 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.

Circumcision, as you know, was the sign and seal of the covenant God made with Abraham (Gen 17). God announced that it was through circumcision that sinners entered into a covenant relationship with Him. Circumcision was required of every male in the Jewish faith:
(Gen 17:12-13) For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner--those who are not your offspring. (13) Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant.
We know that circumcision was also required of every Gentile convert to the Jewish faith. The Jews were proud to be marked by circumcision as God's covenant people. And, they scornfully called the Gentiles the "uncircumcised" (Eph 2:11-12).

God also announced to Abraham what happened if the Law of Circumcision was not followed:
(Gen 17:14) Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.
How serious is this statement? Consider the time the Lord was about to kill Moses. I am always amazed that this story is included in the Bible. Moses, after all, was the first leader of the nation of Israel. The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend (Ex 33:11). Yet, the Lord was about to kill Moses. Why? Because Moses failed to follow the Law of Circumcision. Moses failed to circumcise his own son. Moses' wife, who was a pagan by birth, had to force the issue and do the circumcising for him. By doing this she saved Moses' life (Ex 4:24-26).

Among the Jews, to be uncircumcised means you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world (Eph 2:12). This is true whether you are a Gentile or an uncircumcised Jew (Gen 17:14). So, it was a big deal to be part of "the circumcision" (Eph 2:11).

B But why was Jesus circumcised? Nothing broke His relationship with the Father. He wasn't a sinner who needed circumcision in order to enter into a covenant relationship with God.

Furthermore, Jesus enjoyed an eternal love relationship with the Father. From an early age Jesus was aware of His special relationship to God. Remember the story of the boy Jesus at the Temple? His parents searched for Him everywhere. When they finally found Him and admonished Him, Jesus said, "Why were you searching for me? Didn't you know I had to be in my father's house?" (Lk 2:49).

No, circumcision was not something Jesus needed to undergo.

C So why was Jesus circumcised? Don't forget, Jesus was born under the Law (Gal 4:4). He had to obey the Law's demands. The Law demanded circumcision. So, Jesus was circumcised.

But we can say more. We also know Jesus was obedient in our place. This is part of what He did as our righteous Mediator. This is part of what He had to do because only a truly righteous Mediator is able to save sinners. By the grace of God, His obedience gets credited to our account (cf Rom 5:19). As the Catechism puts it,
God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me.
(Heidelberg Catechism, Q & A 60)

D Jesus was circumcised. Now circumcision, as I am sure you realize, involves the cutting of flesh and the shedding of blood.

Meaning what? Meaning that Christ's suffering for sinners was already at the beginning of His life on earth, and not just at the end. Meaning that when Jesus was only eight days old, He already shed blood for sinners. When He was only eight days old, Christ already suffered as the only atoning sacrifice.

No wonder He was named Jesus meaning Savior when He was only eight days old. For already He began His work as Savior – a work which culminated in the cross and the grave.

Today, ours is the privilege of celebrating this in the Lord's Supper.

II Jesus and the Law of Purification
A From the Law of Circumcision we turn to the Law of Purification. Our Bible reading speaks of "the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses" (Lk 2:22). What Law is this?

According to Leviticus 12, after the birth of a son, the mother was ceremonially unclean for 7 days until the circumcision, and then had to remain in seclusion at home for a further 33 days. On the fortieth day she went to the Temple and brought to the priest a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or dove for a sin offering. In case of poverty, one could skip the lamb and bring a pair of doves or two young pigeons. The humble sacrifice of Joseph and Mary suggests they were too poor to bring a lamb. But, as we know, Jesus Himself was the Lamb (Jn 1:36; 1 Pet 1:18-19).

But why the sacrifices? The sins of the guilty were placed upon the lamb or doves or pigeons and they were killed in the place of the sinner. Meaning what? Meaning that the Roman Catholics are wrong in their claim that Mary is as holy, pure, and perfect as Jesus. Mary's time of purification with its sacrifice is a statement that this was not the case. Mary needed to be cleansed and purified.

B Did you note the plural pronoun attached to "purification"? Luke writes,
(Luke 2:22) when the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took [Jesus] to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord
Jesus, too, was reckoned as being unclean.

But Jesus is the Sinless One. Jesus is the Holy One. Jesus is without stain or blemish. Yet, by placing Himself under the Law, He is treated as though He was unclean. He took the sinner's place. He took the sinner's impurity. He took the sinner's guilt and shame.

Though Jesus, through the conception of the Spirit, was not conceived and born in sin, He was put in the sinner's place and underwent the sinner's purification with its sacrifice.

Today, ours is the privilege of celebrating this in the Lord's Supper.

III Jesus and the Law of the Firstborn
A Our passage ends with the Law of the Firstborn. This Law goes back to the time of the Exodus from Egypt. At that time the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well (Ex 12:29). Afterwards, God said to Moses, "Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether man or animal" (Ex 13:2). Meaning what? Meaning that the firstborn belongs to the Lord and is meant for His service.

However, in exchange for five shekels the firstborn son was to be bought back or redeemed (cf Ex 13:12; Num 18:16). And, it was the Levites who served God in place of the firstborn (Num 3:12).

B Scripture tells us that Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord"). They must have paid the redemption price. Otherwise, like the boy Samuel, a young Jesus would have been brought to the Temple to serve the Lord (1 Sam 1:11,22,28).

I want you to notice that Joseph and Mary did for Jesus what God Himself did not do. Joseph and Mary paid the penalty and redeemed Jesus. Thirty years later God kept Jesus under the penalty so that He would redeem us with His precious blood. At that time, He served God in our place.

Today, ours is the privilege of celebrating this in the Lord's Supper.

Our Lord's relationship to the Law is an important part of His saving ministry. He was born under the Law (Gal 4:4). He perfectly obeyed the Law. He bore the curse of the Law. And, He set us free from bondage.

This morning in the Lord's Supper we celebrate this. We celebrate that during His whole life on earth, but especially at the end, Christ suffered as the only atoning sacrifice.
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