Sermon: The Holy Feast of the Circumcision

People of God, the Christian world today celebrates the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus and of his circumcision on the eighth day. We will focus our attention on this one verse and draw out the implications of this passage to redemptive history and to our lives.

As we progress in this season of comfort and joy, this little babe is brought by Mary and Joseph to Jerusalem to begin his cosmic conspiracy against Satan’s fold. He is circumcised on the eighth day. He is ritually and covenantally brought intoIsrael. Circumcision was not only a sign that you are brought into a new community, but also that you have been given a new status; you are to be identified with a new people.

But Jesus’ circumcision is also a sign of a New Creation, since it is on the eighth day. Eight is a picture of a new beginning. In seven days the world was created and on the eighth a New Creation emerges. We see pictures of this in the Old Covenant: sacrificial animals were required to be eight days old[1] in order to be acceptable. Priests went through a consecration process and on the eighth day they were a new creation, a new Adam.[2]  In circumcision, Jesus becomes the New Adam who will crush the evil serpent. [3]

The importance of circumcision also reminds us that this is being performed on a passive child, which sets forth clearly that this is not something we do, it is not of works, but it is God’s grace that is given to us.[4] In Jesus’ circumcision we are identified with him. Jesus’ circumcision was his first shedding of blood for us.

In fact, scholars have for a long time focused on Jesus’ circumcision, because in his circumcision they saw a picture of the final circumcision that Jesus would endure at the cross. There he would be cut off once and for all for the sake of his people, and there he would shed his blood once and for all for his people. In light of this, artists have depicted this event throughout the last 1,000 years. Protestant theologians like Jeremy Taylor, argued in a treatise of 1657 that Jesus’s circumcision proved his human nature while fulfilling the law of Moses.[5]

The 17th century poets saw the knife of circumcision as the prelude to the spear of death that pierced our Lord at the cross.[6] Historically, on this we celebrate the day in which our Victor brings back to us the first trophies of the victory over our perpetual foe.[7] The Church has affirmed that the circumcision was more than a mere ritual it was the beginning of the end for Satan’s reign.

Why is it so significant that our Lord Jesus Christ be circumcised? We often stress the birth, the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, but what about his circumcision?

The importance of circumcision is first seen back in Genesis 17, when the Lord tells Abraham: “Any man who isn’t circumcised hasn’t kept his promise to me and cannot be one of my people.”[8] To be circumcised meant to be faithful to God and a sign of being in God’s family. Jesus is the New Abraham circumcised demonstrating that He is God’s true Son. What did this act of circumcision symbolize for Jesus? It meant that it was a sign of the obedience he was going to display his entire life. He underwent the pain of circumcision so that we might not die in our sins. This was the beginning of our Lord’s obedience unto death.[9] The very visual, but poetic language of Matthew Henry summarizes best when he writes: “Then he shed his blood by drops, which afterwards he poured out in purple streams.”[10]Christ submitted himself to the ceremonial law of circumcision, so that He might do away with sacrifices once and for all.

There is a strong biblical connection here between the circumcision of Jesus and the circumcision of our heart. Circumcision reflects what God must do to us and He cuts off our old nature and gives us a new one. Jesus was always the Lamb of God, but He needed to undergo all the ceremonies of the law in order to become the perfect and obedient Lamb of God. Jesus was the blameless Son.

But verse 21 also says something else: “And they named him Jesus, just as the angel had told Mary when he promised she would have a baby.” He was named Joshua. This was a common name among the Jews, which made Jesus like his Jewish brothers in name and in ritual. He is the one who saves; the greater Joshua and leader of the True Israel.

Paul says that his name is above every Name, and that every tongue will confess that He is Lord. The Name is not in and of itself powerful. We know that the name Jesus was a common name in the first century. What makes the name powerful is that it is connected to the Person. When the scriptures mention Jesus’ Name, we can assume salvation, redemption, victory, life, abundance, eternity, and restoration. His name is above every Name because He has received all authority in heaven and on earth.

Calvin writes:

“…the name Jesus was not given to the Son of God accidentally, or by the will of men, but was the name which the angel had brought from heaven.”[11]

This name has a heavenly origin. Christ came from heaven to embrace man, so that man might be fit for heaven.

It saddens me to see certain men equivocate over the necessity of trusting in Jesus. There is no option B. There is no Name given in heaven above and earth below where salvation is found, but in the Strong Name of Jesus.

How Shall We Then Live on this Feast Day?

In Luke’s Gospel we find the circumcision of our Lord and the giving of His Name. It is interesting that the Name of Jesus was given at his Old Covenant circumcision. In the New Covenant the Name is also given at the baptism of infants. We ask parents of infants, “What is the Name of this child?” as a continuation of this practice found in Luke 2:21.[12]

Biblical names always incorporated the expectations of parents. Some hoped that their child would embody some covenant quality that would enhance God’s kingdom. We name our child after an expectation. We say: “We want him to be like his father; or like a prophet; or to be a man after God’s own heart; or that she would be a warrior like Deborah; a faithful wife like Ruth; a queen like Esther.” The Christian parent has this responsibility to not just name a child, but have a godly expectation for that child; an expectation that we hope to be fulfilled through much training and disciple and love and encouragement.

We mentioned the theology and context of circumcision, but what does it imply?

It implied consecration. To be circumcised implied that there is a set-apartness. Christ was set apart to His Father. We too enter into Christ’s mission and we are set apart to the Father. Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day, which is the new day. What does this mean? Biblically, the Old Covenant Sabbath was on the seventh day. We no longer practice the Old Testament Sabbath. We practice the Lord’s Day, which is on the first day or, biblically, “the eighth day.” The eighth day is the day of new beginnings. Is it any wonder historically the Church remembers our Lord’s Circumcision in the beginning of a new year? We usually challenge ourselves to a list of resolutions in a new year, but how about by God’s grace endeavoring to be faithful to the ones God has already given us? Have we loved our brothers and sisters as Christ told us to love? Are we fulfilling our duties as fathers and mothers as God commands us to? Instead of making new resolutions, let us work hard as a Church to be faithful to the commands God has given us. Let us be faithful to His Bride each Sunday in worship. Remember the words of Randy Booth who said that “the decision to come to church on Sunday is made only once, not every Saturday night.” Have you made that decision?[13]

Aquinas once said that circumcision shows the reality of human flesh, not just an appearance. Of course, Aquinas was fighting heresies that said that Jesus was not truly human, but only appeared human. The circumcision teaches us a bit about our humanity. We are truly human, because we are made after the True Human, Jesus Christ who was circumcised for us. We honor his humanity when we worship together with others image-bearers.

Finally, faithfulness is what we are called to do. Mary and Joseph were faithful in giving their first born the sign of the covenant. They were faithful to their calling as parents. Parental faithfulness is indicative of an incarnational life. Mary is blessed among all women, not only because she bore the Son of God, but also because she was faithful to her calling. Joseph was also a man of faith. He defended his family in the midst of danger. We need a greater number of Joseph’s in our culture who will protect and guide their families and instruct them to love Christ and his Bride.

The circumcision of our Lord is the consecration of Jesus Christ to serve us; and our baptisms also remind us that we are set apart to serve one another. The Incarnation is service on behalf of others; a service that our Lord embraced to the point of death, even the death on the cross.

 

In The Name of God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.


[1] Exodus 22:30; Lev. 22:37.

[2] Some helpful insights from Rev. Dennis Tuuri (CREC-Oregon)

[3] Genesis 3:15; 17:14.

[4] Dave Hatcher (CREC) offers great insight into this passage.Trinity Church,WA.

[6] General thoughts come from Pastor Dennis Tuuri’s observations on The Feast of the Circumcision.

[7] Ibid.

[8] ESV. 17:14.

[9] Matthew Henry, Commentary on Luke 2.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Calvin Commentary, on-line. This name has heavenly origin as does his message.

[12] Calvin addresses this briefly in his commentary.

[13] Assuming sickness and unforeseen scenarios.

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About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
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2 Responses to Sermon: The Holy Feast of the Circumcision

  1. Pingback: Watching the Calendar 011612 « Mennonite Preacher

  2. Pingback: Resources for Genesis 3:15 - 17

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