Advent; Born Under Law ~ 20211226 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
12/26_Born Under Law to Be Salvation (Luke 2:21-35); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211226_advent-born-under-law.mp3
Luke records the birth of Jesus in a shepherd’s cave in Bethlehem
Throughout this passage Jesus is shown as greater that John. The angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, a priest, a righteous man, who was in the temple offering incense. A child would be born to this barren couple in their old age. Zechariah doubted, so he was unable to speak until the child was born. After he returned home, his wife Elizabeth conceived in the natural way.
The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, just Mary, in nowhere Nazareth, doing nothing worthy of mention. God was extending his grace; unearned favor and kindness. Mary too questioned the angel’s message, but not out of unbelief. She would conceive in an entirely supernatural way; so that the child would be called holy, the Son of God.
It was revealed by the angel to Mary that her barren relative Elizabeth had conceived in her old age. Mary visited and Elizabeth blessed Mary the mother of her Lord. Mary rejoiced in God’s grace.
It was revealed by an angel to shepherds out in the fields the good news that a Savior, Christ the Lord was born to them that day, and a multitude of the heavenly armies appeared worshiping God. They visited the cave and found the baby lying in a food trough, and they spread the word that the angel had told them.
When John was born, Elizabeth was surrounded by rejoicing relatives and neighbors.
When Mary gave birth, they were far from home, forced by a Roman census, seeking refuge in a cave, likely alone.
When the boy born to Zechariah and Elizabeth was circumcised on the eighth day, they named him John, the name given them by the angel.
Real Flesh and Blood
We will pick up the story in Luke 2:21.
Again, this points to the fact that Jesus was greater than John, alluding to the uniqueness of Jesus’ conception. But Jesus’ supernatural conception in the womb of a virgin should not lead us to believe that he was less than fully human. An early false teaching or heresy named ‘Docetism’ taught that Jesus only appeared to be human; because they believed that matter is evil and only the spiritual is of value, they taught that Jesus only appeared to be flesh and blood, but was really immaterial, an apparition. Here’s where this verse is helpful to keep us from wandering into error. You can’t circumcise a spirit or an apparition. The fact that Jesus was circumcised gave historical tangible evidence that he was really and truly human. He was not less than fully human, but he was more. The eternal God who has no beginning or end became human at a point in history, took on flesh so that as a human he could take our place, die the death we deserve, pay the price our sins demand.
When he was circumcised on the eighth day, he was named Jesus, ‘YHWH saves’; the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb of the virgin.
There’s a lot going on in these verses. Leviticus 12 outlines the procedure for a male child to be circumcised on the eighth day, and the mother is to remain separate from holy things for another 33 days, until the days of her purifying are completed. So this presentation before the priest at the temple with a burnt offering and a sin offering would occur 40 days after the birth.
It is interesting that Luke mentions the time for ‘their’ purification. We would expect ‘her’ purification, because according to the law only the mother needed to make the purification offering. This may indicate that Joseph was much more hands-on involved in the birth than was customary, so he also needed purification according to the law, because of contact with blood. We can’t be sure, but this may point to Mary and Joseph being alone for the birth, without the help of other women who would in normal circumstances help with the birthing process.
One thing we do know from Luke’s statement is that this couple was poor, too poor to offer the customary year old lamb for the burnt offering. Leviticus 12 made allowance for someone who could not afford a lamb to offer two turtledoves or two pigeons, one in place of the lamb for the burnt offering and the customary one for the sin offering.
Mary had emphasized her ‘humble estate’ already in 1:48 and 1:52; in that verse she mentions the Lord filling the hungry with good things; quite possibly she was poor enough to know hunger.
Mary was too poor to offer a lamb for a burnt offering, but this points us to something bigger. Abraham in faith said ‘God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering’ (Gen.22:8). Mary could not afford the required lamb, but with her was ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (Jn.1:29).
Presentation of the Firstborn and Redemption
There’s something else going on in these verses besides the purification of the couple with the proscribed offering according to the Law of Moses.
Jesus was Mary’s firstborn. Back in the Exodus, God said:
According to Numbers 3:47-48, the price for redemption of a man was five shekels. Luke says nothing about the five shekels, but he does say that ‘they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord’. This reminds us of Hannah, who prayed earnestly for a child, and promised if the Lord would give her a son, she would give him to the Lord all the days of his life (1Sam.1:11). Jesus in a unique way belongs to the Lord as the firstborn.
It is likely that they did pay the redemption price for the firstborn, but Luke records the event in such a way as to pique our curiosity and leave room for the theological understanding that Jesus did not need himself to be redeemed, but he came to redeem us.
Born Under Law
Repeated in this section is mention of the law.
They were living by the book. Everything was done according to the law. Nothing was omitted. Jesus was born under the law, and he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill them (Mt.5:17).
Galatians 4 says:
Jesus, God’s Son, was born under the law to redeem those under the law. Because he was born under the law, it was essential that he keep the law fully and perfectly, and this applied even to what was done for him by his parents after his birth. Jesus was born under the law and kept the law perfectly in order to fulfill the law for us, so that his perfect record could be credited to our account, so that he could redeem us from the demands of the law, demands that we could never meet.
Simeon and Anna
After John’s birth, his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied about the coming of the Lord, and that John would go before the Lord to prepare his ways.
After Jesus’ birth, the Holy Spirit was upon Simeon and he blessed God and blessed the family in the temple courts. The prophetess Anna thanked God and spoke of Jesus to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
We don’t know much about Simeon. We are not given his lineage, but he was righteous and devout and the Holy Spirit was upon him. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel.
Waiting for the Consolation of Israel
He was waiting. Isaiah 25 says:
He was waiting for the consolation or comfort of Israel.
Simeon knew that God himself would come and would himself wipe away our tears. Simeon was waiting, because Holy Spirit had revealed that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Anointed.
Note the triune God at work in this scene. The Holy Spirit was upon him. The Spirit led him to the temple at that specific time. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would see YHWH’s Anointed. Three distinct persons; one God. By the Spirit he took Jesus in his arms and blessed God.
My eyes have seen your salvation. Simeon was looking for rescue. God had promised to rescue his people, and Simeon said ‘I have seen your rescue.’ But nothing had changed in his circumstances. Jerusalem was under Roman occupation. The fact that Jesus was born in Bethlehem was due (at least from a human perspective) to a Roman census requiring registration in one’s hometown. The Jews would look to the Roman governor Pilate to carry out Jesus’ execution (Jn.18:31). They would cry out ‘we have no king but Caesar’ (Jn.19:15).
How can Simeon say ‘my eyes have seen your salvation’? He was holding the infant Jesus, and he recognized that the salvation that God was sending was not a thing but a person. Jesus is God’s salvation. Jesus is Israel’s comfort.
But Simeon saw by the Spirit that God’s salvation in the person of Jesus was bigger even than Israel.
This salvation in Jesus God has prepared in the presence of all the peoples. This is not just a national salvation. This is a global salvation. Jesus means salvation to the Jews, yes; but he also means salvation to the Romans, to the non-Jews. Jesus is light to the nations!
Simeon turns from blessing God to blessing Mary and Joseph. This is a blessing, but it is a hard word. Jesus will be the watershed, the dividing line. Jesus is a sign from God, but he will be opposed. Many will rise because of him; he will lift up the humble and lowly, but many will stumble over him and fall because of him. There may be a superficial facade of religiosity, but Jesus will reveal what is truly in the heart. Many will oppose him, and ultimately crucify him. This is a sobering word to Mary. A sword will pierce her soul. Salvation is glorious good news, but salvation is not cheap. The Lord’s salvation comes at a great cost. Jesus was born to Mary, but as the angel declared to the shepherds, the Savior, Christ the Lord was born to them, for the benefit of sinners. Sinners who need saving, sinners who need rescue. And this rescue is infinitely costly.
Grace is God’s favor freely given to those who don’t deserve it, but grace is not free. To the recipient a gifts is given freely, but a gift comes at a costs to the giver. A great way to remember what grace means is by the acronym God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. God’s riches are freely given to all who will receive, but they come at great expense to Christ.
2021.12.26 Sermon Notes
Advent – Born Under Law to Be Salvation
circumcision requires real flesh and blood
Leviticus 12:6, 8
Presentation of the Firstborn
Numbers 3:13, 47-48; Exodus 13:12-13; 1 Samuel 1:11
Born under the Law
Matthew 5:17; Galatians 4:4-5
Waiting for the consolation of Israel
Isaiah 25:8-9; 40:1-2
Salvation is a person
Isaiah 49:3, 6
GRACE: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org