Friday, December 16, 2016
Luke 2:22-24 "And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
In yesterday's post we began to consider God's Perfect gift - the Lord Jesus Christ - as He is presented at the temple in Luke 2:21-40. We used the acrostic g.i.f.t to begin our navigation of this important text. We noted that what makes Jesus God's perfect gift is the fact that He is the Gospel's Savior. Today we want to focus on the letter 'i' and note a second reason why Jesus is God's Perfect Gift: He is infinitely holy.
So what motivated Mary and Joseph to present Jesus at the temple
The couple presented Jesus at the temple as prescribed by the Mosaic Law. When one reads the rituals and ceremonies in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ, there is discovered an order, a pattern. God is not a God of randomness. For example, we read of God's institution of the Passover Festival in Exodus 12. That festival was to remind the Jews of how He had redeemed them from their bondage in Egypt. We then find right after that commemoration further commentary on the significance of the Passover celebration and an associated festival called "The Feast of Unleavened Bread" beginning in Exodus 13:3.
However, sandwiched in between these two festivals is a ritual that appears to be an incidental detail in Exodus 13:1-2 - "Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me.” Leviticus 12:1-4 expands on this further: "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying: ‘When a woman gives birth and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean for seven days, as in the days of her menstruation she shall be unclean. 3 On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4 Then she shall remain in the blood of her purification for thirty-three days; she shall not touch any consecrated thing, nor enter the sanctuary until the days of her purification are completed." The significance of this short little command can only be ultimately seen when we realize the actions of Mary and Joseph. The infant Jesus would had been 40 days old by the time He had been presented at the temple. Such numbers like "40" speak of testing, trial or some-sort of significant spiritual event in the lives of God's people (Moses on top of the mountain with God for 40 days; 40 years of wilderness wanderings; Goliath taunting Israel for 40 days; Elijah fasting for 40 days; Jesus' temptation for 40 days). This little infant would be subject to testing, to trial and would demonstrate unparalleled spiritual significance.
More amazing parallels between Jesus life, the Jewish feasts and all the entailed His presentation at the temple
Consider the context of Exodus 12-13: the institution of the Passover and the feast of unleavened bread. The Passover celebration would begin on the evening of the 14th day of the Jewish month of Abib (our March or April). Our Lord Jesus Christ would celebrate the Lord's table on that evening. We find further that Jesus came to be understood early on in His ministry as "The Lamb of God" (see John 1:29).
When Jesus would be crucified, He would be crucified on the very day the Passover lambs would be slaughtered. The feast of unleavened bread would begin that Saturday, following on the heels of Passover. Our Lord Jesus' body was laid to rest in the tomb on the first day of the celebration of unleavened bread. Such incredible parallels exist between Jesus' presentation at the temple, the past Jewish festivals and what would be the mission for which He came: to die on the cross and be raised from the dead.
When we realize that the presentation of any male Jewish child signified that one being set apart as holy to God, we then see how the infant Christ was uniquely holy touching His humanity. Moreover, by ever remaining God, the little bundle in Mary and Joseph's arms was not just holy, but infinitely holy.
So with the presentation of the infant Jesus at the temple per what is found in Exodus 13:1-2, as well as the historic connection to the Passover and Unleavened Bread feasts, the symbolism could not hardly be more striking: The infinitely holy One was being presented in fulfillment of the law in order to bear out the obligations necessary to be the sinner's Savior. This Jesus was God's Perfect Gift: The Gospel's Savior, being infinitely holy.