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The Circumcision and Naming of Jesus

This one who was given the name Jesus and was circumcised in obedience to and as a sign of His people’s covenant with God, would one day be given the name Son of God, and would be crucified and resurrected as a sign and as the means of a new covenant with God available to all people.

Corby Stephens
Corby Stephens
14 min read
The Circumcision and Naming of Jesus
Photo by Jon Tyson / Unsplash

Table of Contents

The following text is the raw, unedited transcript from a sermon given on Jan. 1, 2023. You can also listen to the audio. Better yet, subscribe to the podcast! :-)

This is not a part of the sermon. As as many of you know, I've been dealing with a pinched nerve in my hip, it's been super fun, haven't been sleeping and I would appreciate your prayers for that. And it means, maybe you found this, that when you're extra tired and can’t think straight that God sometimes steps in and says things that you didn't plan. Let's hope that happens. All right, let's let's pray for that.

Jesus Centric

My life, maybe yours is the same, isn't as Jesus centric as I thought it was. Again, as many of you know, I'm relatively new to the Anglican tradition three or four years now and the concept of the church calendars is still, there still surprises for me. Today is different. Like there's a day to Mark one verse in the Bible that is sort of this, this, this passing like, okay, I guess they told us that so that we know what happened when, but let's get to the good stuff right now. Today, it's, it's the last, the last verse of our reading from Luke 2:15 about Mary and Joseph taking Jesus at temple and presenting him, he gets circumcised and his name becomes official. Maybe he was christened because he's christ, hey, you're welcome, good night everybody.

All right. But that's, that's what we, we mark today and I really appreciated the collect today and how to sort of summarize that and put feet to it, not just to prayer acknowledging and events, but encouraging us to live out. So I just want to hit a couple of concepts before we get into the actual looking at some of the passages, the readings today.


We talked about covenant some weeks back during advent I think. And just to revisit or maybe expand on that idea a little bit covenant is not just a promise, it's not just two people agreeing to something in ancient times, a cut essentially married to groups of people, there was a mutual support agreement. If if we go to war with somebody, you guys will have our back. If you go to war with somebody, we will have your back if you find yourselves out of water and starving because of whatever will come help you and vice versa. There was, there was an integration of the two, the two cities, the two villages, the two towns and Oftentimes this was made manifest in some kind of a cut.

You may be familiar with the old idea of being blood brothers. Like there's, there's some kind of cut, there's kind of scar, there's some kind of shedding blood. And even today in many tribal cultures, in africa for example, they will still mark themselves, they'll mark their faces or mark or something uh to denote a covenant. So it's, it's, it's like, which is maybe we call it the covenant of marriage, it's not just a civil union, it's not just, you know, a convenience, tax income thing, it's to becoming truly one that's what circumcision is a sign of because there is a cutting and there is a shedding of blood.

It is a real act that is symbolic of a, an agreement with God between the descendants of Abraham and God himself. There are some scary stories about circumcision in the old testament. You don't see those like the Children's bibles. I want to elaborate on which now, but it's like, no, that's not it. It's under the precious moments bible. But these people this this this collection of people, the Israelites would bear this mark in a sense what it means that they are bearing the name of God.

They have this relationship, They've made this mark, they shed this blood and they now bear him. They now represent him God on earth. And in our conflict it uses the word new covenant and I'm gonna get picky because I don't like the word new in front of covenant. In fact, our teachers say that there is a page in your bible that does not belong there. You should rip it out anybody. Guess what that is? The pages says new testament on it because it's not new in the sense of, oops, the old one's no good world one didn't work.

Maybe God's like I gotta come up with a plan. I'm gonna send my son. No, God didn't have a plan B. It's not new in this. It's it's the way with the old, it's new instance that it completes the old. It fulfills the old, it satisfies the, there would not be called the new covenant without the old covenant, it's a continuation. It's a, it's all borne out in God's time according to God's plan. In fact, the new, the new covenant builds the new, the oldest is uh the foundation for the new one to build upon.

And that's to me, it's just one of the most fascinating things. When you see it all connects throughout the bible, you could say that the new covenant flushes out Or makes incarnate the old one the old one was the beginning, it's showed what was coming and the new one actually completes it. In fact, in one phrase to describe somebody who was born and raised religiously jewish, who becomes a christian. Sometimes they recalled a completed jew because now they have the messiah have the law. Now they have the messiah. They're complete. I think it's kind of a beautiful picture.

So what does this covenant involved? But we, we tend to think of the law. You know, it's, it's just it's laws, it's 613 rules that God gave and it's not not so much that because there's when I was looking at these messages through the idea of the naming and the circumcision of Jesus. I it was actually very kind of cool. And I know that we read these passages before we get to the sermon. So I hope you don't find it redundant or repetitive that I read some of them again because I want to put them in the context of walking about when we look at the exodus passage and if you want to read along, also side note, it's I think it's great that we put the page numbers in our order. But my challenge to you for the new year is to find out where books of the bible are on your own. You don't need the page numbers. I think it's fine. It's convenient. It's cool. But you gotta know your bible geography. I am horrible at the minor prophets. The most worn out page of my Bible is usually a table of contents page because I gotta find where is Haggai? Hmm. But that's me. So this exodus passage when I read this. When I see God talking about his covenant of the covenant versus people.

God's Covenant Reveals His Character

What you're gonna see is that God is actually revealing his character. He's revealing his heart and he's revealing his mind as he reveals his covenant. So with that in mind, uh listen to me read this again Exodus 34 1 through nine. The Lord said to moses cut for yourself two tablets of stone. Like the first and I will write on the tablets. The words that were on the first tablets, which you broke to do this again. If you hadn't broken the first one um, which is a fun, you know, watch the 10 commandments and you'll see Charlton.

Heston dropped them and what happens there first to be ready by the morning and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai and present yourself there to me on top of the mountain. No one shall come up with you and let no one be seen throughout it all throughout all the mountain, but no flocks or herds graze opposite them. So moses cut two tablets of stone like the first and he rose early in the morning and went up to Mount Sinai and the Lord as as the Lord had commanded him and took in his hand the two tablets of soap.

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the name of the Lord, which I find an interesting sort of transition into what is about to be spoken. Doesn't say he proclaimed his covenant says he proclaimed the Lord is claiming the name of the Lord. That's pretty important. God has said God, God's name, we call him is who he is, is what he is. So let's hear what God has to say about himself. As he sets up the covenant verse six, the Lord passed before him and proclaimed the Lord the Lord a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving, iniquity and transgression of sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers of the Children and the Children's Children to the 3rd and 4th generation.

That's who God is, that's what God is and it might some would argue that it sounds contradictory. Well is he loving or is he punishing both? Because when you love someone, when you love someone you have charged or if it's a parent child relationship or a God and his people relationship, we're all sinners. Hello chief sinner. Do you have to raise Children to be bad? No, you don't because they do it all by themselves. You have to raise them to be good. So when you have kids, their kids around remember that they're all little sinners, you're raising sinners. So hopefully not be sinners someday. That's where the the discipline comes in. But God's first description about himself is that he's merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. What a that's God's heart. That's God's mind and that is what comes across through covenant through cutting and the shedding of blood. I think it's a beautiful, wonderful picture.

God's Name Is Majestified

Let's move over to the Psalm Psalm eight. I like sometimes I like to sit and listen to everyone read. The passage is because it's just I don't know, I'm auditory and sometimes it helps me pick up on something new. Especially as we read from the book of common prayer and the songs are from the Coverdale Psalter. It's different than what we might read in our english standard version. But the name of the Lord is again glorified through his creation this time.

Oh I'm from the E. S. V. O. Lord. Our Lord. How majestic is your name in all the earth? It's really cool that it ends with the same phrase. It's a sandwich things in both the same thing at both ends. So you could say that in his creation I'm gonna make up a new word. His name is majestified made majestic through his creation. How do we get his creation spoke his word? He said let there be light he said let the waters be gone. He said let the animals and the creeping crawling things and the birds and then eventually Adam and Eve and it was all good.

But how is his name majestified in all the earth out of the mouth of babes and infants you have established strength because of your foes to still the enemy and the Avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place. What is man that you are mindful of him and the son of man that you care for him. Have you ever had that experience? You ever been? I still my wife and I have never been to a place where there's no light pollution and you can see everything.

It's it's on our bucket list to go do. But it was common for them to go somewhere and just like see the Milky Way and the planets and just everything to look at that and go who me, what what what am I compared to all that verse five, you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him Dominion over the works of your hands. You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen and also the beast of the field, the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, the entirety of creation, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name and all the earth question. It's a declaration. So the next time you're not feeling very impressed with God or maybe miffed at him, stop and consider his creation. Go for a drive. Look at the olympics, look at the cascades, look at and just think okay I'm this, but God also loves me that he has put me in what he has in the cosmic scheme of things. So we see his character revealed in his covenant, we see his majesty, his holiness, his everything he is revealed in his creation and we are part of that.

On Behalf Of His Name

And again, each one of these is about his name, romans, one if you want to turn there and read along again, we see that his name goes somewhere and it does something romans one begins like this, Paul, a servant of christ, Jesus called to be an apostle set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets. In the holy scriptures concerning his son. Wait a minute. When you read what we would call the holy scriptures, the old testament. Do you read anything about Jesus?

Yes and no, not by name, but you absolutely read about son in the old testament. That's why it's the foundation. It. How does that expression? The new testament in the old testament concealed. And the old testament is a new testament revealed. Beautiful. It's wonderful verse three concerning his son who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus christ, you notice the dual lineage of Jesus, son of David, the son of God, man and God, both at once through whom we have received Grace and apostle ship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name.

Among all the nations including you who are called to belong to Jesus christ. I love it when Paul uses words like through talking about Jesus because my brain pictures like a big pipe with the word Jesus on it. And you have to go when you go through that, you know that you get what's on the other side. So it's through Jesus? We the or them, the apostles received Grace and apostle ship to bring about. So as they went through that with their calling to be apostles to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name.

I don't like for the sake of his name, I like rather on behalf of his name makes more sense to me. It's on behalf of the name of Jesus that they're doing this to all the nations. Jesus is that conduit where we get this calling and through which those who were called to be apostles all the way down to us. It is as we are in Jesus, in that conduit, living life that we then deliver on the side for the, for the sake of his name, for the, on behalf of his name, the Gospel versus concluding you who are called to belong to Jesus christ keep in mind that these are written to the church in Rome, which was not a very moral society.

Can you think of any other very immoral societies? Ours? Oh my goodness. I really think we happened quickly. I think we're at a point where we are more like first century christians than ever before. Now one could focus on the persecution and the isolation and the ridicule. I mean, they're not crucifying us or feeding us to lions yet, but they're certainly canceling us, right? You could focus on that and that is a part of the picture. But what's the other part of the picture, the more they were persecuted, the more they were pressured, the more God came out, gospel spread When they beat up Christians in one town and some of the Christians left.

What happened to the two more christians? It's like the more they did it, the more, the more the more the gospel spread. The picture, this just came to my mind. The picture of uh, of an olive press, you know when Jesus was the garden, the garden of Gethsemane was an olive orchard. In fact, some of those trees are still alive today. Trees alive today that were around when Jesus was here. It is where they would press the olives and make olive oil. That's how you get olive oil is by crushing those olives. And it's even that is the picture of the Holy Spirit oil is a picture of God's Holy Spirit. So the more these things are crushed, the more these things are pressed, the oil is supposed to flow out.

So as we are entering this time, this world where I remember being told when I when you grow up, you can be anything you want to be. Well now you can call yourself anything, you want to call yourself and others are supposed to honor that. That's that's part of where we're at as we live in that world, we have to either find ways or learn ways or I too not fight back But to love back because the inclination is to about, we're a christian nation and they were all the founders and it's like, okay, fine, but that's not where we are now, let's be where we are now.

And remember realize that the United States is not in the bible anywhere. Did he say that? Yes, I said that. Did I just ask? Yes, I just asked, sorry, I told you I was tired. It's not the Kingdom of the United States that we've been called. It's whose kingdom the Kingdom of God, whose name is his name, not George Washington's name, right. But I digress through Jesus that we do these things. So when Jesus is taken and his parents being obedient to God's word, taking him to be circumcised.

And then to be officially given the name Jesus, which is really closer to the name Joshua than it is Jesus. But that's a whole another fun conversation. It means God saves, right. That's who he is. That's what he is. As his parents were obedient to do that and taken to do that, that's very significant. I'm glad it's in their one little verse and we take one day to honor that idea that Jesus was circumcised and given a name now, where does that go? The one who was given the name Jesus and was circumcised in obedience as a to circumcise and obedience to the sentence was written late night apparently work work with me.

They're supposed to be commas in here. The one who was given the name Jesus and was circumcised in obedience to and as a sign of his people's covenant, God would one day be given name son of God and would be crucified and resurrected as a sign and as the means of a new covenant with God available to all people. So this little baby who was circumcised would one day be crucified, both shedding of blood, both leaving their marks, both signs and means of covenant relationship with God where we are fully committed to him and covenant and he is fully committed to us in covenant.

Bear the mark, the name, and the message

And the purpose of that mark is to bear his name and more than that it is to bear his message, Jesus said, blessed are you when they revile you and persecute you? You know like, cause it means you're doing a job, You're doing a good job of representing him. Are they gonna be nasty to you? Absolutely. They could be very nasty to you, but your reaction is not to be nasty back just to smile and maybe grit your teeth and say Jesus loves you because that's what you want to reflect.

I hate you right now. But Jesus loves you. Let that pressing squeeze out God's oil in you the holy spirit you and let the flesh shut up away. One little verse big ideas and I hope excuse me, I hope God has spoken to you something to walk away with and do it today. So let's let's pray continue our service. Lord thank you, thank you for marking this day. Help pointing out to us whoever was to make this calendar and put all these things from your life on a calendar.

Thank you for that. Help us not to take any of them for especially uh especially myself included. Um it's it's a big deal and uh it's all a big deal and I I want to reflect that I want people of christ our hope to reflect that I want all of your people universal to reflect you and build your kingdom and less thrown kingdom as we celebrate the marks on your body and the blood shed today. Help us to remember that it's part of the book and you came and were obedient at the beginning of your life on earth and at the end of your life on earth so that we could have eternity with you in heaven.

Thank you so much for that gift. And it's in Jesus name. We pray all these things, amen.



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