READ: Luke 2:21-39
The passage today takes us into Joseph and Mary’s life with their firstborn son. It begins as a step back into a routine and devoted life. On the eighth day Jesus is circumcised and given his name, the name that the angel had given him before he had been conceived. And then, on what would have been the 31st day after Jesus’ birth, Mary and Joseph travel to Jerusalem and enter the temple to present the sacrifices required upon Mary’s purification. At 33 days after Jesus’ birth he would be brought to the temple to be presented to the Lord and so his parents could offer the sacrifices required for redemption of the firstborn son. There in the temple, the supernatural breaks in again as first Simeon and then Anna recognize the anointing on this child of Joseph and Mary.
There is a sentence at the end of the recounting of this story that caught my attention. “When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.” Luke 2:39. This sentence and the details of this story affirm to me the simple devotion of these two young people. Joseph and Mary were striving to live righteous lives devoted to the God they love. This was true before their lives were interrupted by God’s angel and it is true as they walk down the road carrying God’s purpose in their arms. The sentence also points forward. I hear in it echoes of what Jesus said to John as he came to him to be baptized. John’s initial response was, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Matthew 3:14. And Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Matthew 3:15. Jesus is completely set apart from us as perfect, holy God. And yet, he is fully man, and living on the earth without special privilege or entitlement. He does what we do as we love and obey God, and so did his parents before him. But in both situations, it is as if God can’t hold His pride and joy and purpose in silence. He speaks powerfully through Simeon and Anna in the temple and He breaks through the barriers of time and space to speak out His love at Jesus’ baptism, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 4:17.
One other detail stood out thanks to Steve’s sermon Sunday on Jesus in the Passover. Jesus is presented in the temple for the redemption of the firstborn son. This ritual performed for every firstborn son to open the womb of a woman reminded a young couple of so many things. At the time of the first Passover, a specially selected lamb, a firstborn lamb, was sacrificed. This lamb sacrificed in obedience took the place of the firstborn sons and caused the angel of death to pass over the Israelites. This story would have figured prominently in their minds as they paid the price to redeem their son. The redemption at this point wasn’t from death – it was from being completely devoted to the Lord. Before the debacle of the worship of the golden calf while Moses was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments, every firstborn son would’ve been devoted to the service of the Lord. At that point in time the Levites were the ones who came to stand with Moses to purify the camp after the lapse into idolatry. From then forward the Lord chose the Levites to stand in the place of the firstborn sons (see Exodus 32:25-29 and Numbers 8:15-19) and a way to redeem those sons was established.
Joseph and Mary knew that they loved God. They did what they knew to do, what they had been commanded to do to demonstrate that love. Little did Joseph and Mary know that their obedient love resulted in them holding in their arms the one who fulfilled all that these sacrifices and rituals foreshadowed. The Son of God. The firstborn over all creation. The perfect Lamb of God.
Lord, help me as I seek to do that which I know to do. The little and big obedience that demonstrates so much more than duty – that demonstrates love and devotion. Thank You Lord that my loving obedience is the stuff You use to fulfill the purposes of salvation – both for me and for purposes bigger than I can imagine.