God established His covenant with Abraham, saying that he would be the father of many nations (Gen. 17:4). When God made this covenant, the ninety-nine year old Abraham had only recently fathered Ishmael and had not yet seen the birth of his promised son, Isaac. Nonetheless, he was commanded to circumcise himself along with every male member of his household, and he was instructed to ensure that every son born into his household from that day forth be circumcised on the eighth day (Gen. 17:9-12). So important was this sign that the circumcision took place even if the eighth day fell on a Sabbath (Lev. 12:3, John 7:22).
This truth gives us a better understanding of the earliest days of Jesus’ life. The Gospels do show that Joseph and Mary were chosen to be the earthly parents of Jesus at least in part because of their piety. Joseph is described as a
righteous man (Matt. 1:19, NASB), and Mary is said to have
found favor with God (Luke 1:30, NASB). When Jesus was eight days old, His parents held a naming and circumcision ceremony in the same manner as the untold number of Hebrew males had experienced in times past.
Imagine, the spotless Son of God, now in human form, undergoing the very ritual that He Himself had instituted many centuries earlier!
Read Luke 2:21-24 in light of Exodus 13:2, 12 and Leviticus 12:1-8. What more do these texts tell us about Joseph and Mary? What can we learn for ourselves, in our own time and sphere, from their example?
The Bible is clear that Mary was a virgin when she was chosen to be the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:27); so, Jesus was the first child that
opened her womb. According to Exodus 13, every firstborn among the Israelites (whether animal or human) was to be dedicated to the Lord. The law also stipulated in Leviticus 12:2-5 that after the birth of a male child, the woman was ceremonially unclean for a total of forty days (eighty for a female child). At the end of this period, she was required to show herself to the priest and offer a sacrifice. As pious Jews, Mary and Joseph meticulously fulfilled the obligations of the Mosaic law and ensured that the Son of God bore the marks of the covenant.