January 1, 2005

The Circumcision of Christ

Category: Bible - NT - Luke,Theology - Christology :: Permalink

A Meditation for January 1, 2005.

January 1 is New Year’s Day. The old has ended; the new has begun. But on the church’s traditional calendar, January 1 is also the feast of Jesus’ circumcision and His naming.


Luke tells us that “when eight days were completed,” Jesus was circumcised (2:21). When God established His covenant with Abram, He gave him circumcision as the sign of the covenant, not only for Abram himself but also for every male in his house. In the case of infants, that circumcision was to take place when the child was eight days old (Gen. 17:12).

But what is so significant about the eight day? To answer that question, we have to recognize first that the numbers in the Bible are symbols. We recognize that, of course, with numbers such as 7, which many commentaries acknowledge often has to do with fullness, or 12, which often points to the twelve tribes of Israel.

To understand the symbolism, however, we have to be familiar with the Scriptures. The significance of the number 7 comes from the seven days of creation in Genesis 1-2. And so does the significance of the eighth day.

The eighth day is the day after the seventh day and it symbolizes the beginning of a new creation. The world that was created in seven days was corrupted through Adam’s sin. But God established His covenant with Abram and his descendants and He wanted that covenant signified on the eighth day as a sign that He would establish a new creation.

Circumcision wasn’t required for a man to be forgiven or to have fellowship with God. All through the time of the Old Covenant, we find numerous Gentiles — uncircumcised men — who are believers. Gentiles were allowed to bring offerings and to eat and drink in God’s presence, just as much as Jews were.

But only those who were circumcised (or, in the case of women, who were in the households of the circumcised) were allowed to partake of the Passover. Circumcision formed Israel into God’s special priestly people, the people through whom God would take away the curse on man’s sin and spread blessing to the world. Through Israel, through the circumcised people, God would bring about a new creation.

Jesus’ circumcision on the eighth day is thus His inclusion in God’s Old Covenant people, the people of Israel. Jesus is identified with them. More than that, He is going to be the ultimate Israel, the faithful Israel, the one who bears the curse away by bearing it Himself, the one through whom God’s blessing comes to the nations.

Paul tells us that Jesus’ death on the cross was a circumcision (Col. 2:11). It was what every circumcision pointed toward, the destruction of the old man, the putting off of the flesh, the life inherited from Adam. Man was created on the sixth day, and Jesus died as a man in man’s place on the sixth day.

But on the eighth day, the other side of circumcision was fulfilled. Jesus didn’t simply put off the old. He is the new. Jesus rose on the eighth day as the firstfruits of God’s new creation.

Paul says that those who have been “buried with Him in baptism” now have been circumcised. We now share in the “putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ” and we are no longer dead but alive (Col. 2:11ff.). In Christ, we are new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17), God’s new creation.

Incidentally, that’s why baptismal fonts traditionally have eight sides. They’re designed to remind us of circumcision on the eighth day, of the resurrection on the eighth day, and what our baptism mean for us. We have been incorporated into Christ and are a new creation in Him.


Luke says that “when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb” (Luke 2:21).

The Law didn’t stipulate that the day of circumcision was to be the day of naming, but that was the practice in Jesus’ case. Jesus’ naming on the eighth day is a promise: the new creation will be brought about by Him because He is God’s Son to whom the Lord God would give the throne of David to reign forever (Luke 1:31-33).

At our baptism, even if it isn’t on the eighth day of our lives, we also receive a new name. Through baptism, we become members of Christ’s body (1 Cor. 12:12-13). We share in His name and in what it signifies. We share in the privilege of reigning with Him and we share also in His calling to humble ourselves and suffer for the sake of the gospel so that others can share with us in God’s new creation.

On the eighth day — which is Sunday, the first day of the new week — we assemble to remember and become God’s new creation, to remember and grow into our new identity and our new name as the body of Christ Jesus.

That’s not a bad thing to remember on January 1, the feast of the circumcision and naming of Jesus and the beginning of another year in which Jesus rules the world on the throne of David.

Posted by John Barach @ 6:03 pm | Discuss (0)

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