Category Archive: Bible – NT – Luke

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January 1, 2005

The Circumcision of Christ

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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)
December 24, 2004

Luke 2:6-14 Sermon Notes

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Luke 2:6-14
(December 26, 2004 Sermon Notes)

To many people, Christmas reminds us that the world is a nice old place after all. As Christians, however, we know that Christmas reminds us that the world isn’t nice, that we need salvation. The good news is that God has kept his promises and has given us a saviour, born in David’s city.


Jesus is born in Bethlehem, the place from which God promised to bring forth a king (Micah 5:2ff.) We’ve expected the king’s birth all through Luke’s Gospel, but what we’ve seen is the power of Caesar Augustus.

Jesus’ birth isn’t extraordinary. Mary gives birth at full term and wraps him up, just like any other child. The only hint that God’s promises are being fulfilled is that he is a son. Jesus is a human baby. But that’s good news. We needed a saviour who was as human as we are. He had to be human to bear our suffering and to take away our sins.

His suffering starts at birth. Luke says that “there was no room for them in the inn.” The word usually translated “inn” is the word for a guest room (Luke 22:11). It wasn’t that the innkeeper was harsh or that no one cared about Jesus; rather, there was no room for Mary to have privacy because the place they were staying was too crowded and Joseph and Mary were too poor to get another private suite. So Mary has to lay her baby in an animal’s feed box out in the stable. It isn’t a pretty scene, but it’s the beginning of our salvation: “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).


Luke now shifts the scene to focus on some shepherds in the field. Suddenly an angel appears to them and they are standing in the midst of God’s glory, the glory that burned on Mount Sinai and flooded the Temple.

They are terrified but the angel comforts them. God is a consuming fire, but his glory isn’t deadly for these shepherds. On the contrary, they (and we) can now live in God’s presence. Why? The angel announces good news for all the people of Israel and for us as well: “There is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.”

The promised Saviour has been born! He is the heir to David’s throne, the Christ, the anointed king, and he is the Lord who will rescue and rule his people. To him, all the nations will bow (Ps. 72).

The angel adds a sign: the child will look like any other, except for his remarkable poverty. He will be lying in a manger. That poverty is, in fact, the sign of the salvation he will accomplish through his suffering.

And now the armies of heaven break into song. They celebrate even before the victory — that’s how certain it is — and their song invites you to join in. This child’s birth will bring glory to God in the highest and peace on earth for us. Through Jesus, God is showing favour toward men!

Posted by John Barach @ 5:02 pm | Discuss (0)
November 11, 2004

Mark 1:6-8 Sermon Notes

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Mark 1:6-8
(September 12, 2004 Sermon Notes)

The gospel begins with John the Baptist. That’s what we find in Acts and in the four Gospels. John is the culmination of the Old Covenant. Jesus doesn’t throw out the Old Covenant and start something new; rather, He fulfills the Old Covenant. The whole Old Covenant looks forward to Him.

John teaches Israel to expect the coming of Yahweh, Israel’s God, as He promised in the prophets. Yahweh is coming to bring a new covenant, to do something the Old Covenant couldn’t. And John is preparing His way. We see that preparation in John’s lifestyle and John’s preaching.


In the middle of his account of John’s ministry, Mark tells us about John’s clothing and his dress. These aren’t incidental details.

In Zechariah 13:4, we learn that prophets wore robes of coarse hair (and false prophets tried to make themselves look like true prophets by doing the same thing). John’s hairy garment identifies him as a prophet.

More than that, John’s hairy clothes and leather belt remind us of Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). John is the Elijah promised in Malachi 4:5, who is to prepare Israel for the coming of Yahweh.

John is a new Elijah. But Elijah himself is a new Moses. And so John, too, is a new Moses. He calls Israel to a new Exodus, but in a sense he stays in the wilderness. He wears wilderness clothing and eats wilderness food. As Moses died in the wilderness and didn’t enter the Promised Land, John is looking forward to the new covenant, but he doesn’t enter it.


John proclaims that someone stronger is following him. That’s the message of the whole Old Covenant. The Old Covenant couldn’t bring God’s people into their full inheritance, which includes having the Spirit dwell in each of them as He did in the tabernacle and temple.

But Yahweh can. The surprise is that Yahweh is coming to Israel as a man, wearing sandals (1:7). That’s who Jesus is: Israel’s God in person.

In the Old Covenant, God promised to pour His Spirit on Israel (Isa. 443; Joel 2:28; Ezekiel 36:27). John’s baptism with water was effective. It purified Israel so that unclean people could live in God’s presence (see Hebrews 9). But it couldn’t take away sin and cause people to share in the Spirit. Nothing in the Old Covenant could do that.

But Jesus baptizes with the Spirit. That’s what happened at Pentecost (Acts 2), and from Pentecost on, we share in the Spirit through repenting and being baptized with water into the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38). John stayed in the wilderness. Through Jesus, we enter the Promised Land and share in everything God promised, including His Spirit.

Posted by John Barach @ 5:13 pm | Discuss (0)
March 21, 2002

Home & Herod

Category: Bible - NT - Luke,Updates :: Link :: Print

Home again! On Friday, I drove about five hours north to Leduc. Our church order requires each church to be visited by a minister and an elder (or by two ministers) at least once every couple of years; the visitors inquire about how the officebearers are doing their work and about the congregation’s health. If requested, they also sometimes meet with members of the congregation. Lethbridge was appointed to visit Leduc, though in this case Leduc requested two ministers. Ed Marcusse, the pastor of Bethel United Reformed Church in Calgary made the visit with me.

I spent Friday night with Mike Mazereeuw, a recently married friend in Edmonton, who took me book shopping on Saturday morning. Book Outlet sells seconded books, books that haven’t sold in other book stores, at discounted prices. I got quite a haul before setting out for Grande Prairie, another five hours northwest of Edmonton. I preached there Sunday and visited a number of friends, including Bill DeJong and Tim Gallant.

On Monday, I drove south as far as Red Deer, where I stayed overnight with my parents before heading to Lethbridge on Tuesday.

This week, I’m working on a sermon on Luke 23:1-12. I’ve discovered that most commentaries do very little with Jesus’ trial before Herod. Why was Jesus tried not only by Pilate but also by Herod? Why was that trial part of God’s plan? How did it contribute to Jesus’ work? Only Luke tells us about it. Why does he mention it? How does it fit with the rest of what he’s saying? Most commentators, it seems, don’t ever ask those questions. They simply say what happened (Jesus was sent to Herod, etc.) without ever digging into the significance of it.

My thoughts? Well, the text presents Herod as a king of the Jews from Galilee who is confronting (and being confronted by) Jesus, the king of the Jews from Galilee. That has to be significant! Acts 4 also links this trial and the resulting friendship between Pilate and Herod with Isaiah 53 (God’s holy servant) and with Psalm 2. The whole world, including the Jewish king Herod, is united against God’s anointed king.

Add to that the fact that Herod, though a Jew now, is of Edomite background and is now joining the world power (Rome, this time) in attacking the true Israel in the person of Israel’s representative king. In their zeal to get rid of Jesus, the Jewish leaders have aligned themselves with Pilate, the representative of Rome, the foreign ruler over God’s people, and with Herod, the Edomite-turned-king-of-the-Jews, and they’ve become spiritual Edomites themselves, Esaus jealous of Jacob and out for his blood.

The glorious thing is that precisely by being rejected by His people and mocked by Herod, Jesus is entering into His victory. The nations rage, but God will set His king on His throne and give Him a rod of iron.with which to judge the nations. Don’t mistake His suffering for failure! Kiss the Son lest He be angry and you perish.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately.

Posted by John Barach @ 12:18 am | Discuss (0)

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