Monday, January 02, 2012

Sermon on Numbers 6:22-27 & Luke 2:21, for the Circumcision and Naming of Jesus, "What's in a name?"

Sermon Outline:
1.      What’s in a name? Know the meaning of yours? Significance to your life? Seen as shaping the future of a child in some cultures. Adam = mankind, Eve = living, Abram = father to Abraham = father of many nations, Jacob = grasper, deceiver to Israel = strives with God; Ichabod = “glory has departed”; most important of all names is the name of God Himself. Revealed at Sinai to Moses—YHWH (Yahweh). Most often translated as LORD. Jehovah is a corrupted spelling of Yahweh. Note significance of this Name given in the blessing in Numbers 6—the “Aaronic benediction.” God’s Name would be placed on Israel, and so He would bless them. There is much in a name—especially in God’s Name.
2.      Notice in the benediction—Trinity. God’s movement toward us: “bless you; make His face shine upon you; lift up His countenance upon you” and the result of His activity: “keep you; be gracious to you; give you peace.” God’s Name on His people brings them His blessing.
3.      Carries us to Jesus’ name. Prophecy of Emmanuel = “God with us”; Jesus (Yeshua) = “YHWH is salvation” (He will save His people from their sins).
4.      Nothing accidental or insignificant about the choosing of Jesus’ name. Every name and title given to God in the Bible speaks deeply of His character, His attributes, or His action toward us. Yeshua speaks of the LORD, YHWH, bringing salvation. Just what Jesus would do in saving us from our sins.
5.      What about the timing of Jesus being named? At His circumcision, the 8th day. Old covenant of God with Abraham and descendants. Every male child circumcised on the 8th day; brought into God’s covenant—a people set apart from the Gentiles. Sign of offense—seems shameful, gross, or even just foolish to our human reason. “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Cor. 1:27-29)
6.      This foreshadows the cross. What seems foolish to our human reason, in God’s mysterious way, is powerful to accomplish His purpose. Christ crucified is the power and wisdom of God, for our salvation. Reason cannot even comprehend it. Only by faith can we grasp the mystery. “Even if I think that this is foolish and scandalous, nevertheless I will give glory and praise to God that He is wiser than I am and knows what He should do. He does not need my advice or counsel at all about what He does….then you put aside your little opinions and come to another way of thinking and judging so that you say ‘That seems good and right to me because God is pleased with it, even if I may never understand it.’”(Luther)
7.      Jesus’ naming happens at the same time that He sheds His first drops of blood for us, which is fitting, because it was through the shedding of His blood on the cross that He would take our sins away. Obeying the law for us already on the 8th day. Even though Jesus had no sin in Himself, He underwent each requirement of the law for our sakes. Born under the law to redeem those under the law.
8.      What did that ancient law of circumcision mean for the Jews? That they were set apart from the nations. That through their offspring, Jesus, the Savior of the world would be born. Also, the cutting off of the foreskin represented the putting away of sin and evil. See how Scripture gives this spiritual dimension to circumcision: Moses told the Israelites to “circumcise their heart” and be stubborn no longer. To circumcise their hearts was to put away evil and seek to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and mind. Jeremiah the prophet and later the NT deacon Stephen described the people as having “uncircumcised hearts and ears.” Their ears were uncircumcised because they were unwilling to listen to God’s Word, and scorned it. Circumcision was both an outward reminder of the putting away of sin, and also an inward “cutting away” of sin and stubbornness from hearts and ears.
9.      The physical circumcision “made with hands” on the body is no longer—but the spiritual circumcision of hearts and ears has been incorporated into the NT sacrament of Holy Baptism. Jesus’ circumcision prepares for us the spiritual circumcision of baptism. A “circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses” (Col. 2).
10.  This “circumcision” in our baptism, the putting away of our sinful flesh, leads us to live the new life given to us in Christ in baptism—life lead to faith working in love, to keeping God’s commandments.
11.  So Jesus took on circumcision, as the fulfillment of that marker and promise to Abraham. Took it on to fulfill the law for us. Shows His true humanity. Yet at the same time, the giving of His name “Jesus” shows us that He is truly God. That He is the One who saves His people from their sins. Just as He took this on Himself for us, so also He took on death for us, even though we didn’t deserve it. His name means blessing for us, just as in the benediction given to Aaron the high priest, because where God’s name is placed, there is His blessing and gracious activity. Where YHWH blesses, we are kept and preserved as His people. Where YHWH makes His face shine upon us, we are shown His grace and undeserved love. Where YHWH lifts up His face upon us, He gives us His peace. God places His name on His people when He cleanses them from their sin.
12.  So what’s in a Name? For us, Jesus’ name means forgiveness. In OT circumcision a name was given, because the sinful flesh had been put away. In NT baptism Jesus’ name, God’s name is put on you, because your sinful flesh has been put away. And you are also given a new name: “Christian.” With that new name comes your new identity as a follower of Christ. A new creation. Spiritually you have been circumcised, so that your heart may be ready to believe and trust God, and your ears be ready to hear His Word, and that your hands and feet would be ready to obey and do His will by Loving God and your neighbor. Jesus’ name means salvation for us, and may we guard and keep His name honorable in our lives, and spread it’s fame to all nations! Jesus’ name is life for us, and for all these reasons His Name is above all other names to be blessed. Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. Look up some examples of Biblical names that bore great significance for their bearers. Genesis 2:7, 20; 3:20; 4:1, 25; 5:29; 17:7-8, 15; etc. 1 Samuel 4:21; Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:21-23. What do the name and title “Jesus” and “Emmanuel” mean?

  1. Numbers 6 is sometimes called the “Aaronic benediction” because it was the “word of blessing” that God gave Aaron, the (first) High Priest of Israel to speak over the children of Israel. The threefold blessing set the pattern for Jesus’ “baptismal formula” that uses the name of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). In the benediction from Numbers 6 that we use at the conclusion of each service, how does God’s movement toward His people in the first part of each phrase cause the blessings described in the second part of each phrase?

  1. What was the connection between Jesus’ name and when it was given? What was circumcision? Genesis 17:6-14. Why was the shedding of blood particularly significant in connection with the meaning Jesus’ name? cf. Matt. 1:21-23. What spiritual meaning was also given by God to circumcision? Deut. 10:15-16; 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; 6:10; Acts 7:51

  1. What is the new “circumcision made without hands” for Christians? What impact does it have for the way we are to live? Colossians 2:11-15; Gal. 5:6; 6:15; 1 Cor. 7:17-20.

  1. How does circumcision cause a stumbling block to our human reason? Why does God work in such ways—contrary to human reason? 1 Cor. 1:27-29. What does this foreshadow? How was Jesus’ first shedding of blood connected to His final shedding of blood for us? 

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