Sunday, February 2, 2014
The Feast of the Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord
Luke 2:22-40; Hebrews 2:14-18; 1 Samuel 1:21-28
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The Presentation of our Lord in the temple is similar to His circumcision on the eighth day of His infant life and to His baptism by John in the Jordan thirty years later in that none of these acts were necessary for Jesus who alone was holy and righteous and without sin. Nevertheless, He submitted to these works of the Law for you so that all righteousness would be fulfilled.
For, the Law commanded that a firstborn son must be redeemed with a sacrifice. This Law was directly connected to the Passover, that terrible night in which God required the lives of the firstborn sons of all of Egypt. Then, the firstborn sons of Israel were spared by the shedding of the blood of a firstborn, unblemished male lamb. From that point forward, all firstborn sons were holy to the LORD and must be redeemed by a substitutionary sacrifice.
Thus, Joseph and Mary came to the temple to do for Jesus what the Law required; they presented their firstborn son to the LORD and offered the required sacrifice to redeem Him and to purify His mother. The difference in this case, of course, was that Jesus had no sin or guilt of His own. Thus, His submission to the Law was as your substitute, redeeming you from the Law that would require your blood and life.
The Law required that this sacrifice be offered forty days after birth. Likewise, the Law required sacrifice to be made in purification of the mother, thus it was necessary for Mary to present herself in the temple as well. Today is precisely forty days since Christmas, at which we celebrated the birth of Jesus. Therefore, today we remember and celebrate both the Purification of Mary and the Presentation of our Lord. However, this does not represent the first time that our Lord submitted to the Law on our behalf. Indeed, on New Year’s Eve we celebrated the Circumcision and Name of Jesus, eight days after His birth in fulfillment of the Law.
All this He has done for you. As the preacher to the Hebrews has put it, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, [the Son of God] likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil […] For surely it is not angels that He helps, but He helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
In the Presentation of our Lord in the temple, the prophecy of Malachi is fulfilled: “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple; and the Messenger of the Covenant in whom you delight, behold, He is coming, says the LORD of hosts.” The LORD had promised that the second temple would be greater and more glorious than the first. The truth, however, was that the second temple was considerably less glorious and inferior to the first. However, the LORD had in mind, not a temple of mortar and stone, but a temple of flesh and blood. The second temple, within which the glory of the LORD would dwell with men once again, was not the temple built by Herod, but the temple that was conceived by the Virgin Mary when the Glory of the LORD overshadowed her and she conceived the Son of God in her pure and holy womb. Years later, in the days leading up to His arrest, trial, and execution, standing outside the temple walls Jesus would teach His disciples saying, “Tear down the walls of this temple, and I will raise it up again on the third day.” The temple to which Jesus referred was His body.
Though the sacrifice made that day was not necessary for Jesus, it was for you. Therefore, our Lord was not redeemed, for no redemption was necessary, but He was presented to the LORD as holy in your place. He was presented so that He could become the substitutionary sacrifice providing your redemption. In His conception and birth, Jesus became the temple of the LORD’s glory, our Great High Priest, and the unblemished sacrificial Lamb of God’s offering. This is why aged Simeon prayed to God saying, “My eyes have seen Your salvation that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples.” Jesus is God’s salvation. Jesus is God’s offering for the sins of the world. Jesus’ blood will mark the doorposts and lintels of this world that the Angel of Death might pass over once again those who believe and are baptized, having Jesus’ blood cleanse and mark their foreheads and their hearts.
Likewise, aged Anna spoke of Jesus to “all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem,” confessing that Jesus was this redemption. He who needed no redemption was presented that He might become the redemption of those indebted to God by sin and death. There was no lamb for a sacrifice, but Jesus was the Lamb of God’s providence. God’s favor was upon Him, and He grew and became filled with wisdom that He might be anointed the Christ in Holy Baptism and become God’s sacrificial offering upon the cross, His altar and throne. And, because He has done all things well and His Father is well pleased with Him, He has raised Him from the dead and He has ascended to the right hand of His Father from whence He reigns and rules over all things. He is our Great High Priest, even as He is the sacrificial meal of forgiveness, life, and salvation. And, as His holy, innocent blood pours over the doorways of your mouths, the Angel of Death continues to pass over, and you are forgiven and live.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.