Born to Redeem

“And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Luke 2:21)

Jsus’ circumcision was probably the most important thing that Jesus did under the Old Testament Jewish ceremonial law. Many of his fellow Jews rejected him but if he had not been circumcised even fewer of his fellow Jews would have accepted him as a prophet much less as the promised Messiah.

The first big controversy in the early church was whether or not non-Jews had to be circumcised in order to be Christians. After much discussion they decided it was not necessary. But under the Old Testament Jewish ceremonial law circumcision was very necessary. God had given the Jews the covenant of circumcision all the way back to Abraham. It was a huge part of their identity as God’s chosen people.

As Paul says in Galatians 4, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, [5] to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)

Jesus was born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law. He was born not only under the moral law that applies to everyone but he was also born under the Old Testament Jewish ceremonial law.

And there were other things in addition to circumcision that Jesus did under the law.

He was dedicated to the Lord at age 40 days: “And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord [23] (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’) [24] and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:22-24)

This is when Simeon met Jesus and spoke the words we use in our liturgy: “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; [30] for my eyes have seen your salvation [31] that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, [32] a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)

Jesus was obedient to his parents, especially noted when he was 12: “And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:51)

Another example of Jesus being born under the law was when he was baptized by John as we read in Matthew 3:

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. [14] John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ [15] But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented.” (Matthew 3:13-15)

These are all examples of how Jesus was born and lived under the law. But living under the law was never meant to be a permanent arrangement either for Jesus or for us.

In Galatians 3 Paul points out, “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. [25] But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, (Galatians 3:24-25)

The law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. Just as a child’s guardian is only meant to be in charge until a child reaches adulthood, the law was meant to be in charge only until Christ came. It was never meant to be permanently in charge of us or of the Jews.

Many people still think the law is in charge, but it is not. Many people still think that if we are to be saved it is up to us. We must keep the law, do all the right things avoid the really bad things and then God will accept us. But this is not the case. The law was put in charge to lead us to Christ. It was never meant to be a permanent arrangement.

Being born and living under the law was something Jesus did voluntarily. As the eternal, almighty Son of God, Jesus did not have to be born or live under the law. He is above the law. And just as Jesus showed that he was born under the law he also showed that he was above the law too.

Every one of his miracles was a demonstration of his being above the law. In doing his miracles, he literally had to suspend the laws of nature. When he gave sight to the blind, when he fed the 5,000, when he calmed the storm, he showed that he is above the law. Most importantly he showed that he is above the law by rising from the dead.

So the one who is above the law, voluntarily was born under the law to redeem those under the law that we might receive the full rights of sons. He did all this willingly. There was not a law somewhere that said Jesus had to die for our sins. He did it willingly.

And because he did so we now live not under the law but in Christ: “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:26-27)

Or as Paul says in Galatians 2: “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Now it does not follow that since we are no longer under the law that we do not obey the law. It is true, we are no longer under the Old Testament Jewish ceremonial laws, but we still are obliged to keep the moral law of the Ten Commandments.

But we do so not because we think that we are saved by doing so. We do not trust in our obedience to the law we trust in Christ.

There were many ways that Jesus showed he was born under the law. But he was born under the law to redeem those of us who were under the law that we might receive the full rights of sons.

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