Summary: Why did Jesus need to be redeemed?
Presentation of Christ in the Temple
With all the festivities going on around Christmas, it is easy to make the mistake that Jesus was a Christian. But He wasn’t - He was an Orthodox Jew.
Story: When I was younger, I used to wonder why on earth Matthew and Luke recorded the genealogies of Christ. That is until I met Gideon Miller.
Gideon Miller was an extraordinary man. He was about 5’6” and had size 16 shoes. He was married to a German woman who had been a member of the Hitler Youth. Which was astounding because Gideon had been born a Jew.
After the Second World War, he had been granted a gambling licence in Las Vegas, which in those days was a licence to print money.
But Gideon had a drinking problem and soon lost everything. When he eventually realised that he had a problem, he started going to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous - which used to meet in the crypt of a church.
One evening he arrived a bit too early and so looked round for something to read. He picked up a New Testament and started reading Matthew’s Gospel.
He read the genealogy of Jesus and suddenly realised that Jesus wasn’t a Christian - he was a Jew!!
So he went out and bought a New Testament and began reading it regularly. And eventually he decided to give his life to Christ.
The genealogy of Christ was instrumental in bringing Gideon to know Jesus.
And this morning’s Gospel reading reminds us how Jewish Jesus was.
And why was that important?
Because God revealed - in the Old Testament - that the Messiah would be a Jew – born in the line of King David.
In our reading this morning, St. Luke mentions three Jewish ceremonies in which the mother and child were involved–
i) The Circumcision of Christ, (which would have occurred 8 days after Jesus’ birth)
ii) The Purification of Mary (from which the
Book of Common Prayer’s service of “Churching of Women after Childbirth” is based)
iii) The Redemption of the Firstborn – or as we know it – The Presentation of Christ in the Temple.
I would like to look at the third ceremony today, “The redemption of the firstborn.” St. Luke writes as follows:
22When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took (Jesus) to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord"
To understand the significance of this ceremony,
we need a little background.
"The ceremony, consisted of the formal presentation of the child to the priest. It was also accompanied by two short benedictions
i the first one - for the law of redemption
ii the other for the gift of a firstborn son,
after which the redemption money was paid."
The basis for the ceremony was that every firstborn son born to a Jewish woman was considered "consecrated for the service" of God.
That’s the actual meaning of the Greek word hagios, which is translated as “consecrated” (NIV) or “holy” (KJV) in Luke 2:23.
However that service to God was fulfilled by the Levites. In the book of Numbers we read:
"The Lord … said to Moses, ’I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman.
The Levites are mine, for all the firstborn are mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set apart for myself every firstborn in Israel, whether man or animal. They are to be mine. I am the Lord.’ " (Numbers 3:11-13)
Since the Levites performed all the Temple duties instead of the firstborn, the parents of the firstborn were required to pay a redemption fee. And the fee was set at five shekels per year for 12 years. (Numbers 18:15).
Story: The idea of the redemption fee might at
first blush seem a bit strange to us in 21st
Let me try and explain it. We don’t have conscription in the UK , but they do have it in Switzerland.
Every Swiss male, resident in Switzerland- when he reaches the age of 20, is required to do National Service for 17 weeks. Our oldest son, Jonny did his military service last year!
It is one of the obligations of Swiss citizenship –
to join up to be ready to defend the country in
case of war.
If, for any reason, he cannot do his military
service, he will pay a yearly tax (called the “Militär Ersatzsteuer”).
The reason for the tax is that he is paying for someone else to carry out his responsibilities towards the defence of the country.