Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 3 Study # 1
Thesis: The name, "Jesus", is the one-word theological summary of all divine revelation.
Introduction: This morning we are going to begin a study of Luke 2:21-39. It is a continuation of Luke's presentation of his perspective of Jesus as the Servant-Mirror of Yahweh. His effort began with a very deliberate parallelism between the birth of "John" and the birth of "Jesus". This is easily seen by reading Luke 1-2, and it is highlighted by 1:80 and 2:40. Interestingly, a major part of this parallelism is the focus upon the event recorded in 2:21; the "naming" of the Son of David on the day He was circumcised. The precursor to 2:21 was 1:59-66. In that text, there is a very significant "argument" about the identity-tag of Elizabeth's son. By contrast, there is a one-verse statement in 2:21 that could easily be dismissed for its brevity. But, this morning we are not going to "dismiss" the text. We are going to look into it. We are going to consider the connections that exist in the text. They are two: 1) the "connection" between the 8th day circumcision and the "Name"; and 2) the "connection" between the "pre-conception insistence of the angel" and the "Name". To see what Luke is telling us, we are going to look at the "Name" and then we are going to look at the "connections".
April 24, 2005
- I. "Jesus" in Luke's Record.
- A. The Name is a sentence-name that has its major "meaning-illustration" in the Old Testament identity of Joshua.
- B. The Name is deliberately set, by Luke, into a HUGE theological context.
- 1. First century Judaism was the end result of a centuries-long incremental hijacking of the truth about God so that the "perspective" of God in Israel was so "righteous" that even the true people of God (like Zacharias, Elizabeth, and Mary) were unable to "relate" to Him except in "knee-knocking terror". All the rest simply despised Him and wished for His death.
- a. This is not unlike the 21st century hijacking of the truth in American religion as illustrated by both the "Creation Care Evangelicals", who want Evangelicalism to become synonymous with cloth diapers and recycled paper products, and the "Joan of Arcadia" presentation of a "content-free" Hollywood theology that is completely divorced from the Scriptures. The difference is, however, that the hijackings went in opposite directions: the first century had a grace-less God and the 21st century has a standard-free God.
- b. This was addressed by Luke in the detailed narrative about "John" and the extended paragraph about the argument over what he was to be called. The "correction" Luke brings to the table is the focus upon Grace.
- 2. The theological issues of Luke cannot be over-stated.
- a. There is a hint of this even in the language of 2:21 with its emphatic "kai".
- b. The connection between "John" and "Jesus" must be understood.
- 1) Without "John" there is no legitimate "Jesus". There is no salvation apart from grace.
- 2) Without "Jesus" there is no "John". There is no grace where there is no divine operation to bring it to pass.
- C. The Point of the Name: Grace in Operation.
- 1. We must understand what "Grace" is [God's action in the place of, and on the behalf of, men under His "demandingness" so that they get credit for His work upon the point of faith].
- 2. We must not twist it into a mindless ineffectiveness [the point of Grace is that God acts; not that He does not act].
- II. "Jesus" in "Connection" With Circumcision.
- A. Clearly the two "naming" texts in Luke signal the "lack of identity" apart from participation in circumcision.
- 1. In the Genesis 17 text, "circumcision" was the determining factor as to whether a person would be acceptable within the community of the "summoned/promised".
- 2. Being excluded from that community was the equivalent of being a "nobody".
- 3. Even for Abram, the circumcision was attended by a change in "identity".
- B. In Paul's (Luke's theological mentor) summary of Jesus' association with the rituals of Judaism (found in Galatians 4:4) Jesus' circumcision was an absolute part of His "birth of a woman, under Law, for the purpose of redemption".
- C. In Luke's presentation, "Jesus" and circumcision are connected with the Genesis 17 issue of "summons".
- 1. The reason Jesus came as "Grace in Operation" is that we stand under the "summons" of God...with enormous negative consequences for "deafness".
- 2. "Grace in Operation" means addressing the "demandingness" of "summons" (Law).
- III. "Jesus" in "Connection" With the Pre-conception Demand of the Angel.
- A. Luke's reference is to 1:31.
- B. Luke's point is emphatic (before the test-tube era, "conceived in the womb" is redundant for emphasis' sake).
- C. Luke's meaning is driven by the angel's answer to Mary's "How?" question.
- 1. In 1:37 Gabriel pointedly says that the issue of "Jesus" is that the "promise" of God is absolutely sure.
- 2. This is directly tied to the Genesis 17-18 text where "promise" is "laughed at" by both Abram and Sarai and both their laughter and their identity changes (to Abraham and Sarah) are confronted by the question of 18:14.
- D. That Luke insists that we understand that "Jesus" is called "Grace in Operation" for the specific reason that neither "summons", nor "promise", have any good significance to man if "Jesus" doesn't come. Under "summons" he will perish; without "promise" he will perish.
- 1. "Jesus" is the fulfillment of the "summons" and makes a way for that fulfillment to be worked out in us day by day in spite of the culture and the heavy clouds of deception.
- 2. "Jesus" is the foundation of the "promise" and makes the future absolute for those who trust in the words of God, none of which come without power.
- IV. Our Response?
- A. "Jesus" is not just a 2,000 year old "story".
- B. There is "sufficient grace" today for a life of godliness in Christ Jesus for those who refuse to turn a deaf ear to the summons.
- C. There is a "sufficient foundation in promise" today for an active expectation of the promised glory for those who refuse to treat the Word of God as an inconsequential myth.
- D. Church planting in the 21st century is a daunting task given two things: one is the refusal by most to take God's words seriously so that they carry weight; and the other is the criteria for judgment regarding things "religious" that the vast majority of people use -- their own religious traditions.