Resources » Matthew Henry's Commentary » Luke » Chapter 2 » Verses 21–24

Verses 21–24

Our Lord Jesus, being made of a woman, was made under the law, Gal. 4:4. He was not only, as the son of a daughter of Adam, made under the law of nature, but as the son of a daughter of Abraham was made under the law of Moses; he put his neck under that yoke, though it was a heavy yoke, and a shadow of good things to come. Though its institutions were beggarly elements, and rudiments of this world, as the apostle calls them, Christ submitted to it, that he might with the better grace cancel it, and set it aside for us.

Now here we have two instances of his being made under that law, and submitting to it.

I. He was circumcised on the very day that the law appointed (Luke 2:21): When eight days were accomplished, that day seven-night that he was born, they circumcised him. 1. Though it was a painful operation (Surely a bloody husband thou has been, said Zipporah to Moses, because of the circumcision, Exod. 4:25), yet Christ would undergo it for us; nay, therefore he submitted to it, to give an instance of his early obedience, his obedience unto blood. Then he shed his blood by drops, which afterwards he poured out in purple streams. 2. Though it supposed him a stranger, that was by that ceremony to be admitted into covenant with God, whereas he had always been his beloved Son; nay, though it supposed him a sinner, that needed to have his filthiness taken away, whereas he had no impurity or superfluity of naughtiness to be cut off, yet he submitted to it; nay, therefore he submitted to it, because he would be made in the likeness, not only of flesh, but of sinful flesh, Rom. 8:3. 3. Though thereby he made himself a debtor to the whole law (Gal. 5:3), yet he submitted to it; nay, therefore he submitted to it, because he would take upon him the form of a servant, though he was free-born. Christ was circumcised, (1.) That he might own himself of the seed of Abraham, and of that nation of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, and who was to take on him the seed of Abraham, Heb. 2:16. (2.) That he might own himself a surety for our sins, and an undertaker for our safety. Circumcision (saith Dr. Goodwin) was our bond, whereby we acknowledged ourselves debtors to the law; and Christ, by being circumcised, did as it were set his hand to it, being made sin for us. The ceremonial law consisted much in sacrifices; Christ hereby obliged himself to offer, not the blood of bulls or goats, but his own blood, which none that ever were circumcised before could oblige themselves to. (3.) That he might justify, and put an honour upon, the dedication of the infant seed of the church to God, by that ordinance which is the instituted seal of the covenant, and of the righteousness which is by faith, as circumcision was (Rom. 4:11), and baptism is. And certainly his being circumcised at eight days old doth make much more for the dedicating of the seed of the faithful by baptism in their infancy than his being baptized at thirty years old doth for the deferring of it till they are grown up. The change of the ceremony alters not the substance.

At his circumcision, according to the custom, he had his name given him; he was called Jesus or Joshua, for he was so named of the angel to his mother Mary before he was conceived in the womb (Luke 1:31), and to his supposed father Joseph after, Matt. 1:21. [1.] It was a common name among the Jews, as John was (Col. 4:11), and in this he would be made like unto his brethren. [2.] It was the name of two eminent types of him in the Old Testament, Joshua, the success or of Moses, who was commander of Israel, and conqueror of Canaan; and Joshua, the high priest, who was therefore purposely crowned, that he might prefigure Christ as a priest upon his throne, Zech. 6:11, 13. [3.] It was very significant of his undertaking. Jesus signifies a Saviour. He would be denominated, not from the glories of his divine nature, but from his gracious designs as Mediator; he brings salvation.

II. He was presented in the temple. This was done with an eye to the law, and at the time appointed by the law, when he was forty days old, when the days of her purification were accomplished, Luke 2:22. Many copies, and authentic ones, read auton for autes, the days of their purification, the purification both of the mother and of the child, for so it was intended to be by the law; and our Lord Jesus, though he had no impurity to be cleansed from, yet submitted to it, as he did to circumcision, because he was made sin for us; and that, as by the circumcision of Christ we might be circumcised, in the virtue of our union and communion with him, with a spiritual circumcision made without hands (Col. 2:11), so in the purification of Christ we might be spiritually purified from the filthiness and corruption which we brought into the world with us. Now, according to the law,

1. The child Jesus, being a first-born son, was presented to the Lord, in one of the courts of the temple. The law is here recited (Luke 2:23): Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord, because by a special writ of protection the first-born of the Egyptians were slain by the destroying angel; so that Christ, as first-born, was a priest by a title surer than that of Aaron’s house. Christ was the first-born among many brethren, and was called holy to the Lord, so as never any other was; yet he was presented to the Lord as other first-born were, and no otherwise. Though he was newly come out of the bosom of the Father, yet he was presented to him by the hands of a priest, as if he had been a stranger, that needed one to introduce him. His being presented to the Lord now signified his presenting himself to the Lord as Mediator, when he was caused to draw near and approach unto him, Jer. 30:21. But, according to the law, he was redeemed, Num. 18:15. The first-born of many shalt thou redeem, and five shekels was the value, Lev. 27:6; Num. 18:16. But probably in case of poverty the priest was allowed to take less, or perhaps nothing; for no mention is made of it here. Christ was presented to the Lord, not to be brought back, for his ear was bored to God’s door-post to serve him for ever; and though he is not left in the temple as Samuel was, to minister there, yet like him he is given to the Lord as long as he lives, and ministers to him in the true temple not made with hands.

2. The mother brought her offering, Luke 2:24. When she had presented that son of hers unto the Lord who was to be the great sacrifice, she might have been excused from offering any other; but so it is said in the law of the Lord, that law which was yet in force, and therefore so it must be done, she must offer a pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons; had she been of ability, she must have brought a lamb for a burnt-offering, and a dove for a sin-offering; but, being poor, and not able to reach the price of a lamb, she brings two doves, one for a burnt-offering and the other for a sin-offering (see Lev. 12:6, 8), to teach us in every address to God, and particularly in those upon special occasions, both to give thanks to God for his mercies to us and to acknowledge with sorrow and shame our sins against him; in both we must give glory to him, nor do we ever want matter for both. Christ was not conceived and born in sin, as others are, so that there was not that occasion in his case which there is in others; yet, because he was made under the law, he complied with it. Thus it became him to fulfil all righteousness. Much more doth it become the best of men to join in confessions of sin; for who can say, I have made my heart clean?