COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE
by Stergios N. Sakkos, University Professor
After Jesus’ birth (2:1-20) the evangelist recounts some events of his infancy, which had to do with the observance of legal formalities. Jesus wanted to fulfil the Mosaic law precisely, as he explicitly told John the Baptist shortly before his baptism: “for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” (Mt 3:15). The apostle Paul explains "... he had to be made like his brethren in every respect" (Heb 2:17). In the letter to Galatians, it is emphasized that the Lord submitted to the law in order to redeem us from its slavery, to free us from its restrictions and its curse, to give us the freedom that befits to God’s children (see Ga 3:13; 4:4-5).
2,21. Καὶ ὅτε ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι ὀκτὼ τοῦ περιτεμεῖν τὸ παιδίον, καὶ ἐκλήθη τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦς, τὸ κληθὲν ὑπὸ τοῦ ἀγγέλου πρὸ τοῦ συλληφθῆναι αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ.
2:21 And when eight days had passed and the time had come for the circumcising of the child, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
Jesus was circumcised eight days after his birth (see comments on 1:59). If he had not been circumcised, the Jews would have been able to question his descent from the line of Abraham and would have rejected him as an alien; then it would have been impossible for them to accept that he was the expected Messiah.
Circumcision was undoubtedly a very humiliating and painful event for Jesus. The humiliation of the manger and the sacrifice of the cross meet in this event. God’s Son, the beloved God’s Son, is circumcised in order to be accepted by Israel! The one who gave us freedom appeared as a slave after the circumcision, a debtor to keep the whole law (see Gal 5:3)! He voluntarily sacrificed a part of himself, foreshadowing his complete offering by his sacrifice on the cross on Calvary.
After the Lord’s redemptive sacrifice, circumcision, of course, is of no validity or benefit. It is not circumcision that secures salvation, but faith (see Rom 3:30; Gal 5:6-6:15). Moreover, circumcision was given to Abraham as a seal of this faith (see Rom 4:11; Gal 3:6-7). Believers as members of Christ’s Church, bear the Lord’s circumcision on themselves, since they have clothed his circumcised body with the sacrament of Baptism (Gal 3:27). They need, therefore, no other circumcision, but only the circumcision of the heart, that is, the circumcision of the passions (see Col 2:11).
The name “Jesus” was announced by the angel to the Virgin “before he was conceived in the womb”, on the day of the Annunciation (see Lk 1:31) and later to Joseph (Mt 1:21). The conception of Jesus took place on the day of the Annunciation, as I have explained, after the Virgin Mary’s unreserved consent (see Lk 1:38)