In Luke 2:21–24, we read of Jesus as a baby, but in doing so we are presented with a glimpse of the holy service Jesus will perform as an adult.
In other words, we see an important connection between his initial coming and his subsequent activities. While this passage is rarely taught, we believe there is much to learn about Jesus – as both baby and man – by reflecting on the events that unfold here.
The scene unfolds with the gospel writer, Luke, telling us that eight days have passed since Jesus was born. This is noteworthy because this period marks the time of the Child’s circumcision and the time of Mary’s purification. These practices were mandated in the OT law, in the Torah (see Leviticus 12:1-3, 8). In other words, Mary and Jesus both have to go to Jerusalem to fulfill biblical commands. Mary needs to offer certain sacrifices in order to reintegrate back into society, while Jesus needs to be dedicated to the Lord. This practice for Jesus is similar to our baby dedications today, but with so much more significance – and the rest of the passage here in Luke highlights this.
There is something very unique in Jesus’s dedication at the Temple.
Mary and Joseph do not actually present Him according to “the Law of Moses” (verse 22), which, according to Exodus 13, required an offering of silver. However, instead of giving money to the Temple on Jesus’ behalf, they present Jesus Himself to God (“they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord”; verse 22). The idea is that Jesus is given into holy service to God, like a Levite would have been in the Old Testament, but now with even greater depth and weight.
Jesus becomes the greater Levite in this dedication scene because He is holy to the Lord.
In our text, the phrase “holy to the Lord” is not used of firstborn sons in the OT. But here the gospel writer includes it to highlight Jesus’ service. The point is this: Jesus will offer up holy service to God. His life and mission is and will be entirely marked out for service to God. In other words, Jesus will serve as the greatest of servants to God. He will be greater than the Levites. He will be greater than all the priests. He will be the highest of the high priests. It is in this way that the Child is a priestly Child. It is in this way that the Child is appointed for holy service.
So what does all of this mean for advent?
In Luke 2:21 – 24, we see that the Child Jesus is the priestly Child, and His coming will bring salvation, judgment, and unity. Jesus is coming to earth to perform a holy service. He is coming to become the greatest priest, whose blood will purify us forever. To recognize his position as such, we must look to the model of the relationship between the Israelites and the Levitical priests in the OT: we must come before the now one and only priest, confess our sins, offer our lives to his service, and be purified.
Missed the beginning of our Taleh advent series in Luke, check this out.