The ritual of circumcision existed before the people of Israel came into being (yes, Abraham was their forefather). This was a ritual the physically made the people of Israel different than those around them. It was (and is) the ceremony that “enters” a boy into the covenant. In the modern ceremony (which, in all likelihood, had similarities to the ceremony John went through), the parents respond with, “As this child has entered into the covenant, so may he enter into Torah, the wedding canopy, and good deeds.” This is also the time when the boy officially receives his Hebrew name.
While we’re certain that John didn’t get married, he certainly learned (“entered”) the Torah and did “good” deeds. When we recognize the receiving of a name as part of this ceremony, we understand where the family is a bit confused regarding the name that John receives, which isn’t Hebrew. John’s name in and of itself indicates that John is set apart at the tender age of 8 days (plus the whole angel visitation) to be different. The Brit Milah is a big family occasion. What a time to make waves!
While obeying the (Jewish) Law is good, obeying the Law for the Law’s sake is not. As we talked about a few days ago, the Law was never the point. It was a relationship with God. The event of Brit Milah was both the entering into the covenant community and recognizing the One who created that community…God.
Often we get sidetracked by the good things: church, Bible reading, Life Groups, even prayer. As we “check-off” the list, we neglect a relationship with the One around whom all these revolve. The tasks overtake the relationship. That being said, there are far too many people who say, “I can worship God better (here) than at (church/life groups).” They might be correct…for a time. However, when we worship God in isolation, we become the only one who holds us accountable. Except in rare cases, that means the worship (let alone the relationship) fades away.
When Moses talked about circumcising the heart, it wasn’t supposed to be a task to be “checked-off”, it was a relationship to be had.
1) When we look at the tradition of circumcision, we can see the similarity with infant baptism. What are the similarities? What are the differences? Why do those differences matter?
2) At the circumcision, there are 3 aspects of life that are addressed. What are they? How do they echo the Christian life?
3) Age is no barrier to making waves; John’s parents were well advanced in years, and their son was 8 days old. What does this tell you about the age barriers in living the Christian life? What does this tell you about making a difference for God’s kingdom?