Luke 2:21-40, Leviticus 12:1-8
I love this story from Scripture, when Mary and Joseph present Jesus in the temple. I love the image of old Simeon there, eager to see the Lord’s anointed. I love the mysterious Anna, who, like Simeon, was waiting and ready for the moment the Holy Spirit made known to her the presence of the Christ.
But there’s a detail in this story in Luke we would miss if we didn’t have Leviticus 12. In Leviticus, we read about the ceremonial purification Mary had come to observe. The very fact that Mary and Joseph were coming out of faithfulness to the Old Testament law shows that they were not theologically rogue in any way. They were committed to their faith—an ancient faith.
The other thing we see is that Mary and Joseph were poor. The offering required for Mary’s purification was a lamb. But in Leviticus 12:8, we find a caveat. If the woman cannot afford a lamb, she can bring two turtledoves or young pigeons instead. What did Mary and Joseph show up with? Birds.
Mary and Joseph were poor. Jesus was born into this world poor.
Think of the imagery here. The couple who parented the Son of God did not have “sufficient means” to afford the required lamb. They could not afford the sacrifice the law required. So they came in a posture of poverty—still living according to the law, but operating as people who knew they could not live up to the best the law required. Neither can any of us.
When we come before God, looking to be cleansed, the best we can bring is the offering of the poor and needy. The beauty here is that God provided for Mary and Joseph, and for us, the greater sacrifice we need.
As you wind down another calendar year, and bring to a close this holiday season, spend a little time today mulling over two beautiful truths drawn from these passages. First, Jesus’s own parents could not afford to deliver the full requirement of the law. Let that comfort you when you are aware of your own shortcomings.
And second, Jesus was born into this world poor. In 2 Corinthians, we read why this is so significant:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: Though he was rich, for your sake he became poor,
so that by his poverty you might become rich (8:9).
This is the point of His life, His death, and His resurrection—that He might take our poverty and give us His wealth. What a gift. Come, Lord Jesus.
Written by Russ Ramsey