Bible Insights

The Eighth Day

Baby Jesus in the Temple

Luke 2:21–24

He was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. (Luke 2:21)

The shepherds arrived shortly after Jesus’s birth to see the child the angel had told them about. Our story picks up eight days later, when it’s time to circumcise him.

We’re left to consider what happened in the days between these two events. Is this a private time for Mary and Joseph to spend adapting to the needs of a newborn and learning to care for him?

Do they spend time in awe, marveling at baby Jesus, contemplating who he will become, and considering what he will do?

I suspect they do, but they may also have some unexpected guests show up too.

Remember, when the shepherds leave, they tell others about their experience, spreading the news of Jesus’s arrival around town. Based on their testimony, I wonder how many curious people stop by to see baby Jesus.

As a result, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus could have seen a steady stream of visitors. Did any of these guests show up with food or gifts for the family?

Since they’re away from home and staying with farm animals, Mary and Joseph could certainly use any help they might receive.

When their baby is eight days old, it’s time to circumcise him. They name him Jesus. This is what the angel told Joseph in his dream, and it aligns with what Gabriel told Mary when he appeared to her.

It’s significant that God independently told both Mary and Joseph the same thing: to name their son Jesus. This fact helps confirm for them that they both heard from God.

They go to the temple for the purification ceremony prescribed by Moses. There they consecrate the baby to God (Exodus 13:2) and offer a sacrifice (Exodus 13:12 and Leviticus 12:8).

Though this seems most appropriate for Jesus, this isn’t unique to him. This ceremony is prescribed for everyone by the law of Moses.

Since the temple is in Jerusalem and they’re in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph must travel there. The Bible doesn’t say how long this journey takes them, but modern maps show these two towns to be about 5.5 miles (9 km) apart.

Under normal conditions, this trip would take about two hours by foot. But remember, Mary has just given birth, so they will certainly go at a slower pace.

Again, we don’t know if they travel by foot or if Mary has a donkey to ride. Regardless, she (or Joseph) holds baby Jesus the entire trip.

Imagine clutching an eight-day-old baby, trying to keep him comfortable and not jostle him along the way. Traveling to the temple, as commanded by God, is not just a simple walk.

How can we model Mary and Joseph’s obedience to God?

What is God telling us to do right now?

Who can we help today by delivering a meal, offering a gift, or providing encouragement?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we celebrate Jesus’s first few days on earth, may we be mindful of what he came to do and who we are through him.

[This devotional is taken from the December 27 reading from The Advent of Jesus.]

Celebrate Christmas in a fresh way with The Advent of Jesus. It’s a forty-day devotional that prepares our hearts to celebrate the arrival of Jesus in an engaging read. Begin your Advent journey now and gain a greater sense of wonder for the season.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.