performed in hospitals now. But not then.
And then as now, circumcision is the first and most basic mitzvah (commandment or law) to be fulfilled for a Jewish baby boy.
Joseph and Mary come to Jerusalem. There they present Jesus to the LORD in the ancient practice of redemption of the firstborn son (pidyon ha ben). Since Jesus is Mary’s firstborn, and as the author of Colossians later asserts, “the firstborn of all creation” (1:15), he is presented then bought back or redeemed after he reaches 31 days old.
Joseph and Mary would have paid a small sum (five silver shekels in biblical times; today, usually five silver dollars) and performed a brief ritual in the Temple to fulfill the mitzvah. (Numbers 18:15-16)
While the family is at the Temple for the redemption ceremony, two righteous and devout Jews, Simeon and the prophetess Anna, recognize Jesus as a sign of God’s salvation and praise God, for this “light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” who would himself redeem Jerusalem. (Luke 2:32, 2:38)
From his earliest days, Jesus is raised in a strong and beautiful Jewish home. From circumcision to naming to redemption to offering sacrifices, Mary and Joseph do “everything required by the law of the Lord.”
Not from a sense of empty duty or obligation, I suspect, but a profound connection to God and Torah and love of their child, Jesus.
After these mitzvot (plural of mitzvah) are fulfilled, Jesus and his parents “returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.” At home in Nazareth the mitzvot, blessings, prophesies and praises take root: “the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” (Luke 2:39-40)
Excerpted from the forthcoming book, "The Jew Named Jesus" (Abingdon Press, 2013) by Rebekah Simon-Peter.