In that little city of Bethlehem Joseph and Mary would find much to do. Joseph would be required to see to the enrollment of himself and his family. Then, when the eighth day had come, that important ceremony of circumcision had to be performed. Like Zecharias and Elisabeth, Joseph and Mary did not seek a name of their own for the new-born child. The angel had named him. Jesus was so named because his name had a great meaning.
It was the same name as that which had been borne by a great warrior and leader in Israelitish history. The one who defeated the Amalekites in the valley of Rephidim; one of the two spies who brought back a good report of the land of Canaan; the one who was chosen by God to succeed Moses in leading the children of Israel across Jordan into the Promised Land was called Joshua. And the name Jesus is but another form of Joshua, which comes from a word meaning “a saviour.” Matthew tells us that this name was given to Jesus because “he shall save his people from their sins.”
And now we pass over thirty-three days more, until a further ceremony ordained by the Law of Moses must be fulfilled. This was the offering of a sacrifice by Mary so that she might be called “clean”.
And so, forty days after the birth of Jesus, Joseph and Mary, with the child, make their way to Jerusalem, there to offer the sacrifice required of by the Law. For a poor man this offering was to be two turtle-doves or two young pigeons, and Joseph, who was but a carpenter, would not be able to offer the more costly offering of a lamb, a young pigeon and a turtle dove. Having given their doves or pigeons to a priest, they would patiently wait whilst the priest offered the sacrifice, at the end of which offering he would come, and sprinkling a few drops of the blood upon Mary, would pronounce her “clean.”
But this was not all. The first-born son in every family, and even the first-born of every clean animal, was given to God. After the angel of death had passed over the houses of the Israelites when they were about to leave Egypt, but hade stayed to slay the first-born son of every Egyptian house, God had said that the first-born should be sanctified to Him. Only upon payment of a sum of money could a Jewish father keep his first-born son. Unless he was “redeemed” by this sum of money, the first-born son must serve the Lord continually. You will recall the story of Hannah, and how Samuel, her first-born son, was not redeemed, but “lent to the Lord as long as he liveth.” Upon this same morning, then, when Mary had been pronounced “clean”, Jesus was presented to the Lord. Joseph would pay to a priest the suym of five shekels, and then after the prist had blessed the child, they could depart.
Upon this particular morning, however, they are detained. Something unusual happens…
Excerpt from The Life of Jesus Christ by W.R. Mitchell
Illustration: Rare Book Division, The New York Public Library. “Turtur auritus. Turtle-Dove.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-70fa-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99