Topic: Luke's Perspective of Jesus: Ch. 2 Message Outlines
Luke 2:21-39 (5)
by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 3 Study # 5 May 22, 2005 Lincolnton, N.C.
(157)Thesis:The sacrifices for purification indicated the need for two particular intentions on the part of the offerer: the intention to accept rebellion-guilt as real; and the intention to accept grace-forgiveness as just as real.
Introduction:The Big Picture of Luke's presentation of Mary's presentation of Jesus to the Lord is the issue of the resolution of the enmity between God and man. Enmity is a two-way street in which the Law plays a big part. On the one hand, it expresses the Justice of God and His animosity toward rebels. On the other hand, it fuels the rage of the rebels so that it burns murderously hot. By the same token, resolution is a two-way street in which Grace plays a big part. On the one hand, Grace takes on man's obligation(s) and fully meets them so that he is left without any debt whatsoever. And on the other hand, Grace addresses the rage so that it is quenched and man is moved to embrace God as both Father and Friend.
Within this "big picture", there are a myriad of details -- all of which have true significance as particulars in the "man shall live by every word" concept. The operative word here is "live". That's what Mary was doing as she and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem. She had two things she wished to do as an expression of the "life" she possessed: she wanted to "present" Jesus to God as the Instrument of His Task; and she wanted to "sacrifice" so that she could be "clean" once again after 40 days of "uncleanness".
Last week we looked at the "presentation" issue. Today we are going to look into the "sacrifice" issue.
I. The Legal Requirement.
A. In the "Law of the Lord" it was "said"...i.e., the instructions were given.
B. Those instructions were specific.
1. They focused upon the sacrifices of the poor who could not afford a lamb.
2. They required either two "turtledoves" or two "pigeons".
a. The problem here is that the translators vacillated inconsistently in the Old Testament in that there is only a difference in the kind of dove between the two words, not a significant difference in "kind of bird".
1) The word "turtledove" was a word that had links to the notion of "seeking". It is used 11 of 14 times in reference to sacrifice and is introduced to us in Genesis 15:9 where it is one of the sacrifices for the land covenant.
2) The word "pigeon" was a word that has links to "wine" and is the word used both to describe the "beloved" in the Song of Solomon as well as the deep mourning of those with great losses: very much like "wine" is both a root of joy and a deadener of pain. This bird was first introduced to us in Genesis 8:9 as it "sought rest" as it flew above the waters of the flood. It is the word translated "Jonah" in the Old Testament Book of Jonah.
b. The offerer had the option of choosing whether to go with "the searcher" or "the solver".
3. They signaled the fact that multiple issues were involved.
a. First, there is the issue of "having been banned from the essential issue of life": the access one has into the 'fellowship-presence' of Yahweh, Elohim of Life.
1) The "illustration" was of Yahweh in the Sanctuary and the "unclean" forbidden to enter there -- "picturing" the "distance" in the face of which relationships cannot survive.
2) The fundamental impact of "uncleanness" was its "wedge-driving" in respect to being able to interact with others.
3) The fundamental fact is that a "wedge" driven between a person and God is a barrier to life.
b. Second, there is the issue of "the fundamental inability of the 'shadow' to accomplish the reconciliation": the blood of bulls and goats and turtledoves and pigeons cannot take away sin [Hebrews 9:13 and Hebrews 10:4].
1) The "ritual" addressed the "outer man", the physical realm person.
a) Just as "physical uncleanness" could not really keep a person from fellowship with God (physical distance is both 'unreal' -- Yahweh is omnipresent -- and 'immaterial' to the issue of fellowship with God), so also "physical cleanliness" does not really recommend one to God for fellowship.
b) There is a very real "ritual failure" when what is addressed to the "outer man" is directly applied to "inner man" realities without any transition from one level to the other. In other words, washing a body with water has no significant impact on the state of the soul/spirit in terms of real 'cleanliness' [Note that even 'cleanliness' is an "outer" state that needs 'transitioning' to have meaning regarding the "inner" state].
2) There is a "disconnect" between what happens to the outer man and what is going on with the inner man.
c. Third, there is the issue of how the physical-level illustration was supposed to get into the mind of a person as a "lever" to address the soul/spirit issues that are where "life" really gets "lived".
1) There is an inordinate dullness in man's heart/mind, spirit/soul that disallows the perception of the true inner reality. It is caused by the presence of Death as It has created a sense of "all is well" by administering its spiritual Novocaine. Jesus called it a "waxing of the heart" unto "grossness" and a dulling of the ears' ability to "hear" (Matthew 13:15). Paul (and Jesus) called it "hardness of heart" (Romans 2:5 and Ephesians 4:18) and made an analogy between an "uncircumcised heart" and the physical state of being "uncircumcised" (Romans 2:29).
2) This inordinate dullness is not resolvable by physical-level illustrations because it is rooted in a kind of blindness that is imposed by the stifling presence of deep darkness. For this cause, it is only resolved by God's command to "let light shine out of darkness" (2 Corinthians 4:6).
3) Thus, the physical-level illustration couldnot get "beyond" the darkness; it could only "help" a "believer" to understand...i.e., it could only be a "lever" for one who already had a sensitized heart for truth; i.e., one in whom the light of God was already shining. Thus, the "Law" was only of "profit" for those who had begun to see it as an expression of the light of God unto doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness; i.e., a helper. It could not "help" those who saw it as an instrument of condemnation.
a) The ability of the illustration to "help" depended upon the participant's ability to identify with it. In some form or another, the offerer of the sacrifice had to "sense" the "sacrifice" issue at a level beyond the material cost(s) involved. In some way or another, the offerer had to also "become" the offered.
b) On the Day of Atonement this "identification" issue was addressed by the laying on of hands upon the scapegoat while confessing the sin(s). In some sense, this "contact" was to communicate a "oneness" between the one with the hands and the goat upon which those hands were laid. Interestingly, in extremely ancient symbolism (which enables us to understand how the ancients thought) a "goat" was the equivalent of "unredeemed man" [See Hislop's TheTwoBabylons, page 311].
d. Fourth, there is the issue of the choices of God in respect to the physical-level illustration.
1) In what respect was a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons "like" the offerer so that that offerer could identify with two birds?
a) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament has an extended article on "doves" and in it shows that "doves" have always been identified by humans as having a "bird of the gods" identity (even the Spirit of God descended 'as a dove' upon Jesus and all who witnessed it knew that He was being given a divine sanction for His task). The article goes on to reveal that "doves" are particularly identified with that part of man that has to do with his most significant level of life (the soul/spirit levels) so that the pictorial representation among Judaism of physical death was that of a dove departing the body. If we take the Spirit 'as a dove' text and relate it to James' "the body without the spirit is dead" comment, we can easily see that the divine intent for the imagery of the dove was its connection to the spirit of man -- the essence of his life.
b) Anyone with even a rudimentary grasp of this imagery would easily be able to see in the sacrifice of a turtledove or a pigeon that it "represented" themselves at the level of the inner spirit. The death of the bird signaled the death of the offerer.
c) However, there is another issue that is just as significant: the "offerer's identity with the priest". In the case of the offering of birds, the "offerer" did not "do" the actual work of the sacrifice (Leviticus 1:15-17). It was a "priest" who killed it by wringing its head off. But, if we understand the "dove" as a "bird of the gods", the imagery is of a man killing God. There is no way to defuse this imagery; it is at the heart of the Gospel of Christ. There, men killed God and His death at their hands was the "sufficient sacrifice" to make reconciliation possible.
d) So, when we put these two issues together, what we have is "man killing God" and "man killing himself". This is the heart of Life: in order to live, man must come to grips with his antagonism toward God so that he is willing to "kill Him"; and he must also come to grips with his desperate need to "put to death" his own ambitions, fears, and appetites in order to live. Jesus said it this way: Take up your cross and follow Me. Paul said it this way: Present your bodies a living sacrifice.
2) And why the ambivalence -- either turtledoves or pigeons?
a) This is not really an ambivalence. It is, rather, the allowance of either of two kinds of the same type of bird. The point was made earlier: the one making the sacrifice could decide whether to offer a "searcher" or a "solver".
b) It was a reflection of the mind of the offerer -- as to whether he/she was primarily "under the gun" (as guilty) and looking for a way out, or "feeling the losses" (as alienated) and looking for a solution.
3) And why "two"?
a) Leviticus 12:8 tells us that one was for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering.
b) In the outworking of Truth, there are two sacrifices required by God: one has to do with the "problem" of Justice and its resolution; the other has to do with the "problem" of rebellion and its resolution (man's deliberate mis-definition of the method of life as "dominance" rather than "service"). Thus, one sacrifice is the sacrifice of the "self" as a "dominator" so that one "dies to himself/herself in order to live to God" and the other sacrifice is a sacrifice of the innocent God in the stead of the guilty man so that reconciliation can actually take place between God.