20. Two Birds! Repent!

Two Birds for the Lamb

On the fortieth day after Jesus’ birth, and as part of the purification rites according to the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary take six-week old Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (Luke 2:23). It is an interesting paradox that this baby, Jesus, is likewise Joseph and Mary’s and God’s firstborn son, so this is indeed a day of celebration. Still, it also a day both marked by, and foreshadowing sacrifice. Joseph and Mary bring two birds- young doves or pigeons- to sacrifice, one as a burnt offering, the other as a sin offering (as prescribed in Lev. 12:8 ) to dedicate their son Jesus to the Lord God. The birds are acceptable if parents cannot afford a year-old lamb. And so, here we see the Lamb of God of Passover significance, born into such poverty that his parents can only afford birds for the purification rites.

 A Feast and a Mission

The next we hear of Jesus in Luke is when his family travels from Nazareth up to Jerusalem for the Passover feast when Jesus is twelve years old (Luke 2:42). They feast there according to custom. It is probable that Jesus had gone up with his family for Passover feasts in previous years, since the law required Joseph, as an adult male, to attend on a yearly basis. But at the age of twelve (Scripture is very clear here about Jesus’ age being twelve, meaning he was in his thirteenth year), an Israelite boy like Jesus would have been in the midst of preparing to take his expected place among the adult males of the religious community when he turned thirteen. Jesus tells his earthly parents that he just had to be in his Father’s house, a hint that Jesus already recognized and craved intimacy with a father other than Joseph. So, here we see a pre-teen Jesus celebrating Passover in Jerusalem with, perhaps, the dawning knowledge that twenty-one years hence at this same feast of bitter herbs and unleavened bread, and in this very city which he dearly loves, he himself, the firstborn and only son of God, will become the sacrificed lamb whose sprinkled blood will safeguard and deliver the lives and souls of all who believe. In the last week of his life, Jesus sends disciples ahead into the city to prepare the Passover meal at a pre-arranged location (Luke 22:8-12). I have often wondered where, in which house in Jerusalem, Jesus’ family celebrated their Passover meals in those early years. Could it be that their family returned to the same upper room year after year, much like we return to a favorite resort or restaurant when we visit a nearby city? Could this be the same room where Jesus spent his last supper with his beloved disciples?

 Repent and Bear Fruit

In chapter three, Luke turns to the ministry of John the Baptist calling out in the desert for people to produce fruit in keeping with a repentant life. The fruit metaphor is universally used throughout the Bible to signify an edible, life-sustaining seed-bearing plant which is deep-rooted, wisely pruned, and well-watered, thriving in its season and producing an abundant crop from year to year. Jesus also uses the fruit comparison, when he curses a barren fig tree (Matt. 21:19), when he claims that “no good tree bears bad fruit,” (Luke 6:43), and when he entreats people to graft their “branches” onto his “vine” to become and remain fruit-producing believers (John 15).

To think about:  what fruit is your life producing for the kingdom?  Where could your attitudes and behaviors use some watering?  Pruning?  How can your life be sweet, wholesome, nutritious food for others?

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