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Jesus, Presentation in the Temple


Along with the purification ritual of Mary, the parents presented Jesus in the Temple. The evangelist quotes from Exodus 13:2, “Consecrate to me every firstborn. The first to open the womb among the Israelites, whether human or animal, is mine.” The LORD asked Moses to tell the children of Israel the reason for the consecration of the firstborn: “As Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD slew every firstborn in Egypt, of man and beast alike. That is why I sacrifice to the LORD all the males that open the womb, but the firstborn of my sons, I redeem” (Ex 13:15). The offering of the firstborn male to God was a grateful remembrance of God saving the firstborn male of Israelites at the time of the original Passover from Egypt, while the angel killed the firstborn of the Egyptians (Ex 12:12). Since Jesus was also the firstborn male of Mary, she and Joseph presented Jesus in the Temple.

The Israelites believed that their firstborn males and animals belonged to God. They sacrificed animals and bought back the child from God by giving five shekels to a priest. That amount was worth a month’s income. That helped to support the priests who consecrated themselves to God’s service in the place of the firstborn sons of Israel (Num 3:11-13). Thus, the non-Levites ransomed their firstborn for five shekels (Num 18:16). They did this on the 40th day by presenting the child to a local priest and paying him the money.

However, in Jesus’ case, the Bible does not mention any such payment. Joseph and Mary took the infant Jesus to the Temple and offered him to God. The parents did not redeem Jesus because he would serve God as a priest like the Levites. He later sacrificed himself as a priest and lamb for the remission of humanity’s sin. Since Mary’s purification and presentation of Jesus in the Temple happened 40 days after Christmas, the feast falls on 02 February according to the Church calendar.

God had commanded to offer a yearling lamb as a burned offering and a pigeon or a turtledove as a purification offering on the 40th day after giving birth to a male child (Lev 12:6). If the mother could not afford a lamb, she could substitute the lamb with a turtledove or a pigeon (Lev 12:8). Since Joseph and Mary came from Bethlehem and Joseph was out of work, they had no lamb and could not afford to buy a lamb. So, they joined other poor couples to offer only the birds.


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