22When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord
23(as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’), 24and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.’
Joseph and Mary did not understand that their firstborn male did not need “a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons” to be sacrificed on his behalf. The child for whom they “offered a sacrifice” was the one who would give his life as a sacrifice (Ephesians 5:2).
The way of true life lies along the painful path of sacrifice. Paul instructed the Christians in Rome,
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)
I am not keen on the word “sacrifice”. I am not sure I want to “sacrifice” myself. It sounds so grinding, so self-denying, gritting my teeth and ignoring my desires.
The whole sacrificial system feels cumbered with the burden of a god who needs to be appeased, a god cut off from humanity, waiting for us to prove our devotion by giving up something we feel certain we cannot afford to surrender.
But Jesus was not cut off from the human race. Jesus entered the broken human condition. He experienced fully the dark flawed reality that characterizes so much of human life. Jesus
though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. (Philippians 2:6 ESV)
A life of sacrifice, is not a grinding parsimonious life in which all earthly comforts are denied. It is rather a life in which nothing is “grasped.” Sacrifice is the end of clinging, the end of holding on, demanding, and fighting for my wants, needs, and desires. This is the sacrificial path Jesus would walk, all the way through the cross to resurrection.
How does my vision of “sacrifice” shift when I see it as the end of clinging?
What is there in my life I need to stop grasping?