Bringing Skin to the Fore: Circumcision and Why God's Manhood Matters

Swaddled and sleeping in a manger in Bethlehem was a boy, fresh from the womb. His body had almost three hundred bones in it, ten fingers and ten toes, two eyes and two ears. And one penis. He was, after all, a male child, and boys do have those things. Though just by looking at him you wouldn’t know it—for he seemed as ordinary as any newborn baby—he was, in fact, the image of the invisible God. In other words, he made God seeable, a Lord you can lay your eyes on. In this baby all the fullness of the Deity dwelt in bodily form. There was no non-God part of him. All three hundred bones were God’s bones. The ten fingers and ten toes were God’s fingers and toes. The two eyes and two ears were God’s eyes and ears. And, yes, the one penis was God’s penis. For he was, from head to toe, inside and out, God in the flesh.

One tiny part of his body didn’t last long. Centuries before, the Lord had appeared to Abraham to deliver a message that, on the surface, seems one fry short of a Happy Meal. What God wants Abraham to do is take a knife and cut the foreskin off his ninety-nine year old manhood. And off his son, Ishmael’s, thirteen year old manhood. And every other male, infants and adults alike, slaves and freemen—their dermis is to meet the same demise. Leave it to the Lord to put into place that which cannot but shock.

Strange though it be, however, it is marvelous in meaning: for this was his way of writing his covenant into the very flesh of his people. What was not there, was a sign of what was there. Part of the body was cut away in order that the fullness of the body might be God’s. And it was permanent. Not an ring to be slipped on and off. Not a haircut that needs cutting again. On the eighth day of the child’s life, his life was forever in covenant with God. Into the very organ which marked him as a son, was the sign that he was a son of the Father.

And so, when the son of Mary was eight days old—in our calendar, today, January 1—he was circumcised and given the name Jesus. For he did not come into this world with diplomatic privileges that placed him above a nation’s laws. He was born under the law that he might redeem those under the law. Indeed, he out-lawed the law, out-perfected the perfect, for he underwent a circumcision designed for sinners, though he himself was blameless. Just as later, he would offer sacrifices, though he had no iniquity for which sacrifices were necessary. He was baptized, though he had no uncleanness to wash away. But all he did, he did for us, that in him, we might do it, too.

Were he anything less than fully human, we would to that extent be less than fully saved. And to be less than fully saved, is not to be saved at all. I don’t want a Jesus who has no brain, for people have brains, and brains need redeeming. I don’t want a Jesus without blood and bones, for people have blood and bones, and they need redeeming. I don’t want a Jesus without testicles and a penis, because that is what men have, and they too need redeeming. He was a complete man, for we need completion, men and women alike. For he came not to redeem only our souls, but our all. Every part of the body that God has fearfully and wonderfully made, has been fearfully and wonderfully remade anew in the God-made-man.

The Savior with foreskin brings skin to the fore. Bodies matter to God. Your body is important to the Father. Indeed, things haven’t changed a whole lot since the time of Abraham, for God is still doing weird things with bodies to give wonderful gifts to those bodies. When baby Israelite boys were eight days old, the covenant was cut into their very flesh. Today, when baby boys and girls are eight days or eight hours old, they are “circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with him in baptism, in which they are also raised up with him through faith in the working of God, who raised Jesus from the dead,” (Colossians 2:11-12). No longer is one tiny part of the body cut away, but the liquid blade of baptism cuts away the old sinful nature entirely, and, grafted into the body of Jesus, we are wholly new. For if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. It is no longer we who lives, but Christ who lives in us, and we who live in Christ.