Abram becomes Abraham. His name change signifies the covenant God makes with him. This would have been a less painful expression of the covenant than circumcision. Circumcision becomes the sign of the covenant that males could not hide if they were undressed. Even the slaves of the Jews were to be circumcised. It became a part of the Jewish identity.
Jesus is also circumcised according to Luke 2:21: "After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb."
Baptism has become the
new sign of the covenant for
the Christian community.
One interesting point in this passage is that God gives Abraham and his people, "the land where you are now an alien." This reminder of displacement would become important to their identity as a people. Later, they remember what it is like to be mistreated as slaves. When they are at their best, they allow this part of their narrative to shape their compassion toward others who are outsiders. Of course, we are not always at our best.
Jesus often instructed his followers to put themselves in the shoes of another. He tells the parable of the unforgiving servant. In this story, a slave is forgiven a ridiculous amount of money. He later shows no mercy to a fellow slave who owes him a pittance in comparison. As we see the lack of character shown here, Jesus reminds us that we better exceed the forgiven slave in compassion!
Jesus claims the Jewish identity, becoming an extraordinary teacher. But he claims the identity which reminds us to not sweep the difficulties of our past under the rug. Rather, we are to allow our hardship to remind us to be diligent in offering grace.
God, give me eyes to see:
eyes to see my neighbor as you see her
eyes to see past his faults and sins
eyes to see beauty where the world may see ugliness
eyes to see the resurrection beyond the cross.