Nov 26, 2021

When we are first introduced to someone, the first thing we learn about them is their name. As the New Testament opens, it introduces us to its major character, Jesus. My grandmother used to complain that this “younger generation” only introduce people by their first names and so we don’t know who their connections are! The Gospel of Matthew recognises the importance of Jesus’s connections by recording the genealogy of Jesus which connects Him to some of the most important characters of the Old Testament, like Abraham and David. But they are not only historically significant individuals; they are significant because God made great promises to them concerning one of their descendants. God promised Abraham that through him and his “Seed” ( or descendant), all the nations of the world would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3; 22:18). And God promised David that He would set up his “Seed” after him and establish the throne of His kingdom forever (2 Samuel 7:12-13). Matthew is demonstrating how Jesus is the fulfilment of these covenant promises.

After the genealogy, Matthew then describes the miraculous events surrounding the birth of this Child. Mary’s pregnancy had come as a shock to righteous Joseph, and he intended to end their legally binding engagement known as betrothal; but God sent His angel to assure Joseph of Mary’s purity and faithfulness and explained that the Child Mary was carrying was miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit. As God’s messenger, the angel instructs Joseph to give this Child the name Jesus, “for He will save His people from their sins,” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua,” which means, “Jehovah is salvation.” Many Jewish children had been given the name Jesus/Joshua, as an expression of their faith and hope that the God of Israel was their saviour. But the angelic declaration of the supernatural conception of this Child points to His divine origin. And Matthew asserts this by quoting the Old Testament prophecy of the Virgin birth: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us,” (Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 7:14).

This Child’s name would not simply express the hope of God’s salvation; Jesus Himself is the Saviour. But God had insisted through the prophet Isaiah that He alone is the Saviour: “I, even I, am the LORD, and besides Me there is no saviour,” (Isaiah 43:11). Amazingly, the devout, monotheistic apostles could refer to both God (the Father) and Jesus (His Son) as Saviour (Titus 1:3,4; 2:10,13) because they were convinced that Jesus truly is Immanuel, God with us.

But the angelic announcement also explained what it is that we need salvation from: sin. First-century Jews were looking for a military and political Saviour; they didn’t realise that they had a greater need than that. Many people today are looking to government or science to be their saviour. But neither of these can meet our greatest need. We are sinners and stand under God’s just condemnation because of our sin. God would cease to be righteous if He forgave our sins without requiring punishment for those sins. So, through the birth of this little Child, “God with us” (Immanuel) came to bear the punishment Himself. The Apostle Paul explained that God upheld His righteous standards by sending His only Son to be our sin-bearer, so that He could be “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus,” (Romans 3:21-26). So, whenever you hear the name Jesus, remember that He is the Saviour who has come to save you from your sins!

The Gospel writers use Jesus’s personal name as they describe His earthly life and ministry. But after His resurrection and ascension, we find that the rest of the New Testament only uses His personal name when the writer wants to call attention to the importance of His humanity. But more often, they add another title of respect, such as Lord or Christ. We will take a look at those titles in future articles.


By admin