One Great Birth, Two Great Names
We are at that time of year when the birth of Jesus Christ is on the minds of many. That much is a good thing. There are many misconceptions about His birth, but doors may be opened to talk about it and we need to be willing to do that. We do not know when Jesus was born exactly, but that does not really matter. The fact that He was born and the fact that people think about His birth at least at this time of year are both important. If people are ready and willing to hear about Jesus, Christians ought to be talking about Him.
Much can be said about Jesus’ birth, but here we want to highlight two names emphasized at His birth that will impact our relationship with Him. First, consider the narrative from Matthew’s account:
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)…” (Matthew 1:18-22, ESV)
Let’s take brief note of the two names here:
Jesus is called “Jesus”
“Jesus” is the name people know, but do we think about why that name was given? Matthew tells us explicitly that Joseph was to call His name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. The name means “Yahweh is salvation,” so the name is quite specific to Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth in the flesh. He came to save people from their sins.
Jesus is the same name as Joshua. When we think of Joshua, we think of the man who took over for Moses and brought the children of Israel into the promised land of rest. Joshua is a type of Jesus, the One who truly brings us to the promised rest. The Hebrews writer picks up on this in chapter four by pointing out that if Joshua had given rest (that is, ultimate rest), God would not have spoken of another day. We need to strive to enter that final rest with God, and the way this is done is through our great High Priest, Jesus Christ. He came to bring that great sabbath rest. He came to save us and deliver us from the evil of the world.
The significance of the birth of Jesus is that God has entered this world to bring salvation to those who are lost in sin. This is the gospel message: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you…” (1 Cor 15:1-2).
Jesus is called “Immanuel”
Matthew shows that the birth of jesus ultimately fulfilled the prophecy made in Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
Matthew translates Immanuel and tells us that the name means “God with us.” We might think back to Eden when God dwelled with Adam and Eve before their sin. Sin broke the fellowship, but God had a plan to restore that broken relationship. The concept of God dwelling with man is a major biblical theme that is seen through the garden, the tabernacle, the temple, and through Jesus Christ. John informs us that Jesus, the Word, is God manifested in the flesh (John 1:1-18). He “tabernacled among us” (v. 14). Not only is God with us in the sense of watching over us, He actually came to walk “among us” in Jesus Christ. Jesus is Himself Immanuel.
This name signals that the curse of sin is reversed in Christ, who, as the seed of Abraham, blesses all nations (Acts 3:25-26). Instead of remaining separated from God because of sin, God is with us because He has removed the barrier of sin by the sacrifice of Jesus (Col 2:13-15). The church is now considered to be a dwelling of God in the Spirit (Eph 2:20-22).
Matthew puts both names together. Our Savior is called both Jesus and Immanuel. He saves us from our sins and He is God with us. This is worth rejoicing over and talking about with others at every opportunity!