When it comes to choosing what name to give our children we tend to give them names that name them after a family member – a grandfather, a grandmother – a person of significance. Sometimes we name our children after a close friend.
We rarely think of naming our children with the intent that they will live up to the meaning of the name we’ve given them, or having their name define what they will do in life. For instance, when we named our first son, Matthew, we knew his name meant Gift of God, but I can’t say that we named him in the hope he would grow up to be a gift of God to humanity. We named him Matthew because we liked the name.
We named our daughter Lizabeth (without the “E”) because of the high school girl my wife hired to do chores for the dental office where she worked when I was in seminary. This young woman was hard working and diligent. She wore a cheerleader jacket with her name “Liz” embroidered on it in script. This young woman made such an impression on my wife she said if we ever had a daughter we should name her Liz. And we did. Only later did we discover that Lizabeth means oath of God, or God is satisfaction.
The same thing happened when we our last child Jeffrey. His name means God’s peace, but we didn’t give him that name in order to define his life’s mission. I wanted to name him Geoffrey with a “G,” but my wife thought Jeffrey with a “J” made more sense. In the spirit of compromise, I got to choose his middle name: Garrett – a Norse name meaning Defender; in Old English, he who rules by the Spear.
The point is we name our children because we like the name; we like how it sounds or we want to honor someone we love. We don’t often think about naming our children with the intent they are going to be or to do what their name means.
How different is that than from how God names His Son before He is even born. We read the text from Matthew 1 where the angel appears to Joseph and the angel tells Joseph –
…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.’
There are other people named Jesus in the Bible. At the time He was born Jesus was a common Hebrew name. Jesus is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Joshua. We think of Joshua in the OT who led Israel into the Promised Land. He helped them conquer their enemies and take possession of the land God promised to Abraham. And yet, even though Joshua helped deliver Israel into the Promised Land, he did not save Israel, nor did he save Israel from their sins. If anything his name, God is salvation, pointed to another Joshua, another Jesus yet to be born.
The angel tells Joseph you shall call His name Jesus, because the Child Mary carries within her will save His people from their sins. Jesus’ name is His mission. Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua. It means God is salvation. Jesus’ name tells us what He came here to do. He came to save His people from their sins. Jesus’ name explains why He wrapped Himself in our flesh. He came to save His people from their sins. That’s His mission. One scholar describes Jesus’ mission by saying, “Jesus is the God Himself who saves us Himself.”
Jesus’ mission is to do what His name says He will do: He will save His people from their sins.
Jesus comes to save us by Himself becoming man. The moment God formed Adam from the dust of the ground and breathed into Him and made him a living soul, a unique relationship was established between God and man. The whole story of the Bible is about God coming down to earth to dwell with us; about God coming down to earth in search of men and women He created in His image and likeness. Think of God searching for Adam in the cool of the day after he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Think of God appearing to Abraham. Think of God appearing Moses and instructing him to build the tabernacle – how no earthly dwelling could contain His glory, until God chose the perfect venue for how He would dwell on the earth. He sent His Son, Jesus wrapped in our flesh so that God could literally pitch His tent, and live in our neighborhood.
The Word became flesh and we saw His glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father full of grace and truth.
Go back to Genesis and consider how God created the earth and everything in it. He spoke everything that is into existence. Every mountain, every ocean, every bit of sky and cloud, every particle of dirt and dust as well as every living creature – all of it is spoken into existence. God speaks and it is so. However, there is one creature which God does not speak into existence. Man. The Bible tells us that when God created man, He formed him out of the dust of the ground. Think about that. God spoke into existence every living creature, yet when it comes to creating Adam, God comes down to form him from the dust of the earth. More than that, He also breathed His Spirit into him. Of all the living things, of all the creatures, of all the beings that God created, there is only one creature whom He created with His own two hands: man.
The whole story of the Bible is about God coming down to where we live. He created us—made us in His own image and likeness. We rebelled against Him and lost our way. So He searches for us. He sent His Son to seek and to find we who are lost. He wrapped His Son, Jesus in our flesh so that by becoming like us we might receive His grace. Jesus’ name is His mission.
And here is something else that is wonderful about Jesus – He takes a name that was already in use – a familiar name and transforms it into the very definition His mission. He takes an ordinary name and makes it extraordinary. He takes a common name and makes it forever holy. He is THE Yeshua. He is THE Jesus. He is THE Savior.
Just as He takes a common name and makes it forever holy, so too He takes common people, people like you and me, people formed out of the dust of the ground and makes us holy. Jesus’ name tells us what He came here to do. Jesus’ name explains why He wrapped Himself in our flesh. He will save His people from their sins.
Jesus came to save His people from their sins.
It is well worth nothing that the angel doesn’t say Jesus will save Israel, or that Jesus will save Judah, or that Jesus will save righteous, religious, hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding, play-by-the-rules people. The angel says Jesus will save His people from their sins.
“Well then,” you ask, “who are His people?”
His people are those who confess faith in His Name. His people are those who put their trust in His life and work. His people are those who trust Him to save them from their sins. So His people includes Jews and Greeks, men and women, slave and free.
His people includes Americans and Kenyans. Kenyans and Persians. Persians and Indians. Indians and Aboriginals. Aboriginals and Inuit. Inuit and Italians. Italians and Egyptians. Hindus and Muslims. His people include anyone who confesses faith in Jesus as the Savior from their sins.
He saves by becoming our flesh. He saves His people – those who confess faith in what He has done on their behalf by dying in their place on the cross. That is how Jesus fulfills His mission as Savior and saves His people. And we become His people by professing a faith in Him.
Christmastime is about Jesus coming to save us from our sins. It’s about another opportunity to experience afresh the Word become flesh full of grace and truth. It is about the opportunity to share the good news that others can become His people by confessing faith in Him.
And note also that it is the people who shall call His name Immanuel. And so it is with us. We call Jesus Immanuel because He truly is God with us. Jesus, the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity came down from heaven. The Word who was with God in the beginning, the Word who is God the Son became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The greatness of the gospel’s God is that God not only sends, He comes. Christmas is the story of God becoming one of us. God literally ‘be-littled’ Himself in order to accommodate Himself to us.
The quote above is by Frederick Dale Bruner. His point is this: Jesus saves His people by becoming like them; like us. He breathes our air – air He created. He eats our food – food He created. He came to enjoy the company of people – people He created. Jesus saves us by coming down to earth and living in our neighborhood.
He experiences pain, isolation, loneliness and grief. He also experiences joy, happiness, laughter and fellowship. He experiences the delightful conversation of little children. He experiences what it means to belong to a family – and a family that experienced some dysfunction! Remember that at one time his brothers and his mother thought He was insane. There was even a matter of sibling rivalry when in John 7, Jesus’ brothers, including James who would later pen a letter and become a leader of the church in Jerusalem – teased Him about not going up to the feast so He would be known as the Messiah. In Jesus’ earthly family, He was the “crazy uncle”!
Jesus knows the full gamut of human emotions (see Hebrews 2.14-16; 4.15). He comes to save by becoming like one of us. And Jesus became like us in every way. He worked for a living. He worked hard as a carpenter until He began His ministry preaching the Kingdom of God.
He had to run a business. He had to learn how to deal with customers – good customers and bad customers. He had to learn how to deal with suppliers and middle men. He had to pay taxes. He had to deal with customers who didn’t pay their bills; with customers who tried to pay him less than what His work was worth. He knows that kinds of frustrations, those kinds of situations.
He comes to save us by becoming like us. Ultimately He comes to save us by dying for us. He experienced everything we experienced yet not committing sin, not going against God laws, not breaking God’s rules, not disobeying God. He is the perfect sacrifice by which on the cross He made full atonement, full satisfaction for our sin.
Jesus came to save His people from their sins.
Jesus came to save His people from their sins, not His sins. Jesus did not die for His sins. He died for our sins. Note here, that Jesus comes to save His people not from a foreign enemy, nor the juggernaut of an oppressive government. Jesus did not come to save His people from a bad self image, a bad marriage, a bad relationship with their parents, a bad job, unemployment, depression, or from being too young or too old, or being bored. He came to save His people – those who put their trust in Him – from their sins.
The key thing in all of this, in all of life – is the fundamental relationship that stretches back to the Garden of Eden when God created Adam and Eve – when He formed Adam from the dust of the ground. God did that so that we could live in fellowship and relationship and partnership and communion with Him and with one another through faith in Jesus Christ.
Sin has broken our relationship with God. And because sin has broken our relationship with God every other relationship is broken as well. It’s because our relationship with God is broken that our relationship with everyone else is broken too. It’s because our relationship with God is broken that our relationship with our wife is broken, our relationship with our husband is broken, our parents and our children. It’s because of sin that our relationship is broken with our work – sin is why we wrestle to find anything meaningful and good in what we do. Sin deceives us into thinking life and work is all about us. It’s not.
The only way all these broken relationships can be fixed is for our relationship with God to get fixed and the only way our relationship with God can be fixed is to confess faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior for our sins.
- Sin is the problem not a bad marriage.
- Sin is the problem not unemployment.
- Sin is the problem not bad government.
- Sin is the problem not high taxes.
- Sin is the problem not Obamacare.
- Sin is the problem not a poor self image.
- Sin is the problem not cancer.
- Sin is the problem not depression.
- Sin is the problem not the guy who cut in front of you.
- Sin is the problem not the lady at Walmart who takes too long to pay for her stuff.
Sin is the problem. And the problem of sin is solved by the death of Jesus Christ for our sins. That’s how this gets solved. That’s how this gets fixed. That’s how we get reconciled. That’s we get saved. Jesus’ name is His mission.
We were made to live in a faith-relationship with the God who created us in His image and likeness. This is why He sent Jesus to be God with us. And when we come into a faith-relationship with God through trust in Jesus, we come into fellowship, partnership and communion with Him. When we get saved from our sins we find that Jesus gives us a new name, or actually the world, the surrounding culture gives us a new name
In the book of Acts the church began to expand outward from Jerusalem and as people began to share the Good News and unbelievers were saved from their sins. As people talked about Jesus as the Savior and the kingdom of God expanded to include Jews and Greeks, insiders and outsiders, and as more and more people become followers of Jesus, and spread the good news of the gospel throughout Asia Minor the gospel reached a little town in Asia Minor called Antioch.
And it was in Antioch that Luke tells us that believers and followers of Jesus Christ were for the first time called by a particular name – a name that defined their mission, a name that defined their calling, a name that defined their lifestyle, a name that defined what they were about and who they were about. In Acts 11.26 Luke tells us that in Antioch for the first time followers of Jesus Christ were called Christians. Jesus became human so we could become Christian.
To be a Christian is to be a Christ-follower. And to be a Christ-follower is to have a mission – to tell people that God is with us. And His name is Jesus. And He will save His people from their sins.
Just as Jesus’ name is His mission, so it is with us. Our name is our mission. We are Christians – Christ-followers called to make Christ-followers by telling people who Jesus is and what Jesus has done.. We are commissioned by Jesus to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all things that He has commanded, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And we are to do this knowing that Christ is with always even unto the end of the age.
You think about that.