How did you choose your child’s name?
We named our first son, Matthew, for several reasons: (1) Matthew means Gift of God; (2) we like the name and, (3) Matthew flows nicely with Malanga. We named our daughter Lizabeth (no “E”) because of a high school girl my wife worked with when we lived in Beverly, Massachusetts. High School Liz wore a cheerleader jacket with her name embroidered on it in script. She was sweet and kind, and Jill thought if we ever had a daughter we would name her Liz. Only later did we discover that Lizabeth means Oath of God, or God is satisfaction. We gave our third child, the name Jeffrey. I wanted to name him Geoffrey with a “G,” but my wife thought—and correctly so, that Jeffrey with a “J” looked less pretentious. Jeffrey means, God’s peace. (I did get to choose Jeff’s middle name: Garrett, a Norse name meaning Defender; in Old English, he who rules by the spear.)
When all is said and done, we name our children for a variety of reasons. We may choose a name because we like the way it sounds. We may choose a name from the family tree as a way to honor a loved one. Or, we may choose a name from the Bible. Whatever name we choose, we seldom name our children with the intent they will become or do what their name means. Such is not the case with names in the Bible.
For example, the angel who appeared Joseph told him to give the child Mary carried a name which would define, as well as determine His destiny. The angel said— “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.” (Matthew 1.21)
Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name, Joshua. It means God is salvation. And although some have used Immanuel as a name, it’s more a title than a name. In Hebrew, Immanuel means God with us. Put the two together, God is salvation and God with us, and one thing becomes clear: Jesus’ name is His mission. He is God with us come to save us His people from their sins. Jesus’ name tells us what He came here to do. Jesus is God incarnate sent to rescue His people from the judgment of God against their sin. Jesus’ name is His calling. Jesus is God in human flesh sent to deliver His people from the guilt of their sin. Jesus’ name is His mission.
And that…is a problem.
When it comes to the birth of Jesus, our cultural hard drive has deleted the file containing the reason Jesus was born. Who wants to think about Jesus saving us from our sins, when it’s much more fun to sing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Why ponder the meaning of “God and sinners reconciled,” when singing “chestnuts roasting on an open fire and Jack Frost nipping at your nose” just makes you feel warm all over. Now, I’m no Scrooge when it comes to the songs of the season, it’s just that the songs our culture sings this time of year are sung in the wrong key. This is likely due to the fact that the songs they should sing, the ones which really matter, are songs which the Bible consistently plays in the minor key.
There is a reason the angel tells Joseph, “you shall call His name Jesus.” However, the reason is one many do not want to hear. Not at Christmas: “you shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” There’s that word again. Sin. Let’s save that “sin stuff” for Good Friday. It’s Christmas. Let’s sing songs about peace on earth, goodwill to men. That’s the major key. And yet the minor key carries the tune to which is attached to the essential lyric: Peace on earth and mercy mild; God and sinners reconciled.
Jesus’ name is His mission: He will save His people from their sins.
We call Jesus Immanuel because He is God with us. In Jesus Christ, God came down to where we live in order to save us from His judgment against our sin. This was God’s plan from the moment He formed Adam from the dust of the ground. The instant God breathed into Adam and he became a living soul—and at that moment—a unique relationship was established between God and man. This relationship was broken when Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The guilt of Adam’s sin drove him to flee from God. And we’ve been running away from God ever since. That’s the bad news.
The Good News is that the Bible is one continuous story about God coming down to earth to search for those whom He created in His image and likeness. Adam ran from the presence of the Lord, but God searched for him. God searched for Noah. He searched for Abraham. He searched for Moses. He searched for David, going so far as to call the shepherd-king “a man after My own heart.” He searched for Solomon whom He allowed to build the tabernacle, even though no earthly dwelling could contain His glory. Ultimately, God chose the perfect venue for how He would dwell on the earth: His Son. “The Word became flesh and lived among us,” (John 1.14). Clothed in our flesh, Jesus came to seek and to save those who were lost.
Let’s go back to Genesis for a moment. When God created the earth and everything in it, He did so by speaking it into existence; God said and it was so. Every mountain and valley, every stream and river, every lake and ocean, every bit of sky and cloud, and every living creature; God spoke them into existence. However, there is one creature which God did not speak into existence. When it came to creating man, the Bible says God formed Adam out of the dust of the ground. Think about that. God spoke into existence everything in the universe and on earth, yet when it came to creating humanity, God stooped down from heaven, scooped up a handful of dirt and made us in His image and likeness. Of all the things He spoke into being, of all the creatures God created, only Adam is created by the hand of God.
But that’s not all. There is more.
After God formed Adam from the dust of the ground, He did something amazing! He breathed into Adam. And Adam became a living soul. God spoke the universe into existence, but only into Adam did God breathe His life-giving word. God created us. He made us in His own image and likeness. We rebelled against Him. We ran away from Him, and in our flight from Him we became lost. We are lost. So God came searching for us. He sent His Son to seek and to find the lost. Jesus put on our humanity so that He might find us and breathe His grace into our heart.
Here is something else that is wonderful about Jesus: He took a name that was familiar and ordinary and transformed it into something extraordinary. He made His name the very definition His mission. Jesus took a common name and made it forever holy. He is THE Yeshua; THE Jesus. He is THE Savior. Now in the same way Jesus transformed 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 He makes us holy on this condition: we must put our trust in Him as the Savior.
Jesus’ name is His mission: He will came to save His people from their sins.
Sometimes when we read the Bible, we can overlook certain phrases because the context in which they appear is so familiar. Here’s what I mean: the angel tells Joseph, “Mary will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Did you catch it? Read it again. “Mary will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
We assume His people refers to all those who belong to Israel and Judah. However, the angel doesn’t say Jesus will save Israel; doesn’t say Jesus will save Judah; doesn’t say Jesus will save Jewish people only. The angel says Jesus will save His people from their sins. Now, when we read further into the New Testament, we discover that His people refers to all those who confess faith in Jesus’ Name. So then, His people are Jews and Greeks, slave and free, rich and poor, men and women, young and old, the healthy and the sick. His people are all those who trust Jesus to save them from their sins by dying in their place on the cross.
Every Christmas is another opportunity to experience Jesus as the Word become flesh full of grace and truth. It is another opportunity to share the Good News that others can become His people by confessing faith in Him. People don’t like to think about sin at Christmastime. And yet sin—our sin—is why Jesus is born. He came to save us from the results of sin, the power of sin, the penalty of sin, and the guilt of our sin. This is why the angel says the people call His name Immanuel. Jesus is God with us. The Word 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. As Immanuel, Jesus experienced the full extent of human emotions.
- He felt pain, isolation, loneliness and grief.
- He tasted joy, happiness, laughter and fellowship.
- He enjoyed the delightful silliness of little children.
- He wrestled with the complex dynamics of family relationships – 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.
- He worked for a living. He labored as a carpenter until He began His ministry preaching the Kingdom of God. Until then, He ran a business. He dealt with customers; customers who didn’t pay their bills; customers who tried to pay him less than what His work was worth. He dealt with suppliers and middle men. He paid taxes.
Jesus experienced everything we experience, yet without committing sin. Since Jesus did not break God’s laws, He offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice by which, on the cross, He made full atonement, full satisfaction for our sin. (Hebrews 2.14-16; 4.15)
Jesus’ name is His mission: He will save His people from their sins.
Jesus did not come to save us from a foreign enemy, or the juggernaut of an oppressive government; a bad self image, a bad marriage, a bad job, unemployment, depression, or being too young or too old. Jesus came to save us from our sins. He died for our sins. And to be clear: sin is the problem; sin being the bold-faced, high-handed, hard-hearted rebellion against what God says is right and good and just.
Sin breaks our relationship with God. And in breaking our relationship with God, sin spreads out this brokenness to affect all our other relationships as well. The only way we can repair these relationships is to repair our relationship with God. And that’s a problem because no matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, we cannot repair our relationship with God. We need Someone else to put us right with God. We need Someone else to repair what we have broken.
- Only Jesus can repair what our sin has broken: our relationship with God.
- Only the holiness of Jesus can reconcile us with a holy God.
- Only the righteousness of Jesus can put us right with God.
- Only the faithfulness of Jesus can reconnect us with a faithful God. Jesus’ name is His mission.
Jesus is the only One who can save us from our sins. It’s what He does.
Have you seen the insurance commercials? You know the ones that say, “If you’re Peter Pan, you don’t grow old. It’s what you do,” or “If you’re a cat, you ignore people. It’s what you do.”
Well, in the same way, and meaning no disrespect, “If you’re Jesus Christ, You save people from their sins. It’s what You do.”
You think about that and have a Merry Christmas!