16 September 2013

Matthew 1:18-25

“‘ ... She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’ When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him” (vv. 21-24)


The first chapter of Matthew's Gospel makes it quite clear that the coming of Jesus into the world was no mere accident. The genealogy of 42 generations (Matthew 1:1-17) is followed by verses 18 to 25 and a narrative that reinforces the significance of the birth of Jesus. In these verses Matthew's Gospel sets out the Jesus agenda, as revealed in the names that are given to or associated with the new-born child.

The first of these names is "Jesus". Two thousand years on, perhaps we have almost become too familiar with the name. Jesus means 'saviour'. It is the Greek version of the Hebrew Joshua - 'the Lord saves'. In a special way, just being called Jesus is almost a wishing-in of the Messianic age. Many Jews expected the Messiah to usher in a new order; and that new way of living would be preceded by the removal of sin. The Messiah would save people from their sins. So for the angel to tell Joseph to name his son Jesus is very significant indeed. The association of Jesus with 'Christ' (the Greek for 'Messiah' or 'anointed one') simply serves to reinforce the importance.  All leaders needs to have a purpose, and the agenda for Jesus is set by his very name.

The other name that Matthew's Gospel associates with the as yet unborn baby is 'Emmanuel'. The Old Testament reference is Isaiah 7:10-17, and the sign that is given to Ahaz was the promise, through the birth of a son, that God was faithful. What Isaiah was saying was that God's presence is not to be found in the temple, but a living presence with people. Immanuel means "God with us" (v. 23), and for the Gospel to make this so explicit at such an early point in the story is very significant.

In a few verses, the baby to be born is given his life's purpose (saving people from their sins) and the power to achieve it (God with us). Will such a leader, now named Jesus, live up to such promises?

To Ponder

  • Which name for Jesus best describes the relationship that you have with him today - Messiah, Saviour, Emmanuel, or another?
  • God has a purpose for your life today, and tomorrow. Think about what it might be.

Bible notes author

Michael King

Michael King is a Methodist local preacher. From 2000-2011, he was leader of the Methodist Church's World Church Relationships team, and was the vice-president of the Methodist Conference in 2012/2013.