Matthew 1:21 - “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
We usually don’t think much about the meaning of names in our culture.
Sure, we have our “baby naming” websites and books, and they do at times give the origins and etymology, yet many of us don’t give these names much thought when we give them to our children. We even sometimes give them names for purely aesthetic reasons or because the name begins with a certain letter (my parents admitted that it’s why they gave me a middle name beginning with the letter “A”). How much less do we name our children based off of what we believe their life mission would be?
In this situation, the culture portrayed in the Bible is completely different from our own: a name not only describes someone or something, but it also displays the essential character of that person, place, or thing (“Adam” means “mankind and “Abraham” means “father of multitude”). So what would be the most important name in the Bible, and why? Check out Matthew 1:21 for the answer.
In this verse, Joseph, a man betrothed (engaged) to a woman named Mary (Matthew 1:18), is given instructions in a dream from an angel on what to name Mary’s baby. Joseph thought this baby was conceived by a man, and wanted to secretly annul the engagement because he didn’t want to shame her (Mary would have been stoned to death for sexual immoiirality according to Deuteronomy 22:13-24 because engagements were viewed as marriages. That’s why Joseph and Mary are referred to as “husband” in Matthew 1:19 and “wife” in Matthew 1:24), but the angel had revealed to him that the baby was conceived by God’s Spirit (Matthew 1:20).
I can only imagine the shock and awe Joseph felt when he heard this amazing news, that Mary’s baby had Heavenly origins; it was a miracle (could this baby be the Messiah?)! If that fact wasn’t mind-blowing enough, the name the angel gave sure would have been:
Jesus. And for what reason? He will save his people from their sins.
This was a huge deal! Why?
You’ll realize why if you understand the meaning of this name, and although I’m certain your Bible explains it in a footnote (mine does), I’ll elucidate anyway: the name “Iesous” (Jesus) is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name “Yeshua/Joshua”, which means “Yahweh/Jehovah (God) saves” or “Yahweh/Jehovah (God) is Salvation”. So because a person’s name revealed their essential character in the Bible, this baby’s name was to literally mean “God is Salvation”, this baby’s primary mission of coming to Earth was to be a savior to His people from the one thing which enslaves and torments them the most in their lives, and what will eventually lead to God’s never-ending separation and wrath in death: their sins.
Now you understand see why this is such a huge deal.
But how will He save His people? This salvation can be split into two stages:
The first stage is spiritual. This baby will spend about thirty years living in perfect, sinless obedience to God’s Law (2 Corinthians 5:21). He’ll do this in order to become a sinless “human sacrificial lamb” (John 1:36), and when he is sentenced to execution by crucifixion, God will simultaneously transfer all the sins of His people (those who will have faith in Jesus) to this Savior and the Savior’s perfect righteousness to His people (1 Peter 2:24). However, since the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), the Savior will suffer the wrath of God and die in order to pay the price for His people’s sin (1 John 4:10). This death will complete His salvation purpose, so when the Savior dies on the cross, His mission on Earth will be finished (John 19:30).
Later at Pentecost (about 50 days after Passover), many of His disciples will receive God’s Spirit (Acts 2:4), which will replace their old, sinful nature with a new, pure one from God (Ephesians 4:23, 24, Colossians 3:10). This gift of the Spirit will secure their spiritual freedom from sin (Ephesians 1:13), empower them to fight it while living a godly life, and unite them with the Savior and His Father (Ephesians 1:3-6). Once their time on Earth is over, they’ll enter eternal peace as they avoid God’s wrath and are welcomed in His Heavenly Paradise (John 10:27, 28, Luke 23:43).
Therefore, with the removal of their sins, the imputation of the Savior’s righteousness, and the reception of God’s Spirit, His people will be spiritually saved from sin.
The second stage is physical. Death is usually “final”, as we don’t return from it. His disciples will mourn His death for this very reason; when they witness Him die from a gruesome execution, surely they will not only be saddened by the fact that their beloved Savior will have perished but that He will no longer be able to save them or anyone else. Their mourning will not last for very long, however, since three days after His death, the burial tomb will be found empty. He will have risen from the dead (Matthew 28:6)!
What joy and astonishment they will have when they learn of His resurrection and fellowship with His risen state! He will no longer be dead, but will be raised back to life! By the power of God’s Spirit, he will have conquered death (Romans 8:11) and receive a glorious body, one which will be far superior to His original, earthly one (Philippians 3:21). His resurrection, however, will be a preview of the resurrection His people will one day partake of (Romans 8:17).
In the resurrection, His people will also receive glorious bodies which will be powered by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:42-44) and will never again feel the pains of sin (even though they will spiritually saved, they’ll still be influenced by sin and experience physical death before the resurrection). They will have conquered death, just as He, as it’s the final consequence of sin (Romans 6:23) and will be defeated on that final day (Revelation 20:14). The Savior will also merge Heaven and Earth, transforming our sinful Universe into a sinless utopia (Revelation 21:1-4); because sin will be nowhere to be found in this new, physical environment, His people will finally be physically free!
Therefore, with the glorification of their bodies during the resurrection, the defeat of death, and life in this sinless world, His people will be physically (and spiritually) saved from sin.
His people will truly be spiritually and physically free! Freedom in the ultimate sense! One could live their entire life as a slave living in squalor, but if they are saved from their sins, it won’t matter in the end because it would only have been a temporary pain leading to a permanent pleasure!
This baby is no ordinary baby, for through His life, death, and resurrection, man will obtain salvation from ultimate destruction and receive reconciliation with the Holy God (Romans 5:9-11). This is what the Bible calls the gospel, or the “good news”
So how should you live your life in light of this “good news”? It depends on your situation:
If you’ve never asked the Savior for forgiveness of your sins (or you don’t believe your sins have been forgiven), then do so right now. At the moment, sin functions as deadly shackles fastened around your wrists, leading you to eternal destruction (John 8:34). There’s nothing you could do yourself to escape this mighty bondage (Romans 7:15), so God’s wrath awaits you if you do not allow the Savior to break these shackles and lead you to God’s presence and eternal life (Romans 6:6, 7). This will be the most important decision you’ll ever make, so do not delay this freedom!
If you’ve asked the Savior for forgiveness of your sins, then great! Now, swear fidelity to Him (He’s also the King and Lord of the Universe) and show your utmost gratitude for what He’s done with obedience (Romans 6:15, 16), which includes staying away from immoral behavior and aspiring to become more like Him every day (Galatians 4:19, Romans 8:29). This also includes telling the whole world about this great message of freedom (Matthew 28:19, 20), for what former slave sits around and doesn’t explain to their former companions in bondage about how to break free from their chains if they could?! The feet of the heralds of the gospel are beautiful (Romans 10:15), so go out and beautify your feet!
Christmas gives us a great reminder about the coming of Jesus and the significance of His name, but we mustn’t think about this wonderful revelation only during the holidays. We must ponder over this amazing name that the miracle baby was given two-thousand years ago every moment of every day, for this name is the most important name which was or ever will be given. It is the name which gives us hope in our most devastating times, as the Savior gives us a “taste” of that sinless world during this life, along with the promise of one day living in it forever (Revelation 22:3-5). It’s also the name which the holy angels adulate (Revelation 5:11-13), and the name the reprobate demons fear, as they prostrate themselves before His very presence (Mark 3:11).
And it’s the name which will be praised, forever and ever, Amen.