A lovely theme in Matthew’s telling of the Christmas account is his emphasis on what the Child of Bethlehem is called. Have you ever noticed it? Three times Matthew points out what this special Child is, or was to be, called. And each name or title is instructive.
First, we are told in Matthew 1:16 that this Jesus, born of Mary, “is called the Messiah.”* And who was the Messiah? He was the Anointed One, the Redeemer, the coming King that the Old Testament and the Jewish people had long been anticipating. The Messiah was the seed of the woman (Genesis 3), who would come and crush the devil’s head. He was the seed of Abraham, in whom “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 22). He was the Son of David, who would someday reign on His ancestor’s throne. He was the longed-for child of Isaiah 9, who would bring light into darkness and peace into war. He was the suffering servant, who would be “pierced through for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53). He was the one toward whom all “the fullness of the times” was gestating! The culmination of God’s great redemptive purposes! “Jesus … who is called the Messiah.”
And then, not only does Matthew point out His Messianic title, but also His personal name: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins”* (Matthew 1:21). The name “Jesus” is our English version of the Hebrew name Joshua, or Y’shua. And this Hebrew name, Y’shua, means the LORD (Yahweh) saves. And that is precisely what this Child of Bethlehem came to do – to “save His people from their sins.” Jesus “became flesh”; and He was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin”; and He “bore our sins in His body on the cross”; and He rose on the third day; and He is coming again, someday soon … all in fulfillment of that marvelous name, and of the heavenly mission of salvation that lay beneath it! “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins”
And then notice, thirdly, that Matthew points out, from the prophecy of Isaiah, another name by which this Child would be called (Matthew 1:23): “‘They shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us.’”* What a name! This babe in the manger is indeed truly human – very man of very man! But He is also very God of very God! “God with us”*. This, in fact, is why He is able to “save His people from their sins”! For “who can forgive sins but God alone?” No one! And so praise God that this baby is, indeed, Immanuel! That He is, indeed, “God with us.”* And praise God that He came to be “with us” – to walk among us, and to take upon Himself our nature, “sympathiz[ing] with our weaknesses,” entering our temptations, and dying our death. What a name, Immanuel!
Consider what the baby of Bethlehem is called, this Christmas. And in addition to all, I hope that, by faith, you can call Him yours!
*Bold or italicized emphases within biblical quotations have been added by this article’s author, and are not part of the original biblical text.