“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about … you are to give Him the name Jesus … and they will call Him Immanuel….”
Matthew 1:18, 21, 23 (NIV)
What’s in a name? A lot – at least in Biblical times! Names represented the character or destiny of a child as well as identifying who they were and to whom they belonged. The Gospel of Matthew gives us clear insight as to who this child born in Bethlehem was, by the distinct names He was given. In verses 18, 21, and 23, you’ll find three names assigned to God’s Son:
Jesus means “Saviour” and comes from the Hebrew name, Joshua, which means “Jehovah is salvation.” In His day, many Jewish boys were named Joshua or, in the Greek, Jesus. Matthew records an angel speaking to Joseph in a dream, telling him that Mary was about to give birth to a son. The angel also told Joseph that he was to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21) How would that be possible? Because Mary’s child was Jesus the Christ.
Christ means “anointed”; it is the Greek equivalent of Messiah. He is “Jesus the Messiah.” Jesus is His human name; Christ is His official title. The Jews were looking for a Savior that would come and rescue them. Prophets had predicted the coming of a Messiah, but who would have imagined He would come like this? I wonder how Joseph must have felt. The girl he loved and was engaged to was pregnant and he knew it was not his child. As much as he wanted to believe her story, God knew that it would take Divine intervention to prevent him from breaking the engagement, which was equivalent to divorcing her in that day. So, God sent an angel to speak to Joseph in a dream. Imagine Joseph processing all of this and making the decision to trust God, despite how impossible it was to believe. God gave Joseph insight into the birth and destiny of this child. Mary’s son was the Christ, the long awaited Messiah!
Immanuel describes who He is—”God with us.” It must have seemed like God had abandoned His people, who were in exile in their own land and under Roman oppression. Biblical scholars refer to this time between the closing of the Old Testament prophets and the beginning of the New Testament as the “silent years”. What a comfort to know that, after these some 400 years, God was with His people and would care for them! Knowing that God is with you will rescue you from despair and offer comfort and hope. He cares and will deliver you!