The two names of Jesus

Chatswood Baptist Church

Matthew 1:18-25

Choosing a name

When a baby comes along one of the not too insignificant things that parents get to do is to give their newborn a name. Many parents already have a name picked out, but some parents find the whole process of picking a name extremely difficult and 9 month turns out to be just not long enough. Fortunately, in Australia we have 60 days to register the birth of a child so if the 9 months wasn’t enough you still have almost another 2 months to make up your mind.

  • Choosing a name for our daughter

In our case most of our children’s names had been picked out before they were born, it was only our daughter’s name that we were still debating when she arrived. We had narrowed it down to two very close candidates to choose between so while we were still in the delivery room, I decided that the only thing to do was to settle the matter, then and there, with a toss of a coin. I was content with whatever the coin decided. I liked both names equally. Kylie, my wife agreed to go along with it. However as soon as the coin came down and I announced what my daughter’s name was going to be, my wife announced that she really preferred the other name and that we were going to call her ‘Miriam’.

  • Two names for Mary’s child

When it came to naming Jesus, his names had been chosen well in advance without either Mary or Joseph ever really discussing it. His names weren’t determined by the toss of a coin or neither did it takes months of deliberation on the part of Mary and Joseph. What we heard in the reading from the first chapter of the gospel of Matthew earlier tonight was that there were two names chosen long before Jesus was born, and these names  came from God.

Understanding his names

Tonight, I want to just spend a few minutes looking at these two names because they are at heart of what all people need to understand about Jesus and why he was born.

You are to give him the name ‘Jesus’

The name ‘Jesus’ was given to Joseph by God probably about 5 months before the birth. At the time Joseph was Mary’s finance and understandably he needed a little reassurance to go ahead with the wedding when he found out that his fiancée was pregnant. It is easy to understand his reluctance for Matthew tells us that Joseph found this out before they had come together (this is a euphemism for saying that they hadn’t had sex). Joseph knew the child wasn’t his. Joseph’s intention was to divorce her quietly to avoid exposing her to any public disgrace. But, before Joseph had the chance to do this God spoke to him in a dream not only telling him that child had been supernaturally conceived by the Holy Spirit but also telling him to name child “Jesus”.

  • Names have origins and meanings

Lots of parents when they are choosing names scour books to see where the name came from and what the name originally meant. Most names have some sort of original meaning to them.

  • My name was originally a Greek which meant “friend of horses”

My name, “Philip” originally came from an ancient Greek name which meant “friend of horses”. It was made up of two Greek words philos which could mean “friend” and hippos which stood for horse.

  • Jesus was a form of the Hebrew name Joshua which meant God saves

The name “Jesus” was no different in that it had an origin and a meaning. It was a form of the Hebrew name “Joshua” which meant, “God saves”. Joseph was then told to name the child, Jesus because that would be exactly what he would do. He was told that Jesus would save his people from their sins.

  • Our biggest enemy is sin.

Over history the people of God, Israel, had needed saving from all sorts of enemies. Time and time again God had saved them from their enemies that surrounded them. He had saved them out of slavery in Egypt. He’d rescued them from the hand of Pharaoh and brought them through the red sea. He brought them out of the wilderness in to the promised land. He had saved them from the Philistines and the other nations around them time and time again. But as time went on it became clear that what the people of God needed saving from the most was themselves and the sin that lived in them and enslaved them.

It wasn’t the enemies around them that was their biggest problem but the one that lived in them. It was the sin that ruled their hearts that made them unable to live with one another and those around them and ultimately with God himself. It’s our sin that separates people from a holy God so God cannot be with us and it’s our sin that ultimately leads to our ruin and demise. The Bible says that the wages of sin we are told is death (Romans 6:23). Jesus was given the name Jesus because it emphasised the truth that he had come to save us from our sins.

  • God wants us to understand he can save us

By giving Jesus this name God wanted all people to understand that he is the one who saves us from our greatest enemy the sin that lives within us. This baby would be the one to do it. It doesn’t become clear in the story until later how he would do it but eventually what we see in the story is that it would be through giving his own life as a ransom for many (see Matthew 20:28), the one without sin would become sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). He was given the name Jesus because this is what he came to do and right from the start God wanted all people to know this..

They will call him “Immanuel”

The other name that Matthew pointed out for us in that earlier reading was the name “Immanuel”.

  • A name that meant God with us

This would be a kind of nickname that his people would call him. It wasn’t his formal name which was ‘Jesus’ but a name that his people would call him. Matthew told us that a prophet had spoken of a virgin who would give birth to a son. God had promised his people this sign in 724BC and Matthew said that it was ultimately fulfilled in the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. Jesus was the one that the people called “Immanuel”. We still call him Immanuel today. As Matthew explained, “Immanuel” means “God with us” and that is who Jesus is. He is “God with us”.

  • Jesus is the way that God is with us

With the birth of Jesus God was making a way that he could be with his people forever. Jesus is the way that God can be with all of us even today. The Son of God entered human history as a human being on flesh and blood not just to make the invisible God visible for a time, but to provide the way to save his people from their sins so that God can be with us always and never leave us.  He dealt with the one thing that makes it impossible for God to dwell with people like us. He dealt with our sin by paying for it with his life and removing it from us so that it doesn’t count against us. His coming was not just so that God could holiday among us for 33 years and then be gone but so that the invisible God might be with us forever. The promise that Jesus made to his disciples at the end of the gospel of Matthew was that he would be with them always even to the very end of the age. Now that he has dealt with our sin there is nothing in heaven and earth that can separate us from the love of God – not even death. It is Jesus who truly makes it possible for God to live among his people for now he lives in them.

These two names tell the good news of Christmas

These two names tell the good news of Christmas.  You need both names to tell the story of what Christmas is all about for there is no “Immanuel” without a “Jesus”. There is no “God with us” without “God saving us”. Fortunately, on Christmas day more than two thousand years ago a child was born to a virgin who God declared to be both “Jesus” and “Immanuel”. This is the good news that we are all proclaiming at Christmas. It is what our songs of joy are all about the coming of Jesus who is Immanuel, God with us. He makes it possible for men and women like us to live with God forever more and for that we are eternally grateful.