And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. —Matthew 1:21
One of the first words children learn to write is their name. When someone is lost, the first question they must answer is, “What is your name?” The key point of identifying yourself is your name, which is matched to your date of birth and perhaps telephone number. Names always have been and always will be important.
In the first sixteen verses of Matthew, names become the primary focus of the passage. Each person listed here in the genealogy of Jesus Christ was blessed with a name that not only identified them, but had a specific meaning and gave them a place in the blessed lineage of the Lord. There is still one name that garners all the attention in the closing verses of Matthew 1. This is the name “Jesus.”
The name “Jesus” simply means “Jehovah saves.” According to an old historian, this was a common name among the Jews. In the Old Testament history, two notable people shared the Hebrew equivalent of Jesus Joshua, the successor of Moses who led the tribes of Israel into the Promised Land, and Joshua the high priest who, with Zerubbabel, brought the Jews back to their own land after their time in captivity (Zech. 3).
In the blessed name Jesus, which is dear to every believer’s heart, we are taught about the Person and work of the One who received the name. The name Savior would have a rich meaning to the Jewish readers of this Gospel. Their Jewish history was rich in experiences of deliverance, and some Jews even looked forward to a Messiah who would save the nation and restore their ancient glory. In the Person of Jesus, the Great Deliverer, all the attributes of God would work together to save. In calling His name Jesus, the passage is declaring that it is impossible to find salvation anywhere and in anyone else. The Apostle Peter resoundingly echoes this theme in Acts 4:12, and therefore it must be our great goal to make this name known to those around us.
Certain people are on the receiving end of Jesus’ Person and work. This is not a certain select nation, for the verse says, “he shall save his people….” His people are those who would be taught by Him, follow Him, and trust Him as their Savior. This is to say that all those who come to Christ “weary and heavy laden” would receive rest in belonging to Him (Matt. 11:28). All those will be saved who can answer the question posed to the disciples in Matthew 16:15, “But whom say ye that I am?” with Peter’s well-known answer of faith and Jesus’ reply, “thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” To be a disciple of Christ is to live in complete allegiance to His name. It is not enough to merely know that a person named Jesus lived and did much good and try to follow His example. It is not in being able to discourse about the meaning and etymology of the name. It is having His name define you, touch your deepest affections, and drive your obedience.
Then there is the reality that Jesus’ whole Person and work would oppose and remedy “their sin.” He did not have His own sin to oppose and thereby weaken His ability to intervene with theirs. No, their state was one of sin, as law-breakers, rebels, and slaves to sin. All evil is included in sin. It is most wretched and is the cause of all our misery and death. Yet sin, as it opposes God as Creator, Law-giver, and Judge would be overcome and undone in its power by the life and death of this Savior. So while the sinner can do nothing to save himself from the punishment of sin or its defilement, Jesus is able and willing. This is the joy of belonging to Jesus—not just being delivered from the power of sin at the time of salvation, but sharing in the victory over the defilement of sin through life, until all His people are glorified, never to sin anymore!
Rev. Don Overbeek is pastor of the Heritage Reformed Congregation in Bradford, Ontario.
Courtesy of Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth