Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins

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Both Joseph and Mary were given strict instructions regarding the name of the Christ-child (Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:31). Angels had to come – they moved heaven to earth! – just to tell them the vital importance of being “Jesus.” Think of all the advice these first-time parents might have received… “You’re bearing the Son of God, don’t drop Him!”  But nothing like that.  The one thing they need to know is how to call Him, that is, how to think of Him, speak of Him, identify Him.

And what is His name?  Joseph is told:

“Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

The name “Jesus” is the same as the name “Joshua”.  (It’s from the same Hebrew word, but translated into Greek and then Anglicized).  And just as Joshua led the people out of the wilderness and into the promised land, so Jesus would lead His people out of sin and into God’s presence.  The name “Joshua” (or “Jesus”) means “the LORD is salvation.”

So we learn three things from the naming of Jesus:

First, we learn what kind of LORD we worship.

Jesus reveals God Most High.  He is the way and the truth and the life, we only come to the Father through Him (John 14:6).  So we don’t simply learn about Christ’s nature when we study His name.  His name reveals the depths of the divine life.

Therefore, what does it mean to say that the LORD is salvation.   It means that His very nature is a saving movement towards us.  To know the LORD is to know Him in His gracious approach to sinners.  The heart-beat of God is rescue: the LORD is salvation.

And who could deny this when we look to the baby Jesus.  From heaven to earth, from a throne to a manger, from King of the angels to man of sorrows.  Why?  Only to save.  His infinite riches are poured out in incarnation and crucifixion.  He becomes poor, just to make us paupers rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).  What is our God like?  The LORD is salvation.

Second, we learn what salvation is.  You see, the LORD is salvation.

Salvation is not a package of spiritual benefits which Jesus bestows.  It’s not the accumulation of heavenly things: forgiveness, a righteous status before God, eternal life, feelings of peace and purpose.  Jesus is not like a Prince riding along in his carriage and tossing bread to a pauper.  Jesus is far more like the Prince who gets out of his carriage, sets his love on the pauper and pledges himself to marry her.  He Himself is our redemption.

Salvation is not our receiving of heavenly stuff – it’s receiving the LORD Himself.  And in Him, we receive forgiveness, righteousness, eternal life, etc, etc.  What is salvation?  The question is who?  And the answer is: The LORD Jesus!

Third, we learn about ourselves.  If the LORD is salvation then we must be lost.  And that is certainly what our verse describes.  The Christ-Child is called JESUS: “for he shall save his people from their sins.”

Jesus does not come to save us from loneliness, or lack of purpose, or material poverty.  He comes in a very specific salvation – to save us from our sins.  Therefore this is our greatest need – a remedy for sin.

As Max Lucado has said:

If our greatest need had been information,
God would have sent us an educator.
If our greatest need had been technology,
God would have sent us a scientist.
If our greatest need had been money,
God would have sent us an economist.
If our greatest need had been pleasure,
God would have sent us an entertainer.
But our greatest need was forgiveness,
so God sent us a Savior.

Allow Jesus to define your greatest need.  It’s not your health, your finances, your job, your family, your relationship breakdowns.  There is a much bigger problem: your sin.

But now, let Jesus “say unto your soul, ‘I am thy salvation.'” (Psalm 35:3).  You are delivered from your real problem, and empowered to face all others.

Take a minute and allow Jesus to define for you…

… God

… salvation

… your sense of proportion in life.

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