Monday, October 23, 2006

Matthew 1:18-25, The Birth of Christ

Matthew 1:21-23, "And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins. Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which translated means, "God with us."

Who is this Christ who was born? These verses tell us that Jesus has two names: Immanuel and Jesus. One name, Immanuel, tells us who Christ is, and the other name, Jesus, tells us what Christ does. Verse 23 says, “they shall call His name Immanuel (which means God with us.).” When Jesus entered into human history, God Himself entered into human history. The Bible everywhere affirms that Jesus Christ is God. Jesus is God. John 1:1, 14 says, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen His glory.” John 5:18 says that Jesus “was making Himself equal with God.” When Thomas put his hands into the hands and side of Christ, he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Romans 9:5 says that Christ is “God over all, blessed forever.” Colossians 2:9 says that in Christ, “All the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” Hebrews 1:8 says, “But of the Son he says, Your throne O God is forever and ever.” Those are just some of the explicit references to the divinity of Christ in the New Testament.

But, why is it important to believe that Jesus is God? First, it’s important because if Jesus is not God, then He could not pay for our sins. Our sins offend an infinitely holy God and so deserve infinite punishment. Therefore, nothing short of an infinitely valuable sacrifice could pay the price for our sins. No mere human being or creature could possibly make atonement to satisfy God’s holy character. Therefore, if Jesus is not God, then there can be no salvation in Him.

Second, if Jesus is not God, then we must not worship Him. We must never worship a creature, but are only allowed to worship God. Isaiah 42:8 says, “I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images.” Revelation 22:8-9 says, “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, 9 but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God." So, if Jesus were not God, we must not worship Him.

But in Matthew 2:2, 11, the wise men come to worship Jesus. That would be wrong if Jesus were not God. In Hebrews 1:6, all the angels are said to worship Jesus. That would be wrong if Jesus were not God. Revelation 5:12-14 says, “12 say with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!" 14 And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" and the elders fell down and worshiped.” That would all be wrong if Jesus were not God.

The name "Imanuel" not only tells us that Christ is God, it tells us that Christ is God “with us.” Jesus is both God, and man, a human being, who is one of us, and “with us.” It says that he was Mary’s son, born a little human baby. The Bible teaches that Jesus is truly God and truly man. That is a great mystery, but it is what the Bible teaches, and there is no contradiction in it, even though it is beyond our abilities to grasp fully.

This teaching is an amazing comfort to us during times of trial. Because Jesus is man, he can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He shed tears. He felt pain. He had to endure hunger. We can pour out our prayers to Him boldly knowing that He sympathizes with all our sufferings in this world.

The fact that Christ is human also tells us something about the heart of our God. He isn’t a God who keeps Himself aloof from us, but He walked with us, was willing to be touched by us, and to stand beside us. God the Son was willing to leave the comfort of sweet fellowship with the Father to live a hard life in order to save men and women from their sins.

Don’t you find this God lovely? Do you love this Christ and will you follow Him wherever He says to go? He has proven His commitment to you, and He will not turn against you. So, this passage tells us that the Christ is Immanuel. He is God with us. The name “Immanuel” tells us who Christ is.

The second name of Christ is Jesus (verse 21). The name “Jesus” tells us what Christ does. The name Jesus, or Yeshua, like Yehoshua (Joshua), comes from the Hebrew word “Yasha,” which means Yahweh, or God, saves. The name of Jesus is “God saves” because that’s what Jesus does as God. He saves.

So, who does Jesus save? Verse 21 says He saves “His people.” Jesus doesn’t save everyone and anyone. He only saves those who come to Him, who enter into His kingdom by faith. The whole book of Matthew describes what it means to be a follower of Christ.

But, what does Jesus save His people from? He doesn’t immediately save His people from Roman occupation, from poverty, from sickness, or from the struggles of this world. Instead, the text says He saves His people “from their sins” (verse 21). Matthew says that there are two ways in which Christ will do this.

First, He saves us from our sins by dying for us. At the end of the book, we find that by His death and resurrection, He saves His people from the guilt and power of their sins by suffering the penalty that His people deserve.

Second, He saves us from our sins by teaching us how not to sin. Throughout the book of Matthew, we find Christ giving instructions about how to overcome specific sins in our lives, teaching us how to live holy lives, rather than lives of sin.

May the nature and character of the Lord Jesus Christ strenthen and encourage you to live by faith every single day.

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