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What Child is This?

December 3, 2014

What’s in a name? Have you ever really stopped to think about that? It’s really a valid question…and not just because everyone has one. Names say something about the one to whom they are ascribed. My name happens to be one of the most redundant of all names. You see, Adam literally means “man, or mankind.” So all that my given name really says about me is that I am exactly what I appear to be. And I’m perfectly okay with that.

In the first chapter of Matthew, we see a name being given. In some respects…it’s just a name. It’s not a new name that had never been used before. It’s not a name that people would have necessarily stopped in their tracks upon hearing. And if you consider the broader context of the chapter, it’s literally just one name coming after a list that includes no less than forty-eight other names.

The uniqueness of this name lies not in the name itself…but in the Name-Giver. You know if you consider all the way back to Genesis 2, where we see the first Adam giving names to “every beast of the field and bird of the heavens,” it says in 2:19, “Whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.” So Adam was given the authority…he was empowered by God…to name the creatures of the earth. And from that point, mankind chose the names of their offspring.

As you walk through the Scriptures, there are particular points where God steps in and changes a name. Abram becomes Abraham, Jacob becomes Israel, Simon becomes Peter, and Saul becomes Paul (and there are others). And each of those is a change in name. But in Matthew 1:21, we see something different. In this case the authority to name the child is not left to the earthly parents…but the Eternal Father claims the naming rights saying, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

We are given a slightly different vantage point in the Gospel of Luke where in 1:31, the angel Gabriel tells Mary, “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” So now we see that the composite picture shows how both parents were given explicit instructions regarding the name of this child.

And the implications of this name are clear. If this child “will save his people from their sins,” what is being clearly stated, by God, is that there is a need for His people to be saved from their sins. We have…right here in Matthew 1…a picture of the Gospel. It’s not that this child might be able to save, or will be interested in saving, or that we should keep an eye on Him and see if He can save. No…the angel of the Lord makes it clear that Jesus “will save His people from their sins.”

To this, Tim Keller says, “In the very name of this child we see the uniqueness of Christianity in general and of Jesus in particular.” You see…Jesus is not just a way…He’s the Way. He’s not just a truth…He’s the Truth. And He’s not just a savior…He’s the Savior. It says in Matthew 1:25 that Joseph was obedient. Okay, it doesn’t say those words exactly…but it does say that after the birth “he called his name Jesus.” And this is the name that we call upon today. This is the name that we hope upon today. This is the name that we proclaim, exalt, and praise with every ounce of our being…because we know that it is He…it is Jesus…Who saves. And what other response could we possibly have when we are the ones who have been saved?

So to the question, “What child is this?” We answer with a resounding, “He is Jesus…He’s our Savior!”

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