You Shall Call His Name Jesus
Well good morning, dear church family. It’s so good to be back with you. Kathryn and I had a tremendous vacation in Florida, visiting my parents over the Thanksgiving holiday. Thank you for your prayers for both of us and our children as we were away. I’ve come back recharged, renewed, and refreshed. I had an very interesting evangelistic encounter while in Florida. I’ve written about it in this week’s “From Pulpit and Paper.” I’d encourage you to read that.
The staff, especially Pastor Jesse, did an outstanding job of helping me “wrap up” my vacation when I returned. If you’re not sure what I’m referring to, I’d encourage you to ask the staff or the youth or Pastor Jesse. They know what I’m talking about.
Thank you, Pastor Jesse, for your exposition of the book of Obadiah. I know that so many of you were blessed by it. My biggest take away was that pride is a big deal. Like a really big deal. We are all prone towards being prideful and thinking too highly of ourselves. Your exposition for me was a great reminder of the seriousness and danger of pride in the Christian life. Thank you, brother, for delivering the word to us.
This morning we will begin a three-week advent series. I did not do an advent series last year. Last December we continued in our study of Philippians. This year, because we have just finished the exposition of two books, Philippians and Obadiah, I thought that this year would be a great year for an Advent series.
The English word “Advent” comes from the Latin word for “coming.” During the “Advent” season, which begins around the end of November and ends on Christmas eve, Christians have historically reflected on what Christmas represents for the Christian—the birth of our Lord, the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Advent season prepares us for Christmas morning. It prepares us to wake up on the Christmas morning with joy, peace, and thanksgiving. That’s the purpose of this series. My burden for you as a pastor is that you would rightfully meditate upon the Lord Jesus Christ as we make our way to Christmas day. My hope that, because of this series, you would love Jesus Christ more. Plain and simple. The more I preach, the more I realize that the pastor has one job. And that job is to point people to Jesus Christ. That’s what I want to do with this advent series. I want to help you see how glorious, how precious, how powerful our Lord is.
Let’s go ahead and open up to the passage we will be studying this morning: Matt 1:20–23.
The way I will construct this series is going to be around what the angels say to Joseph, Mary, and the Shepherds concerning the birth of the Lord Jesus. In the early chapters of Matthew and Luke, the biblical authors share four different “sermons” the angels give regarding who Jesus Christ is and what he will do. For this first sermon, we will look at what the angels tell Joseph from the Gospel of Matthew. Next week we will look at what the angels tell Mary, the mother of our Lord, regarding her Son. In two weeks, the Sunday before Christmas, we will look at what the angels tell the shepherds. And then for the Christmas eve service, we will look at what the angels proclaim to the world, after they speak with the shepherds. This Christmas eve sermon will be largely evangelistic. So please make sure to invite non-Christians to our Christmas eve service. There are details in the bulletin regarding our Christmas eve service.
The way I want to frame this morning’s sermon and the next two sermons is considering the gospel. Now what is the gospel? I have a specific definition for what I mean by the gospel. Write this down. The gospel is this:
the story of the person and work of Christ in his first and second coming.
The gospel is the story of the person and work of Christ in his first and second coming. What I want you to notice about this definition for our purposes this morning is how this definition emphasizes both the person of Christ—who he is—and his work—what he has done. The gospel is about both. The gospel is about the person of Christ and the work of Christ—who he is and what he has done.
In each Sunday morning sermon, I am going to analyze each of the passages, each of the angel’s sermons on the basis of what they tell us about the gospel, about the person of Christ—who he is—and the work of Christ—what he has done. So what we want to ask of this passage this morning, is what do the angels tell Joseph regarding who Jesus is and what he does.
Let’s go ahead and look at the passage one more time together, specifically at what the angel says to Joseph. We begin in v. 20.
Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
To set the context a little bit. What is going on here is that Joseph and Mary were engaged to be married. Joseph, who is the legal though not biological father of our Lord, finds out that his fiancé, Mary, the legal and biological mother of our Lord, is pregnant. The reason why Joseph might want to break up with Mary should be clear. Mary tells Joseph, “I’m pregnant. The Holy Spirit has placed a baby in my womb.” Joseph says, “Ya right!? You’re crazy. I don’t ever want to talk to you again.” So Joseph decides to separate form Mary. Joseph needs a little convincing. And this is the role that the angel plays. The angel is there to convince Joseph that what Mary said to him was true. And then the angel proceeds to tell Joseph what will soon take place with Mary’s Son. That’s the context of our passage.
What is revealed in this passage regarding the gospel—regarding the person and work of Christ—is twofold. There are two statements of identity and two statements of function. Jesus is given two names in this passage, and he does two actions in this passage. So we will have four points. The outline will go name, action, name, action.
Y’all know I’m still in the introduction part of my sermon, right? You knew this was going to be a long sermon because I’ve been out of the pulpit for so long, right? I just got so much to say. I heard this week of a pastor who preaches sermons that can go as long as an hour and a half. Don’t worry. Mine will just be an hour, twenty mins.
OK, first point. Write this. “Jesus.” “Jesus.” Look with me at v. 21. The angel says to Joseph,
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus
Here the angel commands Joseph regarding what name he is to give his Son. He shall be called “Jesus.”
Old Testament Context
The name “Jesus” was not a unique name in the first century. In the first century, it was one of the most common names given to males. Because it was so common, that it is why often the modifier “of Nazareth,” “Jesus of Nazareth” was added to Jesus’ name for further specification. When the biblical writers add “of Nazareth” they’re specifying which Jesus they’re talking about.
How we got the English name, “Jesus,” it quite a complex story. To make the story simple: the name “Jesus” comes from the Greek word “Ἰησοῦς.” This Greek name Ἰησοῦς occurs comes from the Hebrew names, “Yehosua” and “Yeshua.” The base name, which “Jesus,” comes from is Jewish. That should be of no surprise. Our Savior come to us from the Jewish people, and his name is rooted in a very powerful OT idea. What is that OT idea?
The idea that Jesus’ name— Ἰησοῦς, Yehosua, Yeshua—captures is this idea. This passage comes from Ps 130:7–8. This is how the passage reads,
O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
It’s verse 8 where this the name of Jesus is really brought out. Let me read it again: “And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”
In this passage, the Psalmist is foretelling us what it is that Jesus will do. Now in the Psalms passage, the person who does this is YHWH, right? The LORD. There is a transition with Jesus, though. In our Matthew passage, who is the identity of the one who will save Israel from their sins? It’s Jesus. What you have with the comparison of these two texts—the Ps 130:8 passage and our Matt 1:21 passage, is you have Jesus being the fulfilment of YHWH saving his people. And what does this mean? It means that Jesus is YHWH in the flesh. This passage is telling us that YHWH has come to dwell on earth. There will be a YHWH in the flesh. He will be born as a baby and this YHWH in the flesh will redeem his people from their sins.
Jesus— Ἰησοῦς, Yehosua, Yeshua—is the long-promised one that the OT points to. When the OT says in Ps 130:8 that YHWH will save Israel from their sins, Matt 1:21 tells us that the way YHWH will do this is by means of Jesus. Jesus is YHWH in the flesh. He is the God of Israel born as a baby.
Jesus Will Save You
Now with that OT background in mind, look with me at Matt 1:21. Here I am segueing into my second point. The first point was, “Jesus.” That’s his name. Remember dealing with who Jesus is. Jesus is YHWH’s salvation in flesh and bones. Jesus is YHWH’s plan of salvation incarnated. Now we segue into the second point. He is Jesus. That’s what who he is. What does he do? He saves. That’s the second point. Write, “He saves.”
This is what Matt 1:21 says.
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
What I want you to first notice is the “for.” The “for” is providing the reason why Jesus will be given this name. What Matthew is doing here is he is utilizing the theology of Ps 130:8—YHWH will save his people from their sins—in his understanding of Jesus’ work. Why is Jesus given the name Jesus? Why? Well, because Jesus—who is YHWH in the flesh—will save his people from their sins.
In the Ps 130:8 passage, the text is not specific regarding how exactly YHWH will save his people. Matthew 1:21 is the fulfillment of Ps 130:8. Matthew 1:21 tells us how Ps 130:8 will be fulfilled. It’s fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus—who is YHWH in the flesh—is what Ps 130:8 refers to. Jesus is the prophetic fulfilment of that OT passage.
Will Save His People from Their Sins
Now look with me at the verb in this clause. What’s the verb? The verb is “will save.” The angel here is foretelling what Jesus will do. What will he do? He will save his people from their sins.
It’s helpful to contrast with what the angel doesn’t say. I’ve brought this point up several times but it’s worth repeating. The angel does not say, “He might save his people from their sins,” or “He may save his people from their sins,” or “He can save his people from their sins,” or “He could save his people from their sins.” Dear friends, with Jesus we don’t “shoulda, coulda, would, maybe, might” salvation. No. No. No. No. No.
Dear friends, dearly beloved, beloved saints of the Lord, listen to me: Jesus provision of salvation. It’s certain. YHWH will fulfill his word. As Ps 130:8 says, YHWH will redeem Israel and the church from their iniquities. So also, Jesus—being YHWH in the flesh—will redeem his people from their sins. This is certain. This passage is teaching a certainty of salvation.
One theological question that this passage touches on is whether you can lose your salvation. Can you lose your salvation? Absolutely not. Why can’t you lose your salvation according to this passage? Because it’s not up to you. Your salvation is not based upon what you do. It’s based upon what Jesus has done. Your salvation is based upon the certainty and finality of Jesus’ work for you. You didn’t earn. You don’t deserve.
Now, dear friends, do you have sins in your life? You better believe it. We all have sins. We have sins in our lives that we return to over and over again. We have sins that we can’t seem to have victory over. Over and over again we return to the Lord and ask him for victory. And yet we find ourselves still, once again sinning as we have in the past.
These sins are a big deal. We must repent with all the might the Lord gives us to turn from these sins. Obedience matters, dear friend. Perseverance matters. We spent a long time in Philippians talking about that. But, dear friend, no matter how godly you are in this life, you will never measure up. We all will remain in sin so long as we live in this world. Our sinfulness is certain, just like Jesus’ salvation is.
And yet Jesus’ work for us is still true, dear friend. How can that be? Listen to this quote, beloved. It’s from Richard Sibbes, a Puritan theologian.
There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us
Dear Christian, on your darkest day, on the day when you have returned to the same sin for the one hundredth time, the certainty of Jesus’ work for you remains. The certainty of Jesus’ work for you is greater than the certainty of your sins. If you have believed in Jesus, if you by faith have trusted in the Son of God, he will save you.
Wow. We’re only halfway through, and I’ve been up here for 25 minutes already. Stay with me. Let’s move to our third point. It’s this: “Immanuel.” Here we are investigating the second name Jesus is given in this passage. Look with me at vv. 22–23.
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
To understand this name given to Jesus, to understand what this text means, we have to take a broader look at how the Bible speaks of God’s presence with reference to his people. To do this, we must start at the very beginning of the biblical story.
Think with me back to the story of Adam and Eve in the garden. Prior to the Fall, Adam and Eve had complete access to God. The early chapters of Genesis specify that God would speak to Adam and Eve directly and that he would walk in the garden. Adam and Eve were naked and were not ashamed. God’s presence to not make them feel guilty prior to the fall. There was a closeness that Adam and Eve experienced in the garden that was unique and intimate. After they fell into sin, God kicked them out of the garden. In judgment, God punished them for their sins. One way he punished him is that he removed his saving, gracious presence from them.
God was no longer present as he had once been with his people. The sins of God’s people separate them from YHWH. This is a theme and a pattern throughout the OT. The sins of Israel separate them from God, from his blessings.
God mitigates this problem by drawing near to his people. The best example of this from the OT was the temple. The OT specifies that God would dwell in the temple, specifically in the Holy of Holies. Now this wasn’t, though, permanent. God did depart from the temple. God would remove his presence from the temple. This is part of the story of Ezekiel. Further, the temple could be and was destroyed. Due to the sin and disobedience of the people, God’s would abandon his people to suffer the consequences of their sins. What it is that the people of God needed—the presence of God—was what it is that the didn’t have.
The people of God in the OT longed for a greater revelation of the presence of God. They anticipated something greater. They longed for a greater manifestation of the presence of God. What we need is more than a tabernacle or a temple. We need a person.
The answer to the longings of God’s people, dear friend, is the person of Christ. Matthew, in describing Jesus as Immanuel, has all of this in the back of his mind. He has in mind the disappointment and grief that the people of God have felt in the OT. When the presence of God was removed from the temple, when the tabernacle was taken from them. What do we get in the gospels? We get Jesus. We get God in the flesh. He is YHWH. When he showed up on the earth some 2,000 years ago, if you looked at him you would see YHWH. He is YHWH with us. In the body. In Jesus Christ is the glory of the eternal God. In his person is the incarnation of our God. When he returns and you look at his face, when you see his face, you will see God. The face of Jesus Christ will be a prism by which you see the glory of God. Jesus is the climax of God’s plan of redemption. He is the exact representation of God’s deity. In him is all the fullness of God pleased to dwell.
Jesus Is with You
This God-who-is-with-us doesn’t not forsake us, dear friends. His is ever with us. His is with us right here, right now. Here I am segueing to the last point. The last point is this, “Jesus dwells with us.” This point naturally follows from the title, Immanuel. If Jesus is Immanuel—God with us—that means that Jesus dwells with us.
Right here; right now
He is here right now. That is what gives this church meaning and vibrancy. We come to be empowered by him, to be built up by him. If you feel that during this time of the Sunday morning worship that you want to live for Jesus, that you are a sinner and have no hope besides Jesus, you feel that way because Jesus is right here, right now.
Listen to this passage. This is what Jesus says. It comes from Matthew 18:20.
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.
Jesus is in our presence. He is here right now either saving or judging you. He is always present with his people. That is what our Lord does.
Now you might say, “Well I don’t see him, Pastor?” If he’s here, where is he? If he has a body, I don’t see an embodied Jesus.” What an excellent point.
When I say that Jesus is here with us right here, right now, I do not mean that Jesus is here with us by means of his physical body. Jesus is not hear physically but spiritually. Another way to say it, Jesus is here, right here, right now, by means of the Holy Spirit. Listen to this verse. This comes from the Gospel of John. It’s John 16:7. I believe pastor Jesse referenced this verse in one of his sermons. The passage says,
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
Jesus is saying here that the Holy Spirit will come after Jesus ascends to the Father. In this current state, Jesus is not with us physically. He will be in the new heavens and the new earth but not now. Instead, he is with us spiritually—by means of the Soirit.
Now I would like to apply this idea, Jesus is with you, in a very specific way. As you know we are in the holiday season. We just passed thanksgiving and Christmas is around the corner. For some the holiday season is an especially difficult time. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one and the holidays lead you to remember that that person is no longer here. Maybe you’ve lost your spouse this year. This could be the first Christmas without them. The pain of the holidays might, for you, be greater than the joy. Maybe you just want the holidays to be over so you’ll stop thinking about all the difficulty you have. And especially in light of this year of COVID. This has been a tremendously difficult year for so many. COVID has made the difficulty even worse. Maybe 2020 has been the worst year of your life. Loneliness, depression, and sadness. For so many of you this is the case.
What does Jesus want you to say to those who are suffering, lonely, and sad? What does he want to say to them? In light of this text, does he say, “Well you’re on your own. I’ve helped you a little bit, but now it’s up to you. You can do it. Just keep trying.” Or, something like, “Well I’m a fareweather friend. I’m there for you when things are going well, but I’m not when it gets difficult.” Is that how Jesus is? Is that what this text is saying? That’s no gospel.
This is what Jesus wants you to hear. Listen to this. Matthew ends his gospel the same way he begins it. He begins it by telling us that Jesus is God with us. Listen to how he ends it. Matthew 28:18–20.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Dearly beloved, Jesus is with you. He’s here right now. And if you’re a Christian, he’s always with you. He will never leave you or forsake you. He is for you. He is right by your side. Jesus is the world’s most faithfully friend. He is the fulfilment of all that we long for and need. Love him. Embrace him. Trust him.