Reading: Matthew 1
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means "God with us"). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25 NIV)
Thinking and Reflecting
Matthew is one of three Synoptic Gospels (along with Mark and Luke), but is unique in its Jewish focus-including numerous OT quotations and fulfillment notes. The Synoptic Gospels can be generally outlined in three major sections: identity stories which introduce the gospel, the ministry of Jesus (including the three passion predictions), and the events of the Passion Week (beginning with the Triumphal Entry and concluding with the Resurrection).
Today's text is part of Matthew's identity stories. (In Matthew the identity stories appear in the first four chapters and include the genealogy, his identity as Jesus-Immanuel-Christ, a section devoted to kingly contrasts, the "Son out of Egypt" prophecy, his baptism, and his temptation).
The name Jesus signifies "Savior." What do you think of when you think of salvation? What did the Jews think of or anticipate (for example, deliverance from oppression by other nations)? Today's text speaks of "salvation from sins." Contemplate the significance of the name, Jesus, and resolve to connect the name with the concept of salvation more often when you encounter it (hear it or read it). The name Immanuel means "God with us." What does it mean to you that in Jesus, God is with us? Consider this text from chapter 1 in contrast with the Great Commission text in chapter 28 when the disciples wonder if Jesus' departure will mean that God will no longer be present with them. (Jesus' promise before his ascension is that he will always be with them.) The designation Christ in 2:4 (Christ is the Greek word, Messiah in Hebrew, anointed in English) suggests another aspect of Jesus' identity. What does it mean to you that Jesus is the "anointed one"? Given that Matthew's description of Jesus has been characterized as "Servant King," how does this concept connect to his royalty?
Father God, help us understand more clearly the identity of Jesus. Help us not to take for granted the meanings that are communicated when he is called Jesus, Immanuel, and Christ. Thank you for salvation through him, thank you for being with us on this earthly pilgrimage, thank you for his conquest and Kingdom reign. Thank you most of all for giving us access to your throne through prayer in His name, as we raise this prayer in Jesus' name and by his power, Amen.