“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. 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.
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. 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.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 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)
I have been to many church Christmas programs over the years. I love them all, from the living Christmas trees and live nativities to the classic children’s play. However, one of my favorite moments was during a Christmas musical’s dramatic finale. As the music swelled, church members entered the sanctuary carrying banners bearing all the names of Jesus.
King of kings. Lord of lords. Prince of peace. Lamb of God. Morning Star. Emmanuel. Savior. Jesus. Messiah.
One by one they made their way to the front of the sanctuary as the orchestra played majestic notes heralding the arrival of a king. The King. The Messiah.
The Jewish people had been anxiously awaiting the arrival of their Messiah, who would be the promised anointed one sent from the Lord. The original audience of Matthew’s gospel was the Jewish people. He was writing to prove to them that Jesus was their long-awaited Messiah.
The Jewish people had been excitedly waiting for their Messiah, however, Jesus did not fit the mold of what they thought a Messiah should be. Matthew carefully traced Jesus’ genealogy and His connection to the Old Testament prophecies for the Jews to prove that Jesus was indeed the long-awaited Messiah.
In the biblical culture names were very significant. They meant something. There were usually specific reasons a person was given a name. In Matthew 1:18-25, we see how the birth of Jesus the Messiah (or Jesus Christ) happened. In eight short verses, Matthew describes the birth of the King of the world. While Luke’s version goes into greater detail on what happened the actual night Jesus was born, Matthew’s focus is on a different part of Jesus’ birth. How his earthly father gave Jesus His name.
Joseph had been considering divorcing Mary since it appeared she had been unfaithful to him. However, an angel appeared to him in a dream and told him not to divorce Mary. Even more startling, the angel told Joseph that the son he would raise as his own would be the Savior of the world. Because of this his name would be Jesus, which means savior.
Jesus (Yeshua) was somewhat of a common name in that day. However, Joseph’s son was going to be set apart. He was going to save his people. He was the Jesus the Messiah. He was Jesus the Christ. There may have been many Yeshuas, but there was only one Messiah, only one Christ.
The word messiah appears only a few times in the Bible. It is derived from the Hebrew noun mashiah, which means anointed. In Greek translations, this noun appears as Christos, which means anointed as well.
Signifying Jesus as the Messiah and Jesus as the Christ set this Yeshua apart as God’s anointed one. He was the Savior of God’s people.
Matthew used particular references and wording to address his audience of Jewish people. His goal was to show the people that their Messiah, their Savior, their Deliverer had indeed come. He may not have come the way they had expected, but He had come. Through His death He would save the world.
Today we are the audience of Matthew’s message. His message remains just as true today. Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, has come. This Christmas season we specifically celebrate His arrival. Let us celebrate Christ as the Messiah all year round. His birth, His life, and His death . . . mere words are not enough to express the magnitude of what Jesus means to this world.
Do we sometimes feel like we are waiting for something? Are we overlooking the Messiah who has already come?
Think on Jesus as the Messiah today. Think specifically about Him as your personal Savior. What does that mean to you?