When I was in high school, I remember my parents watching the television program Antiques Roadshow. In each episode, people would bring some object from their home in order to consult with a collectibles expert about its value. Sometimes a sculpture, bowl, rug, or baseball card that looked commonplace would be just that—ordinary. Other times, however, the most everyday item would actually turn out to be priceless. (One of the most astounding finds came from St. Paul, Minnesota: a pocket watch worth over $1.5 million!)
While you may not have discovered a priceless heirloom while dragging out the Christmas decorations this year, there’s a treasure waiting for you within one of the most familiar Christmas passages in the Bible. And all at the same time, its riches are valuable to encourage your heart, strengthen your faith, and equip your witness for Christ.
In Matthew 1:21–23 an angel speaks to Joseph about Mary:
‘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).Matthew 1:21-23 (ESV)
Here’s what’s so uncommonly astonishing about this verse. Let’s start with the little word “for” in verse 21. “For he will save his people from their sins.” What’s the reason for naming him “Jesus”? To paraphrase in two parts: (1) because he will rescue his people from their sins, (2) you should name him Jesus.
But how do these two halves relate? How is the Son’s mission (rescue) related to his name (Jesus)? When we look at the breakdown of the name “Jesus,” we start to unearth a corner of the treasure in front of us. Jesus is the New Testament name for the Old Testament’s “Joshua,” and both these names mean “Jehovah saves.”
So, when the Son “rescues his people from their sins,” who is doing the saving? Jehovah. When Jesus saves, it is Jehovah saving. Who knew that such a striking proof for the deity of Jesus Christ was contained in this familiar Christmas passage? A diamond on an already beautiful ring. But there’s more to explore.
Some skeptics of the deity of Christ might say, “Yes, when Jesus saves, Jehovah saves. But Jehovah is using Jesus as his redemptive agent in the world. Jehovah saves through Jesus, but that doesn’t mean that Jesus possesses the identity of Jehovah.”
If this were the only passage in the Bible about Jesus’s deity, then this could be a possible understanding of the words in Matthew 1:21 . . . only if Matthew had stopped writing at verse 21. But verses 22–23 are solid gold.
Matthew explains verse 21 by saying that “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet” (ESV). So, whatever is going on in verse 21—all about Jesus’s name and his rescue mission—it’s what Isaiah had prophesied long ago. What had Isaiah said?
The son will be called “Immanuel.” Wait. What? How can Matthew insist that naming the child “Jesus” is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy to name the son “Immanuel”?
Because when Jehovah was going to save his people, he did it himself. Jehovah didn’t send a mere agent of salvation, or even a mighty agent of salvation. “Jehovah Saves” (Jesus) is nothing less than “God with us” (Immanuel).
And here the treasure sparkles in plain view. The story of Christmas is the story of God’s redeeming mission. He sent someone to rescue his sinful people. But he didn’t simply dispatch a representative to accomplish this mission. He came himself.
What treasure God’s Word reveals to us! These verses unearth treasures of doctrine (Jesus is God the Son incarnate) and treasures of devotion (our God loved his sinful people so much that he came himself).
If you’ve ever wondered if the Bible really taught that Jesus is God, or if you’ve ever had opportunity to talk to others about this cherished truth, then stop and wonder at the treasure within this Christmas passage. In these verses you’ll discover no dusty antique, but the priceless worth of God, the Son Incarnate.
THE RADICAL BOOK FOR KIDS: EXPLORING THE ROOTS AND SHOOTS OF FAITH
The Radical Book for Kids is a fun-filled explorer’s guide to the Bible, church history, and life for boys and girls ages eight and up. Vibrantly illustrated and chock-full of fun facts and ideas, this interactive book competes with screen time by stimulating children’s natural curiosity and sense of adventure!