gratitude & hoopla: The Naming of Jesus: A Sabbath Meditation

gratitude & hoopla

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

30.7.06

The Naming of Jesus: A Sabbath Meditation

Three times in the first chapter of Matthew's Gospel, the account speaks of the naming of Jesus. That is, it speaks of what he was to be called called, how he was to be known.

At verse 17, just at the end of the 42 generation genealogy, we read: "and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ."

That Jesus was called Christ does not of necessity imply divinity. But it does require one in the line of David, who shall rule over a restored kingdom. This is in fact the purpose of Matthew's genealogy, to show that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed descended from David. In fact, the start of the genealogy affirms this: "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham."

So the first name featured here is Christ, which is to say, a Davidic messiah, or savior. But we get more light on the matter of who Jesus, and what it means to be a savior, when we read the words of the angel to Joseph at verse 21:
"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."
His name shall be Jesus, which means, Yahweh is salvation. Christ means savior, but Jesus means God saves.

So Jesus was, yes, descended from David, fulfilling one aspect of messiahship, but now we have affirmed another aspect of that prophecy: Only Yahweh can save. Therefore, the messiah must be, at the very least, a servant of Yahweh, doing his will. And yet we are approaching a new possibility here. Can it be that the Christ is God? God himself? Matthew cinches the deal immediately after affirming that "Yahweh is salvation," by going back to the ancient prophecy of Isaiah 7:14:
"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel."
And "Immanuel" means, as Matthew is quick to point out, "God with us." So, the three "names" of Jesus affirm three propositions:
1) Jesus was the prophesied Davidic savior (as Matthew's genealogy shows).
2) Only God saves (as the OT Scriptures show again and again).
3) Therefore, Jesus was "God with us" (as his life, ministry, death, and resurrection would show).

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