The Truth About Christmas
by Bob Burridge ©2010
This article concludes a series of studies about the events surrounding the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. The series begins with, Called To Bethlehem. There is also a complete index for all the articles telling The Truth About Christmas.
Part 13 The Name of Jesus
When God’s angel spoke to Mary to tell her about the child she would bear he said in Luke 1:30-33, “… Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
The name for her baby wasn’t explained to her at this time. The name “Jesus” in the original Greek text is iaesous (Ιησους). But this was Luke’s translation for the Greek readers. The angel probably would have addressed Mary in Aramaic or Hebrew. He would have used the name Yeshua (ישע). That’s a shortened form for Yehoshua. Literally the name means “Yahveh (Jehovah) saves / helps”.
We are used to many biblical names beginning with the letter “J” (Jesus, Joseph, Jehovah, Jeremiah, and so on). There is no “J” in either the Hebrew of the Old Testament, or in the Greek of the New Testament. English tends to turn the Hebrew “Y” sound into a “J”. In German the letter “J” has the sound of our English letter “Y”, so the early European translations kept the letter “J”. Eventually it lost the original “Y” sound. So we say the Name of God is Jehovah, but in Hebrew it is originally Yahveh (יהבה). This is why we say “Jesus” in English instead of “Yesus,” or the Aramaic “Yeshua” (ישע), or “Iaesous” (Ιησους) as it would read in Luke’s Greek version.
Jesus was a common name among the Jews at that time. Historical records show that there were others at that time named Jesus. There are even others by that name in the Bible.
When the angel appeared to Joseph he more directly explained the significance of the name. In Matthew 1:21 the angel said to him, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.”
Salvation implies that there is some danger from which to be saved or delivered. It wasn’t the danger of Roman oppression as so many Jews had come to believe. It was a more important danger, one more horrible than any persecution or personal depression. Jesus would deliver his people from the cause of all mankind’s sufferings: He would save them from sin itself!
The root of all our horrors, of all our struggles, and of all our problems is the corruption and depravity we inherit as a race from Adam, our representative in Eden.
This is the Christmas message: It’s not about decorations and gifts. It’s not even about days off and family dinners. It’s about the one real solution for all of man’s problems which all come from sin. Jesus came to save us from the guilt and disabilities that come from sin itself.
We learn more about Jesus by the titles he was given when the angel spoke to Mary about her son in Luke 1:32-33, “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
Mary’s son would be great. He wouldn’t simply grow up to be another citizen of Nazareth. He was destined for greatness in the eyes of God. It would not even be the kind of greatness known to other outstanding humans remembered in the record of the history of the world.
He will be called Son of the Most High. What an astounding title! Others are called sons of the Most High God too, but the expanding information of the angel spirals upward to amazing heights. This was obviously a special title unlike the normal honor every covenant child bears. Otherwise the angel wouldn’t have said it as he did.
This Son of God will reign forever in the kingly office promised to David. This was the peak of the mountain of information Mary was hearing. The lost and suppressed kingship of David’s throne would be revived in her son. A much longed for promise would be fulfilled in him.
Every Jew knew the words the angel referred to. The prophet Nathan said long ago to the great King David, in 2 Samuel 7:12-13, “And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.”
Then again in verse 16 Nathan concluded the promise to David, “And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.”
We could add to the angel’s words those titles given to our Savior by the Prophet Isaiah:
Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
Jesus is also called the Christ. The word “Christ” is from the New Testament Greek term christos (Χριστος), which means “anointed”. It translates the Hebrew word Mashiakh (משיח), which also means one who is “anointed” or “set aside for special office”. We usually see this Hebrew word translated as “Messiah”.
In the revealed order of God’s law, prophets, priests, and kings were all anointed when they took up their office. Sometimes it was done by ceremonies common to their contemporary culture. At other times they were set aside by the simple declaration of some one who had the authority to appoint them to their office.
As the promised Redeemer, Jesus came to be Prophet, Priest, and King. All others who were anointed to serve in these offices were part of how God would reveal the special authority of our Savior. He was the one anointed from all eternity to reveal more fully the plan of God to redeem his people, to make the one true sacrifice for sin, and to rule forever as King over the Kingdom of God.
This is the one whose birth we celebrate on this day we set aside called “Christmas.”
As we exchange gifts we should remember the greatest gift ever given, the gift purchased by the humble life and death of Jesus Christ.
He took the place of all who repentantly trust in him alone for what he accomplished during his mission to earth over 2000 years ago. He bore the just penalty they deserve for their sins, and he gives them his righteousness to make them acceptable to live joyfully forever in fellowship with the Creator and Sovereign Lord of all that is. He truly deserves our worship, our devotion, our service.
To learn more about our Wonderful Savior you need to be a careful student of the Word of God preserved for us supernaturally in the book we call the Bible. To help you in that study we invite you to study through our on-line Syllabus as it reviews the many teachings of God’s word. Let us know how we can help you grow in your appreciation of this amazing gift of God.