One of my favourite verses in the whole Bible comes from Jesus’ birth narrative in Matthew’s Gospel, words that we hear regularly at Christmas time. The story of Jesus’ birth is admittedly quite strange. Mary was pregnant, yet still a virgin; a baby conceived “from the Holy Spirit” (as Matthew says) rather than naturally; and a disappointed husband-to-be having it all explained to him by an angel in a dream! And another thing that’s strange is that neither Mary nor Joseph are to name the baby. The name comes from the angel: “You shall call His name Jesus.”
Why ‘Jesus’? The name literally means “the Lord is salvation”. He is born to bring rescue to His people. And, remarkably, the angel tells us what Jesus has come to save them from. Not from their political enemies and not from the hopelessness that stems from the suffering, sadness and disappointments of this world, but from the cause of all these things. From something far more sinister than we could imagine. Sin. The angel said, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21, ESV)
Sin is like an illness. We see its symptoms in the way we treat one another and the way we treat God. We may try to ignore this illness but deep-down we know it’s there and we know its consequences are deadly if left untreated. Sin is creation in defiance; it’s the dethroning of the creator and crowning ourselves, rejecting His law and obeying ourselves. Several theologians have referred to it as ‘cosmic treason’, the punishment of which is death.
But Jesus is the great doctor who has come to heal, not the righteous, but the sinner. The King has come to rescue His people from sin. Not by means of a sword or a political campaign but by means of a cross. Jesus took our sin and its consequences upon Himself so that we could be free. The author of life dies in the place of sinners, so sinners can enjoy the place of glory and everlasting life. How does Jesus save His people? By laying down His life so that all who believe are free from sin, free from death; rescued and brought into God’s kingdom. And His resurrection guarantees that it’s a kingdom ruled by the risen Jesus and restored by the risen Jesus. No more sin, and therefore, no more death, suffering, sickness, sadness or disappointments. This is what the Saviour has brought to us and this is our eternal hope.