"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things behold, and angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, '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.' All this took place to fulfil 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 1:18-23)
In the birth of Jesus natural and supernatural intersect. Mary, a woman and earthling conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit. The human and divine came together and baby Jesus was born. An angel of the Lord who appeared to Joseph in a dream settled the question of Jesus' identity and His mission even before He was born. The two questions; 'Whose am I?' ('...you shall call His name Jesus') and 'What am I here for?' ('... For He shall save His people from their sins"), are flagged as the two most important issues. Jesus' identity and His mission or life's purpose very much summarise His life.
1. "Whose am I?" - The Issue of Identity
Observe that God the Father, did not leave it to Joseph to give name to Mary's concieved baby. Yes, in Jewish culture a father could and normally would name a child. However, Mary's son was not Joseph's biological father and therefore it was not up to him to do the honours. For this reason, God the Father is the One gave the name to His Son and His angel was to break the news to Joseph. It is quite startling to observe that through Jesus' double, human-divine identity, God has extended to everyone an open- ended invitation to formally become His children too. "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name." (John 1:12).
What is in The Name?
An angel of the Lord spoke to Joseph who contemplated to leave his pregnant fiance Mary with whom he just got engaged, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save his people from their sins." So all of this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, 'Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, they shall call His name Immanuel,' which translated means, 'God with us." (1:20.21)
There are two names mentioned here. One spoken by an angel, 'you shall call His name Jesus' and one spoken by the prophet, '... they shall call His name Immanuel,' (God with us). The angel spoke to Joseph about WHAT Jesus will do, 'He will save people from their sins.' The prophet on the other hand spoke of HOW He will do what He will do.
1. What Was Jesus Going To Do? 'Save us FROM Our Sins.'
The miracle of supernatural birth, whereby the divine and the human joined into one person called Jesus, happened for one reason and one reason only, which was to 'save people FROM their sins.' This unique intervention of God was absolutely essential if humanity was to be saved. We had to be saved FROM our sins. The one who was going to do it bore the signature name, 'Jesus, the one who saves'. The angel also said, 'he will save people from THEIR sins.' The types of sins implied in angel's speech refer to the personal nature of sin ('their sin'). It implies the types of sin we enjoy and do willingly. Jesus came to save us from these personal sins from which we cannot save ourselves as they typicaly take an upper hand over us and we get under their dominion. Also, it's important to observe that the angel did not say, '... He wil HEAL people from their sins' or to 'He will preach people out of their sins' or to 'He will teach people out of their sins'. Sins cannot be gotten rid of through healing, preaching or teaching but by the act of salvation which Jesus was going to accomplish on the cross of Calvary. Although Jesus healed, taught and preached regularly during His ministry the focal point of His mission was the salvation act on the cross of Calvary. All His acts of healing, teaching and preaching were pointing to His climaxing act of saving people from their sins.
2. How Was Jesus Going to Do It? - By Being 'God With Us'
How is Saviour going to save us FROM our sins, something which ultimately destroys all of us? He will save us FROM our sins by being God WITH us. What we are going to see in the gospel of Matthew is the manner in which Jesus saves. In every encounter Jesus had with individuals or groups, He showed how He did it - by being WITH us. Immanuel, our God in Jesus came to unmask hideousness, trickery and fatality of sin attraction in the hearts of people who had been in slavery to it, by presenting the beauty, power and glory of Himself as a substitute for it. The ugliness of our sins which strangely we find irresistible was ultimately exchanged on the cross of Calvary for the glory, power and the beauty of His life. The worst thing that happened to humanity has been 'sin with us'. Observe that 'the sickness with us' is not the worst thing that can happen to us. The angel came to share the best ever news by saying that Jesus came as 'God with us' to remove 'sin with us from us'. Humanity is in the embrace of sin. Jesus came to be God with us who would take the embrace of sin upon Himself and give Himself in exchange for it to us.