Naming the baby

Posted: January 7, 2013 in Sermons

My sermon from December 23, 2012: 

He will be called…
            Names are special. When you find out someone is expecting a baby you generally ask two questions: 1. Boy or girl? 2. Do you have a name picked out? It took my wife and I a little while to pick out our son’s name. We were settled on a girl’s name early on, but not a boy’s name. We picked the name Elliot for a few reasons. 1. We just liked it. 2. One of my Christian heroes (for lack of a better name) was the missionary Jim Elliot who was killed along with his four co-workers by the Ecuadorian tribe that they had gone to share the gospel with. And 3. It means “The Lord, he is God.” His middle name is Dean, who we named after Leah’s father. Naming your child is a special privilege of parents. And names can carry a lot of meaning.
            And people like their names because it represents who they are. Stephen Covey said, “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” If you want an easy way to insult someone you make fun of their name. We learned that on the playground at recess in elementary school. To insult a person is to drag their name through the mud. Names are important in our day just like they were important in Jesus’ time. They tended to have meaning behind them. Today I want us to look at five names that Scripture tells us that Jesus will be called. These names do more than simply give us data from his birth certificate; they identify who this baby is. Therefore with each one of them we will look at the significance of each one. And then I want us to end by asking the question: What will you call him?
Call him Jesus:
            The first name is the most common one when we talk about Christmas. Let’s begin in Matthew 1:20. “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
            Mary and Joseph did not spend any time brainstorming names. They didn’t do an internet search, get a book of baby names, or ask their friends and family how they felt the name sounded. The name was already picked out for them. They were to give him the name “Jesus.”  At first glance, this was just an ordinary, common first century Jewish name. In fact, there have been 71 tombs discovered from the time of Jesus that are other tombs of people named Jesus. Paul worked with a guy named Jesus (or Justus). The fact that Jesus had a common name makes him that much more endearing to me. In many respects he was a regular dude just like me. We read in Isaiah that there was nothing special about his physical appearance that would attract people to him. And this is even true about his name, nothing too special about it. But there was a reason it was used often for children of that time:
            It was common because the name would have been Yeshua, or in the Hebrew Old Testament we see the longer version, Yehoshua, translated into English as “Joshua.” It literally meant “Yahweh (or the LORD) saves.” There were two significant Joshua’s in the Old Testament. The first was the Joshua who was chosen to lead God’s people into the Promised Land. But because of Israel’s unbelief, Joshua could not provide lasting rest (Hebrews 4:8-10). Jesus was a greater Joshua who would bring God’s people everlasting rest (Matthew 11:28-30).
            We encounter another Joshua in the prophecies of Zechariah. He’s the priest purified by the angel of the Lord in Zechariah 3. The visions of Zechariah 3 and 6 depict a priest who wears the royal crown. Since such a combination of priest and king was forbidden in the Israel’s law, this portrayed another kind of Messiah, a royal priest. In the coming of Jesus, this priestly king had arrived at last. In fact, the central message of Psalm 110, a psalm about the coming Messiah, views Jesus Christ as the messianic royal priest.
            When Mary and Joseph gave him the name Yeshua and when people would use his name, it would bring up images of the long-expected Messiah who would deliver his people from sin, death, and judgment.
Call him Immanuel:
            The second name that I want us to consider for this newborn child is found in Matthew 1:23. “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). For someone who was to be called “Immanuel” no one really called Jesus that (or if they did it wasn’t recorded in the Bible.) But it wasn’t so much about the name, per se, but what it meant: “God with us.” Jesus was God in the flesh. There was a song a few years ago that had the lines, “What if God were one of us? Just a slob like one of us. Just a stranger on the bus trying to make his way home?” I used to hate that song because I thought it was making fun of Jesus. Now I am sad for the songwriter because they missed what Christmas is all about. God did come like one of us. John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” We call this act the incarnation, which means “in the flesh.” That’s what Christmas is all about.
            John 1:18 “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” Jesus is God. He is God with us. Colossians 1:19 “In Him, the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”
            To really grasp what this meant to the Jewish people of the time, we need to look at their history again. This time from the time of Isaiah, around 740 B.C. It was during this time that Israel was divided in two kingdoms. The northern kingdom, Israel, was doing evil in the eyes of the Lord. God was holding onto the southern kingdom, Judah, for a little while longer. Its king was Ahaz. In Isaiah 7, King Ahaz was afraid that the kingdoms of Israel and Syria would join forces and make war against it. God sent the prophet Isaiah to tell King Ahaz and Judah that they would stand for a little while longer. And then God told King Ahaz to ask for a sign that God was on their side. After King Ahaz refused, God said that he himself would give Ahaz a sign: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.”
            This had two meanings. One was dealing with the current military situation, but the second was that God would fulfill the Old Testament promises of coming to be with his people. God repeatedly promised: “I will be their God, and they will be my people. I will live among them and walk among them.”(2 Cor. 6:16, Lev. 26:12; Jer. 32:38; Ez. 37:27). The birth of Christ was the fulfillment of God’s desire to dwell among his people.
            We see this in John 1:14, when it refers to the word becoming flesh it says he “made his dwelling among us.” That literally means that Jesus “tabernacled” with us or he pitched his tent with us. In the Old Testament, when the people of Israel lived in tents for forty years as they traveled the desert on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land, the presence of God dwelt in a tabernacle in the middle of the camp. He was their very close, very real neighbor. And now, in the person of Jesus, God made his dwelling with us. Immanuel – God with us.
Call him King:
            We call him Jesus, we call him Immanuel, and we also call him the newborn King. We don’t fully understand what it means to be king because we live in a republic and not a monarchy. But even England doesn’t operate as an absolute monarchy because the queen doesn’t have full political powers but is more of a ceremonial head of state. In an absolute monarchy, a person is born into the position and when he becomes a king he is one for life. It’s also a system where there is much power. He would be the one that people would bow to in honor. The wise men who came to see Jesus understand that they were coming to worship a future king. That’s why they brought they didn’t bring cheap cigars or balloons as a gifts. One of their gifts was gold – a gift fit for a king.
            Luke 1:32b-33, “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” This promise to Mary that her Son would sit on the throne of David was huge. It was interesting because Joseph was of the Davidic family line, which is why he traveled to Bethlehem for the census. Bethlehem is where King David was born. And if the prophecy was to be fulfilled it would come through the father, not the mother’s line. To understand the significance of the Christ child, one needs to know what God had long ago promised David and his sons. In 2 Samuel 7, God blessed David and his offspring, promising them an eternal throne. For nearly 1,000 years the people of Israel awaited a Davidic king who would keep the covenant and inherit the throne. The gospels reveal that Jesus is this long-expected, law-abiding king.
            Looking back at the prophecy in Isaiah that we looked at earlier, this time in chapter nine we read, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”
            Jesus is the one who would bring everlasting peace. He is the royal Son who would inherit the nations (Ps. 2). Thus, the baby born in Bethlehem was the one God had in mind when he promised David his son would sit on an eternal throne.
Call him the Son of God:
            The fourth name that we can call this newborn baby boy is one that you and I cannot relate to on a human level but is extremely important in the story of the gospel. He was the holy Son of God: Luke 1:35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” One time a demon-possessed man followed Jesus shouting, “Here is the Son of the Most High God.”
            Each one of us is a lawbreaker. We have chosen to break God’s law. We have committed sins. But we are also born as sinners with a sinful nature. Even if you could be perfect in your actions, thoughts, and motives, you would still be a sinful person at your heart. Jesus was not like us in that way. He did not inherit the sinful nature because he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. He knew no sin (Romans 8:3). He came as God in the flesh. But also came as the Son of God which means he lived a life of obedience to God the Father with the help and power of the Holy Spirit.
            Because Jesus was without sin he was able to die on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for my sins and yours. His death for our sins brings us life. He is the only one who can be the mediator between God and man. He was fully man. He lived on this earth like you and me. He was also fully God. Therefore, he can be the substitionary atonement that we needed.
            As the Son of God, he also demonstrated perfected obedience to God the Father. He kept the law of God. He lived a life of submission to the will of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Call him Savior
            You can call him Jesus, Immanuel, King, Son of God, and now finally, because all this is true, we can call him our Savior. Luke 2:11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”
            He is the promised rescuer and redeemer that everyone was looking for. He was the anointed one, Messiah that would be Lord and Savior of His people. Listen to 1 Peter 1:10-12: “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.”
            Salvation through Jesus Christ…God comes as a baby so that we can be saved from our sins. It’s so simple that a child could tell you what Christmas means, but it’s so complicated that even angels long to look into these things. No wonder they showed up on the first Christmas morning singing: “Glory to God in the highest.”
            This is why we look forward to this time of the year so much. This is why we celebrate. God came to rescue us. It’s the greatest story ever told. It’s the story of a returning king to make things right.
C.S. Lewis captures this in the book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In the story, the Lion, Aslan, was the Jesus-like Messiah figure whose return to Narnia was prophesied about. In the story, it was always winter and never Christmas in the land of Narnia. But when the animals noticed that it was getting warmer and the snow was beginning to melt. They said among themselves “Could it be true? Have you heard?” Could Aslan be returning to break the spell of the white witch? And then Mr. Beaver said, “Aslan is on the move.”
What a great day it will be when Aslan comes.
What a great day when Jesus appeared! He is the King, our Savior, the Son of God, Immanuel.
What will you call him?
            I want to leave you today with this thought: The reason why Jesus came was to seek and save the lost. Jesus did not save the world in his birth. It was in his life, death, and resurrection that made salvation possible. He became a suffering servant and offered himself as a ransom for many (Isa. 53; Matt. 20:28). In the Incarnation, the exalted Son took the form of a lowly servant, and died the death of a criminal. Therefore, the Father exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Joy to the Lord, verse 3:
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
            He was more than just a baby born that we celebrate once a year with food and presents. He is our Savior. He is our Lord. He is worthy to be worshiped.
            Will you call him the true King? Will you acknowledge that he is the Holy One, the Son of God? Immanuel – God with us?
            Christmas is truly wonderful. Receive him as Savior and worship Him as Lord. 

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