“You shall call his name Jesus…..”

“And she shall bring forth a Son, you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

(Matthew 1:21)

Matthew continues to proclaim the coming of Jesus Christ and how His coming fulfils the promise made by Jehovah to individuals in the Old Testament. Jesus Himself speaks to people about the Old Testament scriptures, “You search the scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39) Jesus is clearly saying that the whole Bible points to the coming of Jesus Christ. Everything we read in the Old Testament testifies to the coming work of Jesus Christ and everything we read in the New Testament must be seen in the light of Jesus Christ’s finished work. The light is coming into the world as John writes in his gospel, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4) What is at the heart of this promise though? Was the promise made to Abraham simply the promise of a land? Was the promise made to David just a promise that his descendants would be Kings over Israel?

The promise Jehovah made with people in the Old Testament concerned salvation. It was a promise of salvation. A promise of freedom for the captives. A promise of healing to the broken-hearted. A promise of comfort to those who mourn.(Isaiah 61) It is a promise of sovereign salvation to wretched sinners.

The angel of the Lord who appears to encourage Joseph to marry Mary tells him to call their son “Jesus”. The literal meaning of “Jesus” is “Saviour” or in Hebrew “Yahweh is salvation”. Imagine the scene when Joseph and Mary start to throw baby names around. Joseph suggests the name Jesus – “Yahweh is salvation”. After talking and sharing his angelic visitation they come to an agreement and settle on the name “Jesus”. Think about it as Jesus is growing up. Every time His name was called out or used it was a reminder of who He was and why He had entered the world. He was an incredibly normal boy, born into a normal family yet His name carried with it something extraordinary. Here was Jesus Christ. The son of man yet the son of God. The God who revealed Himself from Adam to the time of Jesus’ birth was revealing Himself now in all His fullness. “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) Many Churches and Christians today preach a social gospel. The Christian message is offensive to people who revel in sin so many have watered down the gospel command to a matter of good works. If we love the world enough they will realise that God exists and that He loves them. Compare this with the evangelistic heart that the apostle Paul had, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14) Jesus came into the world to save sinners. The message we have to share with the world is the message that Jesus Christ came to bring. It is a message of reconciliation,”Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18) Jesus preached the gospel of the Kingdom. He did not flinch when that brought Him suffering and persecution. Let us not dilute and pervert the gospel of the Kingdom because it finds no place in people’s hearts. Let us steadfastly and boldly proclaim spiritual truth. There is no doubt that works of compassion will follow the gospel. But that is not our first and foremost ministry to the world around us.

We are ministers of reconciliation. We carry a message to the world. A message that God has provided a salvation for sinners. It is good news. He did not come to sit with those who esteemed themselves. He came to sit with those who knew they were poor and broken.

He gives His Kingdom to those who are poor not those who are rich, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.” (Matthew 5:3) He came to save His people from their sins. In Matthew 9:9-14 we read about Jesus the sinner’s saviour. Jesus sees Matthew the tax collector sitting in his tax office. Here is a man who is cheating and making a living from exploiting others. But more than that here is a man who does not know God and who is living in rebellion against Him. Jesus comes to Him and calls Him. No-one ever seeks God or finds Him of their own devices, “There is none who seeks after God.” (Romans 3:11) Salvation is always by God’s grace. He reaches out to us as we sit in our sin. Jesus then goes to a house and meets with lots of people who are sinners. This is revival! True revival is far more than just good church meetings. It is the Holy Spirit setting apart and empowering people to be sent out into the world. People who previously had no interest in God are hearing the Gospel. When the Pharisees saw this though they could not understand what Jesus was doing! Their self-righteousness and sin was blinding them to see themselves as they really were. How could Jesus associate with such sinners. They did not deserve Jesus’ attention. The Pharisees felt they were the cream of the crop. They were righteous and good. They would believe this all the way to Hell. They ask Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11) You know what though it is a good question! And in asking that question they should have realised the answer to their own question. Why would Jesus associate with tax collectors and sinners? Why would a holy God descend to sinners? Doesn’t it speak of God’s grace and compassion for sinners. Jesus did not come to a group of people who thought they had made it. He came to call a group of people who realised their sin and need of a saviour. The Church is a gathering of sinners saved by grace. If we realised the extent of our sin and rebellion against God and the extent of His grace in Christ Jesus our churches would be very different. We hear week after week about Christian living and what a Christian should look like. Why though do we still not see the church living as it should? I believe we need preachers and teachers who will preach about the Gospel. We have moved away from presenting the Gospel as God’s only means of salvation and prefer a human centred message. The early church declared what God had done for us through Jesus Christ. Nowadays we share what we need to do to have better lives. Maybe you think this is a bit harsh. But go to any church and it will not be long before people are praying and talking about their own needs and problems. Where is the declaration of the fact that God has done everything through sending His son to us?

Too many of us know Jesus only as a lucky charm that brings happiness and good things to our life. When things get tough we get Him out of the drawer and carry Him around in our pocket for a while for good luck. He is just another thing we have in our life to help us. Because after all that is being a Christian isn’t it? Letting Jesus help us and bless our lives?

It is time for the Gospel to be declared again like never before. In history God has called men and women to stand apart from society and boldly declare the Gospel. It is time for the true message about Jesus Christ to be heard again in our Churches. It is time for the Gospel of the risen Lord Jesus to be boldly declared to a Church walking in sin. It is time for a lazy, gluttonous and sinful Church to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Jesus Christ. It is time for us to see who we really are as sinners. Yet it is time for us to see the glorious grace of God which sent Jesus to sit with people like us, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” (Matthew 9:13) If you are not prepared to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus Christ then you have no part with Him and you have misunderstood the Gospel command.

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