“And thou shall call his name JESUS” (Matthew 1:21).
Soon it will be the time for our Christmas programs and celebrations. We will not hold “mass” as the name “Christmas” originally meant in the Romish church. We will use the word uncritically and put new wine in the old bottles; we will celebrate the great mystery of godliness. God is manifested in the flesh, and after the suffering of death was taken up in glory!
Literally, this command to call the child of Mary by the name Jesus, was given to Joseph in a dream at night by the angel of the Lord. Many men and husbands have been confronted with profound and difficult problems which disturb their hearts deeply. The one problem which disturbs a righteous man more than any, would be to be married or betrothed to a faithless wife. It touches the most sacred of all relationships between men—the marriage-tie! Unfaithfulness in this relationship reflects the deeper unfaithfulness toward God as our covenant God. A marriage-breaker is a covenant-breaker and a desecrater of all that is holy. Such we expect from men and women who are profane; who do not distinguish between what is sacred and what is polluted. Such was the problem of Joseph who had betrothed to himself Mary, the mother of Jesus.
The plain fact was that Mary was to have a child, and presently she would be “great with child” (Luke 2:5). Joseph knew that he was not the father of Mary’s child which she carried under her heart. There was only one alternative left, as far as Joseph could reason, and that was that Mary had been unfaithful and had played the harlot, or at least she was guilty of adultery. Joseph was not a man that believed the worst, being subject to morbid suspicions. He loved Mary very much and it pained him, therefore, the more deeply for her sake. He was a just man. He had not known Mary in pre-marital relationship. Mary was, therefore, not that kind of maiden either. As far as Joseph knew she was a virgin, who had never known a man. He also knew that she was a sinner who had need of confessing her sins and to be covered by the blood of sprinkling.
Now his confidence is shattered as far as Mary’s marital integrity was concerned. She was to have a child. Since the world began, no women ever gave birth to a child without the “will of man.” Joseph’s soul was troubled till deep in his slumbering hours at night. He is in need of help and mercy from the Lord. Mary, too, must be protected…and her child! On the pages of history, Jesus must not be known as an illegitimate bastard, nor Mary an adulteress. Joseph was to be the God-appointed “father” of his Son, who is called “Immanuel—God with us!” All must stand forth in spotless beauty of faithfulness, honor and glory. God must intervene to interpret from his own Word of promise what had occurred in Nazareth’s fairest maiden, most blessed among women. Not only must Joseph’s confidence be restored, but it must be brought to that high level of faith in which he will serve the counsel of God willingly. He must, as an act of faith, take Mary to wife fearless of all consequences. He must say: “I believe the Lord’s word.” His faith and confession must be the counterpart of Mary’s resigned faith which answered the angel in Nazareth, “Be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). In that united faith these two, Joseph and Mary, find each other, and they marry in the Lord.
Joseph has a fatherly duty to perform. He must “name” Mary’s child. God had selected the name for his Son in the flesh. The angel had said to Mary, “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus” (Luke 1:31). Now the angel says to Joseph that he is to perform that sacred task. He is to circumcise that son on the eighth day. We read, “And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcision of the child, he was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb” (Luke 2:24).
Now for Joseph, this was to be obedience of faith, nothing less. He was to believe that Mary’s condition of being with child was the fulfillment of the word of the prophets, spoken to a very wicked and disobedient king in Israel, Ahab by name. This king was in dire straits at the time that Isaiah spoke this word concerning the “virgin who would be with child” in David’s royal line. Rezin, king of Damascus, and Pekah, king of Samaria, were confederate kings, who had a concerted effort to dethrone the sons of David from the throne in Jerusalem, and to place another on this throne. This would be to nullify the word of Nathan, the prophet to David, that there should not lack a son on David’s throne from David’s loins. These machinations of the wicked the Lord himself would bring to naught. The Lord would fulfill his own word to David by the wonder birth of his only begotten Son from a virgin. It was the “sign” of the virgin which was given to an unbelieving king. The true Israelites clung to this prophetic word concerning the birth of Immanuel, God with us. Joseph was not hearing a strange text recited to him by the angel in his dream at night. It was a word which was well-known and which was the sure word of prophecy, which shines as a light in a dark place, until the day dawn and the day-star arise in the hearts of the waiting people of God.
These people were waiting for the Redeemer to deliver them from their sins. He looked for the redeemer to come out of Zion. They looked for the fulfillment of the Word which says, “For unto us a child is born, for unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders, and his Name shall be Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” What Israel was waiting for, more than watchmen for the morning light, was now being realized. A child is to be born, a son is to be given, and thou shalt call his name Jesus!
This one and this one only shall save his people from their sins. He will save his “people,” the congregation of God. He will come to save all his people from their sins, both in the Old and New Testaments. Yes, he will save them from their “sins.” He will stand in the midst of the multitude of his people and take all their sins upon himself as the perfect sacrifice. He “shall save” them from their sins. He will fulfill all righteousness.
Take Mary to be thy wife, Joseph. She is not guilty of adultery, but she will be the mother of the Son of God. The Son of God will be born from a woman—seed of the woman is he. In him will all the seed be blessed. For if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.