From Guilt to Forgiveness

“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, an 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 fulfill 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). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus” (Matthew 1:18–25 ESV).

Jesus’ Name Explains His Mission

“For he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). God names his gift to us, and in doing so, he gives us a hint of what and who is hidden in the wrappings of this little baby.

Have your kids ever tried to pry out of you what is wrapped under the tree? Please, Daddy, can you give me a clue? Just a hint? Just a little glimpse into what it might possibly be? Please Daddy?

God the Father, without our begging, gives us a very clear clue as to the nature of this precious gift. His name? Jesus. His mission? To save his people from their sins. His name explains his mission. Also…

God’s Gift Displays Our Need

I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of receiving a gift that either we didn’t really want, or we already have. It’s a future white elephant gift. You know the look we feign on our face: Oh, thank you. How kind of you.

Have you ever been offended by a gift? What does the wife think when the husband gives her a present and it’s a subscription to Weight Watchers? Does that go over well? Or a wife who buys her husband a book entitled, How to be a Better Husband? The gift is saying something about the need.

In a much more serious way, what should we humans think God is telling us when the gift to us from above is a Savior who will save his people from their sins? By the very nature of the gift, we see from God’s perspective, our greatest need.

“There is a sense in which this statement is not only Christological in nature (in what it says about Mary’s child) but also anthropological, for it says that the Gospel’s readers, both past and present, are the kind of people who need a Savior!”[1] What a wonderful point. God’s gift indicates our greatest need. Our greatest need is forgiveness of our sins. Our greatest need is to be reconciled with a holy God. Our greatest need in a world of death is eternal life. So, what does God do? He sent a sin Savior. He gave us Yeshua.

If God had sent a doctor, we’d know our bodies were sick.
If God had sent a politician, we’d know our government was broken.
If God had sent a plumber, we’d know our pipes were leaking.
If God had sent a soldier, we’d know we were going to war.
If God had sent an architect, we’d know we would need to build.
But God sent a Savior.

If God had sent an electrician, we’d know our wires were crossed.
If God had sent a midwife, we’d know we were pregnant.
If God had sent a pastor, we’d know we needed a sermon.
If God had sent a teacher, we’d know we need some learning.
But God sent a Savior.

If God had sent a mailman, we’d know we had mail coming.
If God had sent a pilot, we’d know we were going on a trip.
If God had sent a chef, we’d know we were in for a feast.
If God sent a farmer, we’d know we needed food.
But God sent a Savior.

If God hadn’t sent a Savior, we’d think Christmas was about trees and toys.
If God hadn’t sent a Savior, we’d assume we and God were good.
If God hadn’t sent a Savior, we’d think our sins were no big deal.
If God hadn’t sent a Savior, we’d not be saved from our sins.
But praise God, God sent a Savior![2]

The one God sent shows us what we need the most. Sinners need a Savior. God’s gift perfectly corresponds to our greatest need.

There is one easily missed part of the angel’s words that may mean the difference between eternal heaven or hell for you. For he will save all people from their sins. Is that what it says? No. “He will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21, emphasis added). Even here before Jesus was born we see the division that his life and ministry would create forever. His people. Jesus will later call this group his sheep. The apostles will call this group the elect, the church, the redeemed. The angel foretells a salvation that is particular. Or to say, Jesus is a Savior only to those who believe in him as the Savior from their sins.

This is where Christmas gets offensive to the modern person. Our culture likes sentimental Christmas and holiday Christmas and gift giving and receiving Christmas. Retail money-making Christmas. Days off from work and school Christmas. Salvation Army bell ringing and TV Christmas special Christmas. But the modern person rejects an exclusive Christmas and an exclusive salvation. This is certainly not politically correct. But when you are an angel of the Most High God, you don’t care what humans think. You just say it the way it is.

So, the lingering question from the words of the angel is not what Jesus’ name means or why he came, but are you included in “his people”? To receive the blessing of this gift from God requires a sinner to repent of his sins and turn to God by faith in Jesus as the Savior who died for our sins and who was resurrected for our eternal life. Then we become “his people” and then Jesus becomes God’s personal gift to us.

If you are a Christian, rejoice that when the angel said, he will save his people from their sins, 2,000+ years ago, an angel of God was talking about you.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2020 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] Robert Stein, Luke: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (Nashville: B & H Publishing, 1993), 108.

[2] Steve DeWitt

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