Matthew 1 sheds much light on the identity of this baby through the names and titles he is given in the first chapter of the New Testament.
Jesus is the Christ (Matthew 1:1, 16, 17, 18)
The word “Christ” comes from the Hebrew word for “Messiah”, which literally means “the anointed one.” In the Old Testament, this is a reference to the promised King of Israel who would come to establish God’s kingdom on earth and reign over all nations. Matthew wants us to know that this Jesus is the long awaited Messiah. The king has arrived! The Messiah is born! This is reason to celebrate with much joy and thanksgiving, and this is why Christians around the world love to sing about the birth of King Jesus.
Jesus is the Son of David (Matthew 1:1, 17)
“Son of David” was a well-known messianic title among God’s people. If Jesus is the Messiah, then he must come from the royal line of David. In 2 Samuel 7:5-16, one of the most important passages in the Bible, God told David that one of his descendants will have an eternal kingdom – “I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever . . . Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established ” (2 Samuel 7:13, 16). Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise, for the New Testament tells us repeatedly that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of Lords. After his death and resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven, where he now sits at the right hand of God, the place of honor, to rule the world forever.
This is why Matthew begins his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus. This record provides the documentation that any Jew would want to see to verify Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah. Matthew traces Jesus’ family line back through Joseph all the way to David.
Jesus is the Son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1, 17)
Matthew goes even further back than David, for Jesus is not only the “Son of David”, he is also the “Son of Abraham”. Abraham was the father of the Jewish people, the man God called to leave his native land of Babylonia and head west. In Genesis 12:1-3, God made three promises to Abraham. He promised to give him the land of Canaan; he promised to create a great nation from his descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky; and he promised to bless all nations of the world through him.
Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). As Paul makes clear in his letter to the Galatians, Jesus is the descendant of Abraham who brings blessing to all peoples. “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed . . . meaning one person, who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16).
And what is this universal blessing of Jesus? The provision of salvation from sin through the death and resurrection of the Messiah.
Jesus is God (Matthew 1:23)
Matthew 1:23 is a quotation of Isaiah 7:14 – The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means “God with us.” Jesus was God in a human body — this is one of the foundational truths of biblical Christianity. When Jesus was born, God came to live among men by becoming a man. The element of mystery here is great, and this truth can be seen only with the eyes of faith. Unfortunately, the deity of Christ is a much-maligned doctrine; yet it is the clear teaching of Scripture.
Jesus is Savior (Matthew 1:21)
Why did the angel tell Joseph “you are to give him the name Jesus”? Because the name “Jesus” literally means “the Lord is salvation” or simply “Savior”. And so Joseph gave him the name Jesus “because he will save his people from their sins.” This, too, is a foundational truth of Christianity. Jesus was born to die, and through his sacrificial death he, and only he, is able to save us from our sins and their devastating consequences in both this life and the next. Those who receive this salvation by repenting of sin and embracing Christ as Savior and Lord know the joy of forgiveness and the hope of eternal life. We cannot help but sing praises to God for we love to testify that “the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14).
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham, God and Savior. This is the true meaning of Christmas. And this is why we sing, “O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.”
Questions to Ponder:
What will you do this Christmas to acknowledge the identity of Jesus as revealed in Matthew 1?
How does the identity of Jesus make a difference in your life?
Which of these five names means the most to you in this season of your life? And why?
A Prayer to Make Your Own:
Father, may this Christmas be all about your Son. Show me what to do so that the identity of Jesus is foremost on my mind and in my heart in the days to come. Change me from the inside out so that the supremacy of Christ is my number one priority during the Christmas season.