HIS NAME SHALL BE CALLED JESUS

Bible Reading: Matthew 1:18-25

“And she shall bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name

Jesus: for He shall save His People from their sins” [Matthew 1:21]

The name Jesus is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name Jehoshua [see Numbers 13:16]. The angel of the Lord revealed this name separately to both Joseph and Mary [Luke 1:31]. The name Jesus means “God who is salvation.” He is God who saves.

The Name of Jesus is very powerful for those who are His children. My wife, when facing a crisis will often cry out the name of Jesus. Many years ago, driving home as a family from the Lincolnshire coast we met head on with a truck coming around a bend in the road and on our side of the road. Esther screamed out the name of Jesus, and in shock I let go of the steering wheel!

The car veered off the road and up a grassy bank, rolled over twice and finished the right way up where the truck and just passed. The car was written off but we were not – none of us were badly hurt, and Esther’s first words to me were “I have got such peace!” There is power in Jesus’ Name!

The Greek word that we translate as “save” is the word “sozo.” This word means God’s eternal salvation to those who believe on Christ, but it has a much wider meaning. In James 5:14-15 it describes a physical healing or restoration of one’s health. In Romans 5:10 the word “sozo” is used of God’s power to deliver from the bondage of sin.

Jesus is the Saviour who brings us eternal salvation, delivers us from the bondage and power of sin, and restores health to sick. Remember to words of Peter, after a lame beggar at the gate of the temple? Peter said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk” [Acts 3:6]. In the following chapter Peter says in his defence that it is through the name of Jesus that the man was healed, and that there is no other name by which we can be saved but the name of Jesus.

Questions:

What does Isaiah 9:6 say about the name of Jesus?

What is your need today? The answer is found in the name of Jesus. Will you call upon Him today?

Why is the name of Jesus so powerful?

WHY WAS A VIRGIN BIRTH IMPORTANT?

Bible Reading:  Luke 1:34-35

It is not a surprise that Mary is questioning Gabriel. How can she possibly bear a child when she is a virgin. Luke emphasized this by not only calling Mary a virgin [verse 26], but also sharing her reaction, “I do not know a man” [verse 35].

Why was it so important that the one who carried God’s Son through pregnancy should be a virgin? If He was to redeem us from sin Jesus had to be without sin. The blood of man has been tainted by sin so the bearer of the baby had to be a virgin. But what about Mary’s own blood. She herself was a sinner by nature like all of us. It was Mary who spoke of God being her Saviour [Luke 1:47]. Like us Mary needed a Saviour. Would Jesus not also be tainted by sin in the blood of Mary.

A quotation from Grays Anatomy, one of the oldest and most trusted of medical textbooks, is enlightening. It says, “The foetal and maternal blood-currents do not intermingle, being separated from each other by the delicate walls of the villi.”

It is an established physiological fact that the mother’s blood is neither the source nor the supply of the blood in the unborn infant’s veins. It is the contribution of the male, which leads to the development of the blood. Without that vital contribution no blood could be produced because the female of herself does not produce the elements essential for the production of this new blood. What a remarkable statement – so where does the blood of Jesus come from if not from the mother? It comes from the Father, but not a human father. That is why it is called “the precious blood” [1 Peter 1:18]. Paul, speaking to the elders of the church in Ephesus, commands them, “…to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood” [Acts 20:28]. The blood of Jesus came from God and not a human source. Therefore He is untainted by sin and can redeem us with His blood.

Something to do:

Give thanks for the blood of Jesus that came from the Father and was poured out so that we might be cleansed from sin and have victory over Satan. “They conquered him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” [Rev. 12:11 ESV]

 

 

MARY’S JOURNEY

Bible Reading:  Luke 1:26-56

Everyone is on a journey and Mary’s journey changed remarkably on the night that the angel Gabriel was sent by God to speak to her. Can you imagine what it must have been like for this pure girl, in her late teens that God Himself would send one of the two archangels to speak to her personally.

There are four words that portray this journey described in our reading today. The first word is fear. The Bible describes Mary’s reaction to the greeting that the angel brought to her as being “greatly troubled.” That sounds something of an understatement, because in the next verse the angel says to her, “Do not be afraid.” The angel then explains what was going to happen to her, and spoke of her bearing a Son, and then proceeded to tell her about His Name, His Fame and His Reign.

The second word describes Mary’s response: questioning. How can this be? She needed to know how it is possible that she bear this child, because she had never had a sexual relationship with a man. She was betrothed to Joseph, but under the laws of that society she still remained in her father’s house until the actual day of the wedding. It was a total commitment but not yet a consummation of marriage. Again the angel explains what will happen. The birth will be supernatural and the work of the Holy Spirit. With God nothing is impossible.

The third word is surrender. Mary responds with the surrender of herself to God’s plan. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” The questioning has ended although there will be many people asking questions. Now it is simply surrendering and trusting God.

The fourth aspect of this journey is worship. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour,” and there follows a song of praise from humble and surrendered heart.

What a journey – From fear, to questioning, to surrender, to worship. Although Mary was very special, like us she was also human, and God had a plan to use her and to bless her. His will for us may be very different to the one that He had for Mary but the principle is still the same.

Questions:

What do you think it means to have favour with God? [see Luke 1:28,30]

Using these four words, where would you see yourself on your own journey with God? Have you moved on to surrender and worship?

ZACHARIAS & ELIZABETH

Bible Reading:  Luke 1:5-25

God promised that there would be someone who would prepare the way for the coming of His Son. That promise was given through Isaiah. “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord” [Isaiah 40:3] is specifically linked to John the Baptist [see Matthew 3:3].

God prepared the most unlikely couple to give birth to this man who would prepare the way for Jesus. The Bible says that Zacharias and Elizabeth were righteous [verse 6], well advanced in years and that Elizabeth was barren [verse 7]. Sometimes God takes the most unlikely people to fulfill His purposes, because he sees their heart and knows that He can trust them to obey Him even when what He wants to do seems to be impossible.

Zacharias and Elizabeth had wanted children and had prayed for a child [verse 13]. Now the angel of the Lord appeared and told Zacharias that they would have a son and would call his name John. This son would be separated to God, filled with the Holy Spirit, would turn many people to the Lord, see people’s hearts change, but most importantly of all, would make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Wonderful as this was, Zacharias was unable to believe that what was told him would really happen. He immediately looked at his physical limitations. Why was he made mute because of his unbelief? Perhaps it was to stop him speaking negative words that would hinder what God wanted to do. In a similar vein, the children of Israel were not allowed to speak for seven days as they circled Jericho.

Questions:

God still uses people today to do His will. What were the character traits of Zacharias and Elizabeth that made it possible for God to use them?

Why was it so important that Zacharias did not speak out negative words of unbelief? What does Proverbs 18:21 say about the words we speak?

What specific lessons do you learn from this passage that will affect you own walk with God?

JESUS LIVED BEFORE HE WAS BORN

Bible Reading:  John 1:1-18

Jesus was the human name given to God’s Son at His birth, but before He came to earth He was known as the Word. He revealed Himself at various times to individuals in the Old Testament in human or angelic form. He was the One who came in the form of a man and wrestled with Jacob at Peniel, and of whom Jacob said, “I have seen God face to face” [Genesis 32:22-32]. He was the One who appeared as the Commander of the army of the Lord to Joshua by Jericho and Joshua worshipped Him [Joshua 5:13-15]. He was the One who appeared to Abram and said, “I am Almighty God” [literally “El Shaddai”], and changed Abram’s name to Abraham [Genesis 17:1ff].

John makes it clear that the One we call Jesus was the Word who became flesh. He was in the beginning with God and He was God. That is a clear statement about who Jesus is. God did not send His Son into the world in order that He might become His Son, for He IS the eternal Son. He was there at the creation, and was the Creator. He is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and “He became flesh and dwelt among us.”

His title, The Word,” is very significant. The Greek word here is “logos” and to the Greeks that was the rational principle guiding the universe and making life coherent. To the Jews it took them back to Genesis, and was an expression of God’s wisdom and creative power. God created the earth and all that is in it by His Word. Literally, God spoke and it happened. The One we call Jesus was that Word of God by which the earth was created.

Jesus is eternal. At the request of His Father He took on human flesh and became like one of us, yet without sin! In the immortal words of Charles Wesley, “Our God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly, made man.”

Questions:

What is the main difference between the Word who appeared in the Old Testament and the One we call Jesus today?

Jesus, the Word who became flesh, still appears to people today. What is your experience of Him?

Why is it so important for salvation that the Word became flesh and lived among us?    

THE COMING OF JESUS FORETOLD

Bible Reading:  1 Peter 1:10-12

The prophecies in the Old Testament about the coming of Jesus are remarkably accurate in their details. Let’s consider some of those prophecies.

He would be born of the family of David [Isaiah 11:1]. He would be born in Bethlehem [Micah 5:2]. He would be born of a virgin and His name would be called Immanuel [Isaiah 7:14]. The coming of Jesus was to be announced by a forerunner [Isaiah 40:3] and this was fulfilled in John the Baptist [see Matthew 3:3]. Hosea prophesied that Jesus would spend part of His childhood in Egypt [Hosea 11:1].

In addition to the prophesies about Jesus’ coming there were very accurate prophesies about His suffering and resurrection. The fact that Jesus would ride into Jerusalem on a colt [Zechariah 9:9]; that none of His bones would be broken [Psalm 34:20]; the His garments would be parted and lots being cast for them [Psalm 22:18]; His words from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” [Psalm 22:1]; and perhaps most remarkably of all the words of Isaiah about the sufferings of Jesus [Isaiah 53:1-12] were prophesied eight hundred years before Jesus came to earth.

What do these amazing prophecies tell us? They encourage our faith in a God that not only master plans but also plans the intricate details of the blueprints. The fact that these details are fulfilled exactly as prophesied, strengthens our faith in the inspiration of the Bible and shows us that it is not simply an assortment of books by various authors but one Book with one author – God.

To assume that all these things happened accidentally is an accident to great even for the imagination of the most rational thinking person. God is on His throne and working out His purposes.

Questions:

Does today’s reflection encourage you to believe that God has a perfect plan for your life? What is the impact of this upon your life?

Can you see in today’s reflection something that would clearly help you in sharing your faith with someone who claimed not to be a believer?

THE HUMAN GENEALOGY OF JESUS

Bible Reading:  Matthew 1:1-17

Who said genealogies are boring?

In the first seventeen verses of Matthew’s gospel we read the genealogy of Jesus, beginning from Abraham. In His humanity Jesus is directly linked to the royal lineage (Son of David) and the founder of the Jewish race (Son of Abraham) [see verse 1].

In the genealogy of Jesus we see the amazing grace of God. Unusually for a Jewish genealogy five women are mentioned. Firstly, Ruth, a gentile and the grandmother of David! Secondly, Rahab, who was also a gentile but with questionable morals. She became a woman of faith. Thirdly, there was Tamar! What a web of intrigue! Judah married a Canaanite – a marriage forbidden under the law of Moses. Judah took Tamar as a daughter for his son. The Bible says that Judah’s son was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord killed him [Genesis 38:7]. After the death of her husband Tamar deceived her father-in-law and became pregnant by him, and amazingly she is found in the genealogy of Jesus. Fourthly, there is another woman in the genealogy, not mentioned by name, but referred to as the mother of Solomon whom David stole from her husband Uriah. Finally, there is Mary, young, pure and a virgin. There are five remarkable women in the genealogy of Jesus.

Although many cultures have regarded women as second-class citizens, God’s word honours women and gives them their rightful place.

Who said genealogies are boring? We haven’t even considered some of the remarkable men in the genealogy of Jesus. It includes one of the most wicked men who ever lived but repented, two men who brought restoration and renewal to Israel, the wisest man on the earth, and a man after God’s own heart. What is clear is that the grace of God is amazing, that deceiver’s, murderers, adulterers, and gentiles are there in the list of the forbears of Jesus. Oh, how the grace of God amazes me!

Questions:

What does the genealogy of Jesus tell us about the grace of God?

God honours women and gives them great dignity. In what way has the world, and even the church failed to give women that same dignity?

Something to Study:

Look at each of the names in the genealogy of Jesus and find out more information from God’s word about them. This study may take a while but it will be very rewarding. 

IN THE FULNESS OF TIME

Bible Reading:  Galatians 4:1-7

Throughout the Old Testament there are countless prophetic words about the coming of the Lord Jesus. His Person, birth, ministry, death on the cross and His resurrection are all clearly foretold in detail hundreds of years before His coming. Prophecies about the coming of Jesus are found as early as Genesis chapter three and spoken of in the Garden of Eden. After the serpent had deceived Adam and Eve God spoke to the serpent and said, “…. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed: He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” [Genesis 3:15].

God knows the end from the beginning. He knew that man would fall and planned to redeem Him by sending His own Son. A question sometimes asked is, “If God knew what would happen why didn’t He stop it?” One less complicated answer to that question is that in heaven there will be no one who is not there by choice. Free will is very important to God. Everyone who is there chose to be saved and to be there!

The Bible says that Jesus came in the fullness of time [Galatians 4:4]. The phrase “in the fullness of time” literally means at the right time or at the time that God had appointed. God’s timing is always right. He never makes a mistake. He planned that Jesus would come as Saviour before the world was created and when He came it was exactly the right time. Here are some wonderfully comforting truths. Firstly, God knows the end from the beginning. Secondly, He is always on time – never early and never late. Everything runs according to His time. Thirdly, God never makes a mistake. He is utterly trustworthy and always keeps His promises.

We can fully trust God today and be assured that “our times are in His hands” [Psalm 31:15]. Those who trust Him wholly, find Him wholly true!

Questions:

Can you remember a promise that God gave to you personally and how He fulfilled that promise?

Is there a promise that God has given you that you are still waiting for Him to fulfill? If so, remind Him of that promise again and trust Him for it to come to pass at the right time.

What are the things that might cause you not to trust God? The fault is always on our side and never on God’s side. Confess that to Him and ask Him to help you trust Him. Remember a man once said to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief” and was not rebuked for his honesty.

 

IT WILL BE WORTH IT ALL

Bible Reading:  2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 1 John 2:28-3:3

There are two songs that mean a great deal to me. The first is a song that was often sung in the home by my mother-in-law. These are the words:

 

               It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,

               Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ.

               One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,

               So bravely run the race till we see Christ.

 

Don’t give up, weary pilgrim – it will be worth it all one day!

I first heard the other song on 16th September 1966. Mavis sang this song as a solo that night. I preached and there was an amazing response at the call inviting people to come to Jesus. But I was a proud young evangelist, and what excited me most that night was the praise that people heaped upon me. All that is, except Mavis. She shook my hand at the door, looked me full in the face and said to me, “You didn’t glorify God tonight, did you? Good night.” My pride was punctured and that night, on my knees at the place where I was staying, I met afresh with God. There were tears, confession and brokenness, but that was a new day. This was the that song that Mavis sang that night:

 

Some day the silver cord will break,
And I no more as now shall sing;
But, oh, the joy when I shall wake
Within the palace of the King!

Refrain:
And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story—Saved by grace.

Some day my earthly house will fall;
I cannot tell how soon ’twill be;
But this I know—my All in All
Has now a place in heav’n for me.

Some day, when fades the golden sun
Beneath the rosy tinted west,
My blessed Lord will say, “Well done!”
And I shall enter into rest.

Some day: till then I’ll watch and wait,
My lamp all trimmed and burning bright,
That when my Saviour opens the gate,
My soul to Him may take its flight.

As we draw to the end of the series will you focus on Jesus and heaven? Will you live your life for His glory and in the light of eternity?