If you had to pick one verse in the Bible that summarizes the whole book, what would it be? For me it is Matthew chapter 1 verse 21. An angel announces to Joseph that his fiancé, Mary, “will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
This is not just a summary of the Christmas story but could be one of the most powerful Bible verses in the Bible. It points to the whole purpose of the Bible: Jesus’ coming to atone for His people’s sins.
What’s in a name?
Names are important. Names have meaning. In many cultures names symbolize a person’s character. For example, Eliza is a name that comes from the Greek Ἐλισάβετ (Elisabet). This means "my God is an oath." A common name, Andrew is the English form of the Greek name Ἀνδρέας (Andreas), meaning "manly" or “man."
Jesus’ name has great meaning. Jesus is the Greek version of the name Joshua which the angel explains means “God saves.” The Old Testament is a book that prepares a way for the Messiah (God’s rescuer). Christmas is about the arrival of that Messiah, Jesus. And Jesus’ whole life mission, and hence summary of the Bible, is about Jesus coming to save His people from their sins.
So what is sin and why did Jesus have to come to save us? Sin is a culturally loaded word that is deeply misunderstood. At its core it means missing the mark, like an arrow missing the target. So, what is the target we miss? In one sense it is falling short of the glory of God, as explained in Romans chapter 3. On a deeper level it is not living up to our true humanity. Genesis chapter 1 explains we are made in the image of God and created to have a dynamic living relationship with God and others. However, “sin” means we fall short of loving God and fall short in our relationships with others. We are not experiencing true humanity! Jesus mission is to restore these relationships to their fullness.
While this mission points forward to the Easter story and Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, this verse from Matthew chapter 1 points back to the beauty of Old Testament prophecy. Christmas is about God’s immense love in coming to us as the “God with us.” My prayer this Christmas is for you to read the book of Matthew and hear the name of Jesus who saves His people from their sins.
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and Pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover1.html