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THESE verses begin by telling us two great truths. They tell us how the Lord Jesus Christ took our nature upon him, and became man. They tell us also that his birth was miraculous. His mother Mary was a virgin.
These are very mysterious subjects. They are depths, which we have no line to fathom. They are truths, which we have not mind enough to comprehend. Let us not attempt to explain things which are above our feeble reason. Let us be content to believe with reverence, and let us not speculate about matters which we cannot understand. Enough for us to know that with him who made the world nothing is impossible. We may safely rest in the words of the Apostles’ Creed: “Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary.”
Let us observe the conduct of Joseph described in these verses. It is a beautiful example of godly wisdom, and tender consideration for others. He saw the “appearance of evil” in her who was his espoused wife. But he did nothing rashly. He waited patiently to have the line of duty made clear. In all probability he laid the matter before God in prayer. “He that believeth shall not make haste.” (Isaiah 28:16)
The patience of Joseph was graciously rewarded. He received a direct message from God upon the subject of his anxiety, and was at once relieved from all his fears. How good it is to wait upon God! Who ever casts his cares upon God in hearty prayer, and found him fail? “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:6)
Let us observe in these verses, the two names given to our Lord. One is “Jesus:” the other “Emmanuel.” One describes his office, the other his nature. Both are deeply interesting.
The name Jesus means “Saviour.” It is the same name as “Joshua” in the Old Testament. It is given to our Lord because “he saves his people from their sins.” This is his special office. He saves them from the guilt of sin, by washing them in His own atoning blood. He saves them from the dominion of sin, by putting in their hearts the sanctifying Spirit. He saves them from the presence of sin, when he takes them out of this world to rest with him. He will save them from all the consequences of sin, when he shall give them a glorious body at the last day. Blessed and holy are Christ’s people! From sorrow, cross, and conflict they are not saved; but they are “saved from sin” for evermore. They are cleansed from guilt by Christ’s blood. They are made meet for heaven by Christ’s Spirit. This is salvation! He who cleaves to sin is not yet saved.
“Jesus” is a very encouraging name to heavy-laden sinners. He who is King of kings and Lord of lords might lawfully have taken some more high-sounding title. But he did not do so. The rulers of this world have often called themselves Great, Conqueror, Bold, Magnificent, and the like. The Son of God was content to call himself “Saviour.” The souls which desire salvation may draw nigh to the Father with boldness, and have access with confidence through Christ. It is his office and his delight to show mercy. “God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:17)
Jesus is a name which is peculiarly sweet and precious to believers. It has often done them good, when the favour of kings and princes would have been heard of with unconcern. It has given them what money cannot buy, even inward peace. It has eased their weary consciences, and given rest to their heavy hearts. The Song of Solomon speaks the experience of many, when it says, “Thy name is as ointment poured forth” (Cant. 1:3). Happy is that person who trusts not merely in vague notions of God’s mercy and goodness, but in “Jesus.”
The name “Emmanuel” is seldom found in the Bible, but it is scarcely less interesting than the name “Jesus.” It is the name which is given to our Lord from his nature as God-man, as “God manifest in the flesh.” It signifies “God with us.”
Let us take care that we clearly understand that there was a union of two natures, the divine and human, in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a point of the deepest importance. We should settle it firmly in our minds that our Saviour is perfect man as well as perfect God, and perfect God as well as perfect man. If we once lose sight of this great foundation truth, we may run into fearful heresies. The name Emmanuel takes in the whole mystery. Jesus is “God with us.” He had a nature like our own in all things, sin only excepted. But though Jesus was “with us” in human flesh and blood, he was at the same time very God.
We shall often find, as we read the Gospels that our Saviour could be weary and hungry and thirsty, could weep and groan and feel pain like one of ourselves. In all this we see “the man” Christ Jesus. We see the nature he took on him, when he was born of the Virgin Mary. But we shall also find in the same Gospels that our Saviour knew men’s hearts and thoughts, that He had power over devils, that He could work the mightiest miracles with a word, that He was ministered to by angels, that He allowed a disciple to call him “my God,” and that He said, “Before Abraham was, I am!” and “I and my Father are one.” In all this we see “the eternal God.” We see him “who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:5)
If we would have a strong foundation for our faith and hope, we must keep constantly in view our Saviour’s divinity. He in whose blood we are invited to trust is the Almighty God. All power is in heaven and earth. None can pluck us out of His hand. If we are true believers in Jesus, our heart need not be troubled or afraid.
If we would have sweet comfort in suffering and trial, we must keep constantly in view our Saviour’s humanity. He is the man Christ Jesus, who lay on the bosom of the Virgin Mary as a little infant, and knows the heart of a man. He can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He has Himself experienced Satan’s temptations. He has endured hunger. He has shed tears. He has felt pain. We must trust him unreservedly with our sorrows. He will not despise us. We may pour out our hearts before him in prayer boldly, and keep nothing back. He can sympathize with his people.
Let these thoughts sink down into our minds. Let us bless God for the encouraging truths which the first chapter of the New Testament contains. It tells us of one who “saves his people from their sins.” But this is not all. It tells us that this Saviour is “Emmanuel,” God himself, and yet God with us, God manifest in human flesh like our own. This is glad tidings. This is indeed good news. Let us feed on these truths in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving.
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