top of page

O What a Name!

Matthew 1:18-25

By Daniel Mayfield

Last week we began a new series intended to prove Christ as the Messiah by studying the entirety of Matthew’s gospel. 


We discussed Matthew’s introductory approach by tracing the lineage from Abraham, to David, and ultimately down to Jesus. Again, Matthew did this because these individuals, David and Abraham, were the two men by which God established his most important covenants with Israel. 


And we discussed the fact that if Christ was the manifestation of an eternal past of planning, then he ought to occupy THE central position in our lives. It would be senseless to treat him as secondary when everything our Creator ever wanted for us was realized in Christ. 


Now, this morning we are going to be looking at the remainder of chapter 1, verses 18-25, and I want to discuss three points involving the naming of Jesus. First, we will look at the process of naming Jesus, then we will look at the actual name of Jesus, and lastly we will examine the one who named Jesus—that is, Joseph. 


  1. The Naming of Jesus 

    1. Now, Matthew is still trying to prove that Jesus is the Son of Joseph. Why would he need to do this when he has clearly given a verifiable genealogy leading down to Joseph? Well, because he left the reader with the potential impression that Christ wasn’t the natural son of Joseph in v. 16. Notice the passive voice here: “and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.” Notice that Matthew doesn’t call Joseph Christ’s father. Every other instance in the genealogy involves a man who is mentioned to be the father of the succeeding individual. Here, instead, Matthew says “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born.” So, Matthew still has some explaining to do before we will be convinced that Jesus is indeed the Son of David.

    2. We will be looking this morning at verses 18-25, and if your Bible is like mine, you’ll probably have a pericope heading which says, “The birth of Jesus.” Do y’all see that before verse 18? This heading is a misnomer, however. The following verses are not intended to illuminate the birth of Christ. Now, I can understand why one might make such a conclusion because of verse 18. In the ESV the text says, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.” Such a rendition of the Gr. text would certainly lead one to believe that Matthew was speaking about Christ’s birth. However, there are a couple of reasons why I don’t believe this is the case. First, the gr. word translated as “birth” in v. 18 is the same exact word as is mentioned in 1:1. The word is “genesis.” It can mean either birth, or genealogy, or lineage. The only way to know if the word should be rendered as “birth” or “genealogy” is to examine the context. And I believe that the context will bear a different translation than “birth.” Many people break out their Bibles around Christmas time and read the story of the birth of Jesus. I’ll tell you, we don’t usually turn to Matthew 1 on such an occasion! Why is that? Because Matthew doesn’t give any details about the physical birth of Christ! If you want that stuff you can go to Luke’s gospel and read about the manger, and the swaddling cloths, and all about the actual birth. But this account doesn’t detail any of that stuff! So, we should understand that the following passage is NOT dealing with the birth of Christ. Rather, the passage in verse 18, by a close examination of the Greek text, should be rendered, “Now the genealogy of Jesus Christ was as follows.” Matthew’s intention is not to detail Christ’s birth, but rather to explain the awkward phrasing in v. 16. He still maintains the desire to prove Christ’s position in the line of David. And Joseph, son of David, will be the primary character, being that Christ’s Messiahship hinges on Joseph’s paternity.

    3. And why is it that Christ’s Messiahship, according to Matthew, hinges on Joseph’s paternity over him? 

      1. Well, we discussed last week that God had promised to David that the Messiah would come through his line! And Matthew has now spent the first 18 verses of his gospel proving that Joseph was in the line of David. 

      2. But, he doesn’t, as you might expect, go on to tell us that Jesus was the Son of Joseph. Rather, he says something quite different. Read with me. 

      3. “18 Now the genealogy of Jesus Christ was as follows. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 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.” 

      4. Ok, so here’s where the curiosity of the reader is going to get the best of him, and he’s going to be forced to ask the question, How can Jesus be Joseph’s Son if Joseph was not even involved in the process of His conception? Further, how can Jesus be the Son of David if Joseph isn’t his father? These are some great questions, and Matthew, through the Holy Spirit, anticipates such a response from the Jewish reader. 

      5. So, read with me in verse 21. “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” So, Matthew is concerned with helping the reader to see who exactly would be naming the child. 

      6. Further, the text says in verse 23, quoting from Isaiah, “‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (Which means, God with us).” Notice again, Matthew wants the reader focusing in on the naming of Jesus. 

      7. And we see this section climax in verses 24-25, which say, “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.” 

    4. So, why, you ask, does the naming of Jesus help prove Joseph’s paternity? 

      1. Well, for one, and I don’t think this has much importance besides what the Jewish frame of mind was, but in the Mishnah, in a tractate called Bava Batra, it says, “If a man said, ‘this is my son’, he may be believed.” This particular passage in the Jewish Mishnah was meant to point out a father’s right to claim a boy as his son. 

      2. But the naming of a son was to make a claim on him as your own. For Joseph to take Mary as his wife, and then name the child at His birth, this was to say, “This is my boy!” 

      3. It is the naming of Jesus by Joseph that legally grafted Christ into the line of David. 

  1. The Name of Jesus

    1. At this point I want to look at the significance of the name Jesus. 

    2. Names had great meaning in ancient times. They didn’t just arbitrarily attach a name to a kid because they liked the way it sounded. One fella in the OT was named Mahershallalhashbaz…Clearly, fashion wasn’t the aim here. 

    3. Read with me in verse 21—“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 

      1. Now, a sentence like this doesn’t make much sense to us, unless we know the meaning of a name. I could tell you that my parents named me Daniel because God is judge. Well, unless you knew that Daniel was a compound Hebrew word meaning God is Judge, you likely wouldn’t see the significance of it. 

      2. The same is said here. He shall be called Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. So, there has to be significance to that name for the qualifier to make any sense. 

      3. The name Jesus is a modern version of the name Joshua, or Yeshua, which means, “YHWH saves.” Or, the Lord Saves. This was his name! And this wasn’t a name that was arbitrarily given to him by some parents who thought it sounded cool—This was the name given by God, and it had great significance. 

    4. Are y’all seeing this?! His name is YHWH SAVES! And if his name is “salvation” then that is going to tell us a lot about what his primary function on earth would be. 

      1. Isn’t there an implicit truth in the name of Jesus? If his name means YHWH SAVES, then doesn’t this imply that we need saving? Doesn't it imply that we cannot do it on our own? 

      2. So, ask yourself, where is it that you’re looking for salvation? And it might be good and well to say, I find salvation in Jesus! But although that may be your desire, is it playing out like that in reality? 

      3. I think all too often we try and find salvation in ourselves! What do I mean by that?

        1. And that might manifest itself in a number of ways, but perhaps it is that we are seeking to save ourselves from the weariness of work by taking in strong drink to take off the edge—Well, that’s not right! 

        2. Maybe it’s seeking rest from the world, not by immersing ourselves in Jesus, but by putting on the television and letting our minds travel the drifting waves of ABC, or Sports television, or whatever! 

        3. I mean, we want salvation don’t we! Every one of us wants salvation! And we know the meaning of Savior in just about any other context than where it matters most. If somebody falls over and convulses on the ground because of epilepsy, we know to call the ambulance! If a ship is sinking at sea, we know to call the coastguard! If a child is sick with leukemia, we know to go to the oncologist! And let me tell you, sometimes the only thing necessary of the one perishing is to cry out, “SAVE ME!” You watch that person on the ground having a seizure, and it’s plain to all that the one doing the saving is the EMS specialist. The coast guard saves the people from drowning! I mean, we know that Savior’s SAVE! That’s what they do! 

        4. So, why is it any different with your sins! He’s the Savior of your sins! So the answer isn’t the television, or strong liquor, or pornography, or any of the like! The answer is Yeshua! Peter said there is no other name given among men by which we must be saved! 

        5. This morning, you may be drowning in depression, or apathy, or some secret sin. And Matthew is telling us quite literally that Jesus maintains the ability to rescue you from that sin! 

    5. I believe that all too often we see the saving power of Jesus as nothing more than a distant, stoic, impersonal act of passivity. 

      1. And one might say, “Well, before the power of salvation ever even so much as tugs on me to get me out of the clay, I have to do this this this this this this this and this, and then I’ll be good enough for him to save me. 

      2. Is that biblical? No! He’s not your Savior if you’re the one who did the majority of the work to be saved! Being the Savior means that He’s doing the brunt of the work, and we are expected to grab onto that life rope when it’s tossed to us. 

      3. Do we really believe that every act of willpower in the defeat of sin is our own doing!? Now, certainly it must be our decision to follow Him, but where do we get the strength to even do so in the first place!? Paul prayed on behalf of the Ephesians that God may grant them to be strengthened with power in their inner being. Then he says, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” 

      4. You better believe that in your struggle against sin, He is your Savior. And I really believe that if we are losing the battle against sin, it is either because we do not trust in the saving power of Jesus, or we don’t want to be saved by him bad enough. And although we cry out in the midst of our sin, we really enjoy it more than we let on. 

      5. I was up at the prison recently and one of the inmates told me that the only way he was ever going to defeat his drug addiction was if God totally took away his desire for it. Well, sadly, that man will probably spend the rest of his life waiting for the salvation of Christ, when he doesn’t even have a real desire to let go of it. We’ve gotta learn to love Christ more than the sin, and then His saving work will be unstoppable. 

    6. His name is YHWH SAVES. Call out to Him! 

    7. Matthew goes on to quote from Isaiah 7, which says, “‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (Which means God with us). 

      1. He would be called Immanuel because he was the seed of the Holy Spirit, born through a woman. 

      2. Later on in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus asked the Pharisees how the Messiah could be both David’s Son and his Lord. Well, this account here answers it. He is the son of David through Joseph’s adoption, and he is his Lord because He is God with us. 

  1. The Namer of Jesus 

    1. At this point I want to speak a bit about the namer of Jesus. We spoke about the naming of Jesus, and the name of Jesus, but I want to examine one characteristic of Joseph that the text points us to for learning. 

    2. Now, the text explicitly mentions that Mary and Joseph had not yet come together, but that she was with child. Imagine being in Joseph’s shoes for a moment. Nobody had ever heard of a virgin conception before, so in the realm of what they believed to be possible, what was the only option? That she had been unfaithful! 

    3. The text goes on to describe Joseph’s reaction to the belief that she had been unfaithful—Verse 19, “And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.”

      1. Matthew’s description of Joseph introduces one of the key theological points of his gospel—That is, what it truly means to be righteous. The word “just” here is the same as the word “righteous,” which is a key word in Matthew’s gospel. 

      2. Some commentaries will try and say that the righteousness of Joseph was his desire to divorce her, and the mercy of Joseph was the quiet manner in which he would do it. 

      3. One commentator said that Joseph’s righteousness was his plan to divorce her because the law said adulterers should be punished. Even Jesus said that one could divorce his wife for adultery. So, this commentator was saying that Joseph’s observance of the law to the point of divorce was his righteousness. 

      4. But I don’t think that Matthew is telling us that divorce here would have been his righteous attribute. Although he was permitted to divorce for unfaithfulness, the righteousness of Joseph WAS his mercy! In chapter 23:23, Jesus told the Pharisees that they had rejected the weightier matters of the law, which were justice, mercy, and faithfulness. So, the law not only demands justice, but mercy! Righteousness—true righteousness—requires mercy! And we are going to see as we study through Matthew that the righteousness demanded of us by God is not that we only follow his law, but that we are filled with love, and mercy, and forgiveness—all attributes displayed perfectly in Christ. 

    4. The second display of Joseph’s righteousness is seen in his willingness to follow an incredibly unconventional plan designed by God. 

      1. Do y’all know how bad it would look for Joseph to remain with a pregnant woman who appeared to have committed adultery? 

      2. The angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Do not fear to take Mary as your wife.” Then in verse 24 the text says, “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.” 

      3. True righteousness is not about always doing what will look good to those in the world around us, but rather a conformity to God’s often times unconventional plan, or culturally scandalous plan. 

      4. Let me ask you, are you willing to follow the sometimes unconventional plan of God? 

      5. Righteousness sometimes means doing something that appears foolish, but is full of grace and love. We will see as we study through Matthew that the Pharisees would only do something “good” if it looked good outwardly. And it didn’t matter about what was happening behind the scenes. They wanted to look good! Well, this decision of Joseph was totally full of righteousness, but I’ll tell you, it did not look good to those around him. 

      6. The point is, righteousness, true righteousness, is not about looking good outwardly, but having a willingness to follow God’s plan wherever it leads. 

    5. You wanna know what’s unconventional? 

      1. It’s unconventional to quit a job because your conscience says, “Hmmm…This isn’t helping me grow closer to Christ.” 

      2. It’s unconventional to keep loving a spouse when they don’t deserve it. 

      3. It’s unconventional to leave behind friends who are dragging you down. 

      4. It’s unconventional to preach countercultural truths. 

      5. Righteousness, according to Matthew, means doing what God requires, regardless of the way it will look or possibly affect you. 


My brethren, we have the greatest name in the universe as a source of strength. Jesus is your Savior. He gives you strength in your defeat of sin. Jesus is calling you this morning to grab a hold of his life rope. And in His salvation, He may drag you away from those things that you love. Do not resist him. Let’s strive for true righteousness, and let us draw from Christ’s power to do so! 

© Finding Canaan. All rights reserved. "Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal my words from one another" -- Jeremiah 23:30 

bottom of page