“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” (Matt. 1:21–23, NKJV)
Prophetic fulfillment spoke to the legitimacy of something. It said God was in it and His word was coming true, as foretold. When we read of Jesus being born in Bethlehem, we connect to the prophecy made by the prophet Micah about the Messiah hundreds of years prior (Micah 5:2). It is astounding and convincing to read of the scores of prophecies about the Messiah that were fulfilled in the details of Jesus’ life.
Yet the angelic announcement of Jesus’ naming presents us with a prophetic paradox. We can think of it in terms of probability. The odds of the child born to Mary being male were 50/50. That He would be born of a virgin were zero, impossible. But the one element that could be controlled to fulfill the prophecy from Isaiah was the name. Yet the angel tells Joseph to name the baby “Jesus” in fulfillment of a prophecy that He would be named “Immanuel.”
My father was named Enoch. His father was named Enoch. If someone had bet my mother and father that I would be named Enoch, but I was instead named Stanley, my parents would lose the bet on something they controlled. How can Jesus’ birth be a fulfillment of the eighth century B. C. prophecy if He was named Jesus and not Immanuel? The gender checks out. Even being born of a virgin checks out. But does not the prophecy fail because of the wrong name?
In this case, we see more than a straight line prophecy. The angel is telling us something more about the identity of this Son born to Mary. This Child born, this Son given, who would bring forgiveness of sins (cf. Is. 53) and would establish an everlasting kingdom (cf. Is. 9:6-7) is none other than God in the flesh. “Immanuel” speaks to His person, God with us. “Jesus” speaks to His mission, the Lord saves. That’s what the angel is saying, this Son born of a virgin is God incarnate to save. This Jesus is the Christ. (excerpted from The Christian’s Creed, pp. 58-59)
Digging Deeper (questions are from The Christian’s Creed Workbook)
- What does the name “Jesus” mean?
- “Immanuel” speaks to the baby’s __________. “Jesus” speaks to the baby’s __________?