Why Jesus Isn’t Named Immanuel

1211140746Since it’s a week before our church’s Christmas Eve service, I thought I’d take some time to blog about a question I get asked every once in a while that is right out of the Christmas Story: Why isn’t Jesus named “Immanuel”?

After all, when speaking about Jesus the Bible says, “they will call him Immanuel” (Matthew 1:23). Then just two verses later it says, “And Joseph gave him the name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:25). Radical Bible skeptics believe this is an obvious contradiction.

So what’s going on with our Savior’s name? Is it supposed to be Immanuel or Jesus? And are the Bible skeptics right?

Let’s dig into this…

In Matthew’s version of the Christmas Story, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him in no uncertain terms, “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.” (Matthew 1:21). So that is why Joseph named Him Jesus.

Sidenote: The name “Jesus” literally means “the LORD saves” and it is the Greek form of the name “Joshua” which would have been pronounced Yay-shoe-uh by Mary and Joseph. And what’s interesting is it was a pretty common name among first century Jewish families.

So if the angel said His name was supposed to be Jesus, how does verse 23 fit: “they will call him Immanuel”?

Verse 23 is actually a quotation from 700 B.C. from the book of Isaiah: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14). Immanuel means “God with us.” And this was literally true in the person of Jesus.

When it comes to how we should refer to our Savior, the confusion is removed once you realize the difference between what a person is NAMED and what we CALL them. For example, Kellie and I NAMED our firstborn Faith Sophia…but most of the time I CALL her “Fia.” We NAMED our second daughter Evelyn Grace…but I often CALL her “Beautiful Evelyn.” We NAMED our third daughter Elizabeth Juliet…and we are actually still trying to figure out which nickname for her will stick! 🙂

There is oftentimes a difference between what someone is named and what we call them. And the NIV Bible translation points to both truths when it comes to our Savior: They will CALL Him “Immanuel” (verse 23) but they will NAME Him “Jesus” (verse 25). No contradiction.

And the truth is Jesus was Immanuel. He was God with us 2,000 years ago. And He is still Immanuel today.

Jesus has not left us. He has not forsaken us. He has not abandoned us. Even in the midst of life’s storms.

Here’s a poem I remember hearing as a Catholic kid. A plaque of it hung on a wall in our house growing up.  It paints a wonderful word picture of this truth. It’s called Footprints in the Sand:

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.

In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.

This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord, “You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”

***Please join us this coming Sunday — and again on Christmas Eve — at The Eastside Vineyard Church. On Dec 21st I’ll be wrapping up our prayer series with a sermon titled 10,000 Hours of Prayer. And then on Wednesday December 24th my sermon is titled Not a Silent Night and will take a look at what was going on in the supernatural realm on that first Christmas in Bethlehem. Both services are at 10:30am and will include singing some of your favorite Christmas Carols… plus we’ll be taking Communion… plus there will be an opportunity to receive 1-on-1 prayer. More info at tevchurch.org***


About Dan Kopp

In 2010 Dan and Kellie felt the call by God to plant a church somewhere in Macomb County, Michigan. Several months later The Eastside Vineyard Church launched and currently meets inside Shelby Jr. High in Shelby Township. This blog began in the pre-launch phase of the church and has exceeded 50,000 hits. Thanks for reading!
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