By David Faust
His character is uniquely pure and his words never lose their relevance. His deeds are unparalleled, his influence never-ending. No one ever has done more to advance the welfare of the human race. No one ever has lived a better life, accomplished more significant achievements, or exerted a greater impact on the world.
He was born to blue-collar parents and grew up in a small town others mocked. Brought up in a carpenter’s home with several brothers and sisters, he wasn’t rich; others supported him as he traveled and taught. He never earned a college degree. His people lived under the iron fist of Rome. Religious leaders opposed him. His followers frequently misunderstood him, and in time many abandoned him. He traveled mostly on foot. He had no microphone to amplify or record his voice. He entered public life at age 30 and died at 33.
Yet he is the pivotal personality of human history—the hinge-point of the Bible. The Old Testament predicted his coming and the New Testament heralded it. His arrival altered the calendar and his resurrection altered our future forever. Today the name of Jesus Christ continues to generate curiosity, inspire hope, stir controversy, and shape the course of nations.
The Name Above All Names
A first-century tax collector named Matthew encountered Jesus, and tax collectors were worse than unpopular in those days. They were despised for their crooked business practices and their unsavory collaboration with the Roman occupiers. Religious leaders referred to those they considered the scum of the earth as “tax collectors and sinners”—as if tax collectors were so bad they shouldn’t even be classified along with the rest of the sinners! But Jesus gave Matthew the uncompromising challenge to “follow me,” and as William Barclay points out, “Matthew rose up and followed him and left everything behind him except one thing—his pen.” And Matthew used his pen to author the first book of the New Testament.
He began his book with a genealogy that links Jesus to the history, prophecies, and personalities of the Old Testament. Matthew showed that the blood of the covenant people flowed through Jesus’ veins. He was related to great leaders: Abraham the man of faith, noble Boaz and his loyal wife, Ruth, David the Psalm-writing king, Solomon the wise sage. But Jesus also was related to notable sinners: Jacob the conniver, Rahab the harlot, the adulterers Bathsheba and David, Manasseh the evil king. Jesus’ genealogy prepares us to meet a Messiah who is a friend of sinners, “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Fittingly an angel told Joseph, “You are to give him the name Jesus [‘the Lord saves’], because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Other titles for Jesus are scattered throughout the first three chapters of Matthew’s Gospel as well: Christ (Messiah), son of David, Immanuel (“God with us”), king of the Jews, Nazarene, Son of God.
Matthew’s Gospel introduces us to history’s pivotal personality. Jesus stands head and shoulders above everyone else because he is the head of the church and the government is on his shoulders. At Jesus’ baptism God proclaimed, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). We should be pleased with him too.
1. What names or titles for Jesus mean the most to you? Why?
2. How will you “fix your eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2) during the year ahead?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for January 6, 2013
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Genesis 1, 2
Genesis 3, 4