“Name him Jesus,” commanded the angel. Why? Unlike Mary at the Annunciation, Joseph in his dream did not have any time to pose questions to the angel. The answer came too quickly, “Name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” Joseph’s dream, convincing him that Mary’s pregnancy was a divine act, is like a summary version of Mary’s encounter with the angel Gabriel.
The angel tells him, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid” to wed your betrothed. The Holy Spirit did this; God is doing something here. He is bringing forth a son through her, “Jesus,” who “will save his people from their sins.” And you have a part to play.
To understand Joseph’s dream, we have to remember what Gabriel said to Mary at the Annunciation. It is a massive announcement: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
All this is precisely encapsulated in his name, “Jesus.” He will be “great.” How great? He will be given the great royal title of “Son of the Most High”: see, he is the heir to David’s throne. He will fulfill the ancient promises God made to David: see, he will “rule over the house of Jacob forever.”
His Kingdom will be endless! A just ruler over Israel will lead to justice, peace and prosperity, not only for Israel but also for the entire world. Life lived without fear, without suffering, without death. Blessing upon blessing. Divine presence. God’s goodness unquestionably evident in every facet of life. This is human life as it has always been intended to be! It is all true and all coming true! Finally, here and now! God is on the move!
That is what it means to “save his people from their sins.” Jesus is the name that saves. It is the human name of God. To Mary and Joseph, it must have been a shock that they were chosen to be the privileged custodians of this ultimate transformation of the world from end to end, summarised by the words “salvation from sins.”
But this shock should also be ours. Why? Like Joseph, like Mary, we are the privileged custodian in the present day of this same Kingdom, this same act of God through which he is fulfilling his deeply good purpose for the world. We too, each and every one of us, bear the mystery of the name of Jesus within you. Say “yes” to it like Mary. Play your part like Joseph.
W Chris Hackett
© Redemptorists 2019