Savior, Sovereign and Shepherd
Passages like the one we just had read for us – at least the 1st 17 vss., are often skimmed over quite quickly, if read at all.
I want to argue this morning that running too quickly over genealogies is a mistake.
Yes, on the surface they seem boring.
But God is not a God of the superfluous.
If He has seen to it by His Spirit to inspire the original authors to include such lists, we ought not be quick to dismiss them without careful consideration.
I hope to give us a taste of that today.
But before we get there, I want us to notice 3 ways in which the person and work of this Baby born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago is identified in this passage and take note of what astounding good news it is to all who hear.
The narrative portion of this passage begins in vs. 18 of Ch. 1, and it is worth our time to look at the details a bit.
Matthew 1:18–23 “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. 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. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
- SAVIOR: And here is the 1st designation that is given to Jesus, even before He is born: SAVIOR. “you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
He was to be given a most unextraordinary family name – Jesus or Joshua was extremely common in Israel at the time He was born.
This is because He was to be identified with the common man, even though He was the very Son of God!
As the genealogy shows, Jesus was part of a family line that was quite diverse, but He was in the flesh – the flesh only being considered – truly just one of us.
He was to save those of whom He was a part – His People!
But as common as this name itself was in Israel at the time – He was to be the utmost fulfillment of it.
- C. Ryle: “The name Jesus means “Saviour.” It is the same name as Joshua in the Old Testament. It is given to our Lord because “He saves His people from their sins.” This is His special office. He saves them from the guilt of sin, by washing them in His own atoning blood. He saves them from the dominion of sin, by putting in their hearts the sanctifying Spirit. He saves them from the presence of sin, when He takes them out of this world to rest with Him. He will save them from all the consequences of sin, when He shall give them a glorious body at the last day. Blessed and holy are Christ’s people! From sorrow, cross, and conflict they are not saved. But they are saved from sin for evermore. They are cleansed from guilt by Christ’s blood. They are made meet for heaven by Christ’s Spirit. This is salvation. He who cleaves to sin is not yet saved.”
To see Him only as a Teacher, an Example, a Wise Man, a Religious figure, a Sage or a Prophet or a Miracle worker – we miss His primary reason for becoming incarnate – He came to be a Savior!
To save His people from their sins!
And the great question each of us must answer is – are we His people?
Will we acknowledge we are the lost, the sinful, the rebellious, the condemned and unclean so that He might be our Savior and we might be His people?
Luke 5:29–32 “And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
The implication is clear: Would you know God?
Would you know salvation?
You must know your absolute and utter need of Him.
You must know your sin, your dreaded condition. You must hear the call, and respond in faith.
Nothing else will do.
If you have no need of Him, neither will you have Him at all.
He only saves sinners.
He only redeems lost men.
He only raises the dead and heals the sick.
Those who know nothing of their need, can know little or nothing at all of Him.
The angel told Joseph – You will call His name Jesus – for He will save His people from their sins.
And so the narrative continues: Matthew 1:22–25 “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”
Chapter 2 changes the scene: Matthew 2:1–2 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
And it is here we encounter Jesus’ 2nd designation: KING, or
2. SOVEREIGN: Where is He who has been born “King of the Jews.”
Now because our culture has been so permeated by the idea of elected heads of state, or even in England, say of “Constitutional Monarchs” – we have little appreciation for what it meant in those days for someone to reign as King.
Kings were not figureheads. Kings had absolute rights of rule over those under them.
It is true that under the yoke of Roman oppression, Kings like Herod mentioned here, were somewhat constrained – but that was not typical throughout history.
When one became King – they ruled with absolute and unchallenged authority – and did so at the expression of their most fleeting and often wicked whims.
Kings were absolute dictators and despots.
And as we were contemplating last Sunday night around the communion table, the Passover sacrifice was to be fully consumed and none left over until the next day; so Jesus must be taken in all of His person and offices – Prophet, Priest & King – so here, as Savior, but also Sovereign!
We begin to see how this unfolds in John 3.
On the heels of Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus where He tells the Pharisee that he must be born again or he cannot see the Kingdom of God – a dispute arises with some of John’s disciples over purification rights.
At that point, John starts to tell his followers, they need to listen to Jesus now. And Jesus Himself goes on to say about Himself:
John 3:31–36 “He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
Did you catch that last part?
The one who believes in The Son has eternal life – BUT – “WHOEVER DOES NOT OBEY THE SON SHALL NOT SEE LIFE, BUT THE WRATH OF GOD REMAINS ON HIM.”
The ultimate life issue hangs not only on what one believes, but whether or not we OBEY The Son!
God has made Him Lord of all. Has “given all things into His hand” (v35)
And this is of the utmost importance – for if you are not reconciled to Christ so as to look to obey Him as your sovereign and Lord, then in fact you are still in your trespasses and sins, and still under the wrath of God!
Now is the time to flee to Him as your Savior, and to bend the knee to Him as your King with His absolute right of rule over you – soul, body and mind,
In fact, He calls you to Himself this very moment in the preaching of this sermon.
Perhaps you have played with Christianity – thinking you can be fine with God if you just subscribe to Christian truth and own a Christian Church as your Church, the Bible as your holy book and have Christian friends or relatives – but beloved, if you are still just being “A Christian” and not submitted to the Kingship of Jesus Christ in your life – you are still lost, outside the faith and standing every moment in danger of your eternal soul being lost!
As Savior He has declared an amnesty, full and free forgiveness for all and provided an actual atonement for all of your sin in His blood on the Cross – but He calls to you to be reconciled to Him as your Savior AND your King – and promises He WILL receive you when you repent and come to Him for mercy.
Will you? Today? This hour, this moment? Will you confess your sin and call upon Him to be saved and to be master of your Life?
Oh do it! Don’t wait. Don’t hesitate. The door is open, the call has been given and He calls, even more, He commands you to come to Him that you might be saved. Obey Him that you might be saved from the wrath of God coming upon the whole world.
SAVIOR was the designation from the Angel.
SOVEREIGN was who the Wise Men sought.
But our narrative is not over yet.
Matthew 2:3–6 “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”
And here is the 3rd designation given to us, in the prophecy cited from Micah 5:2 about Bethlehem – that from that tiny and humble village would come a ruler who will SHEPHERD God’s people, Israel.
3. SHEPHERD: What a sweet and tender and blessed designation this is.
Our Shepherd. How the Scripture uses that picture to open up for us in so many places just how deeply He cares for His own, and protects and provides for us.
So David can cry in Psalm 28:8–9 “The Lord is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed. 9 Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever.”
How Isaiah 40:11 notes: “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.”
Ezekiel 34:15 has God declaring: “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God.”
And then Jesus Himself takes up the theme in John 10:7–17 “So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.”
SAVIOR SOVEREIGN SHEPHERD
Can these be any more blessed ways of understanding who this Christ is who was born in that lowly manger in the little town of Bethlehem so long ago?
But what does all of that have to do with that long list of strange names at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel? What’s the point?
Just this – in that list there are Kings and Scoundrels
Notables and Nobodies
Men & Women
Jews & Gentiles
Those who were faithful and many who were faithless
There’s a Prostitute
Nomads, Warriors, Prophets, Farmers, Statesmen, ordinary Joes
Those who lived in ease
Those who lived in poverty
Those who accomplished much
Those who left nothing behind but their names
The shunned and the accepted
The steadfast and the mercurial
The creative and the dull
Intellectuals and uneducated commoners
Christ Jesus came in the likeness and the lineage of fallen, broken, sin-cursed humankind.
So it is there are none who cannot be touched by Him, nor reconciled to the Father through Him.
This Savior can save anyone – even me, even you.
This Sovereign reigns over all and expects to be obeyed.
And this Shepherd, will guide, protect, provide for, keep and bring home all who are His – safe to their heavenly home.
This is the miracle of the incarnation.
This, is Christmas.
 J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1860), 6.