December 18, 2010


4th Sunday of Advent - A
Matthew 1: 18-24

Emmanuel - God is with us

Matthew 1: 18-24 is one of the rare Scripture passages where the translation or interpretation is provided right in the text for all the Hebrew words.

This was done not just for a practical reason, but, more importantly, for a theological one. The evangelist apparently wanted to make sure that his readers understand the meaning of the names given to the main figure of his writing - the child to be born.

The angel tells Joseph, "you are to name him Jesus." What the angel says next is more than just a translation of the name Jesus, which means "Yahweh helps."[1] The name itself is rather common, and the most famous of the Biblical characters with the name is probably Joshua, the assistant of Moses who succeeded Moses as the leader of the Israelites.

The child to be born, and entrusted to Joseph's care, is not just another Jewish male whose name echoes the religious faith and understanding of God's role in the life and history of the people. Rather, this child "will save his people from their sins.” He is different than all the others with the same name. And he will fulfill this mission of saving his people from their sins on the cross.

Then the name Emmanuel is given with a whole lesson on the fulfillment of God's plan.

The name was first mentioned in Isaiah 7:14, at a time of "distress" in Jewish history, was then understood as the fulfillment of God's promise to the House of David in 2 Sam 7:12-16 with the birth of "the ideal king." [2]

However, in Matthew's understanding, the child to be born is the real fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. He is not like any other king from the House of David, good, bad or mediocre, who comes and goes. In this child, God's promise truly reaches its completion.

In fact, the very last sentence in Matthew's Gospel is "And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age" (28:20). Jesus says this as sends his disciples out to continue his mission before his ascension into heaven.

Such is the grandeur of God's plan. Yet, every little detail in that plan counts.

And Joseph and Mary, two human beings, are each entrusted with a part in that plan.

So am I.

And I am not alone trying to fulfill what God plans for me. "Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age," says the Emmanuel.

Quotes taken from the footnotes in The New American Bible

No comments: