Matthew 1:21-25 is a Scripture on the Birth of Jesus which says much more and much less than most Christians realize. In other words, they think this Scripture says a lot of things about Jesus which it does not actually say, and this Scripture says a lot of things about Jesus which most people completely miss.
But before we look at these various items, let us look at the text of Matthew 1:21-25:
“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.
Below we will look at the various myths and realities of Matthew 1:21-25.
Save His People from their Sins
The Scripture does not say that the point of Jesus’ coming was to forgive our sins. Certainly, we do get forgiveness of sins because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, but what Jesus accomplished in His life, death, and resurrection is so much more than just the forgiveness of sins.
To “save” means to “deliver” and when the Scriptures speak of forgiveness, it means way more than just “being forgiven” in the modern sense. It means total release from the bondage of sin, as well as the divine punishment for sin. Jews believed that sin resulted in judgement, captivity, and slavery to other nations, and therefore, to be saved from sins mean to be delivered from the consequences of sin, including the oppression and slavery under the Roman Empire.
When Jesus delivers us from our sin, he not only forgives us, but also frees us from the oppression and bondage that sin has over us.
Isaiah 7:14 and a Prophecy about Jesus
Isaiah 7:14 was not originally a prophecy about Jesus. It most likely wasn’t about a virgin at all, but a young woman of marriageable age. The prophecy was not about a virgin birth, but the timing of a particular birth and the prediction that she would have a son. If the prophecy was of a virgin birth, then the prophecy would have had to come true in Isaiah’s day, which would mean there was another virgin birth in history.
But Matthew can still use the Scripture to speak of the actual Virgin Birth of Jesus by Mary because of how he uses the word “fulfilled.” This is a special term in Matthew which means he is taking a Scripture from the Hebrew Scriptures and filling it more meaning. He is filling it with a fuller meaning than the original author knew or intended. This is a common practice in the area of prophecy.
Immanuel does not mean Jesus was God
Immanuel means “God with Us.” But this does not mean that Matthew is saying that Jesus is God incarnate. Jesus was God incarnate, but Matthew 1:21-25 is not teaching it. It would be strange for Matthew to quote a verse saying that Jesus will be named “Immanuel” and then turn right around and say that He was named “Jesus.” No, Immanuel is not the name of Jesus, but a description of what Jesus represents.
And what is that To say “Immanuel” – “God with Us” is to say that God is with us, God is for us, God is on our side. When we face the enemy, God is protecting us, guiding us, leading the charge for us. He does not leave us alone. That is what Immanuel means, and that is what Jesus teaches us. We are not alone. God is by our side.
Mary was not a Perpetual Virgin
Many believe that Mary remained a virgin for her entire life. But this Scripture teaches the opposite.
While the Scripture is clear that Joseph and Mary did not have sexual relations until after Jesus was born, it is equally clear that Jesus was her firstborn son. If Jesus was the firstborn, then she would have had a secondborn. And indeed, we read elsewhere that Jesus did have brothers (Matt 12:46). If Jesus was Mary’s only son, the Scripture would say that He was her only begotten Son. But it says He was her firstborn, which means Joseph and Mary had other children after Jesus.
Scriptural Books on the Birth of Jesus
Here are some helpful books for learning more about what Scripture teaches on the topic of Jesus' birth. Click on a book below to see pricing and reviews.