The world Jesus was born into was in desperate need of a saviour. The people were militarily oppressed by the Roman armies that had taken away their status as a nation. They were religiously oppressed by the Temple Priests and Pharisees who had reduced their faith in God to burdensome rituals. Their only hope was that God would intervene in history and save them from spiritual oppression and fear of death.
1. Matthew is helping us understand the connection between Jesus and Old Testament prophecies of the coming Saviour.
The Hebrews had a long history of God intervening to rescue or save them from enemies. All of these stories are about individuals:
· Noah is saved from the Flood.
· Abraham is saved from obscurity and called to found a nation.
· Jacob saves the people from famine.
· Moses saves the people from slavery.
None of these experiences of being saved is very long-term. It is never long before the people forget their history and fall away from their dependence on and obedience to God. So starting with Isaiah and Hosea we are told of a special Saviour.
· Isaiah tells us "a virgin will conceive" – i.e. Holy Spirit is father
· Matthew quotes Hosea - he will come "out of Egypt".
· Jesus was a "Nazarene" - one dedicated to serving God.
· The ones who identify Jesus as the 'real Saviour' are the demons quoted in Mark 1.24. They note that Jesus is from Nazareth, to differentiate Him from others with the same
name; but also say that he is "the Holy one of God".
2. Paul tells us Jesus became a perfect sacrifice
The Bible was written by people very familiar with the idea of animal sacrifice. The most important thing that we all need is to be saved from is our fear of death – that our lives will no meaning or purpose. Many people are aware that they have separated themselves from a personal relationship with God. We each have a personal spirit that is our connection to God. When we rebel against God by breaking our covenant relationship this connection can be weakened or even lost. We can become addicted to or a prisoner of our self – our way instead of God’s way. This leads to sins - the things we do that separate us from God and other people.
· The Hebrews thought God had provided a good way to remove their guilt. Moses had recorded the Law and all the Temple Regulations for offering atonement. "Atonement" means making peace, forgiveness or achieving at-one-ment.
· When people sinned the penalty was death. Death meant the shedding of blood. The way back to at-one-ment; was through offering live animals to bear their guilt and die in their place.
· It was possible there would be no "death" - no real remorse or serious repentance by the guilty person. The guilty person would not really die emotionally to their love of sin
· God's solution in Jesus, was to provide a man who was without personal sin to take the place of each individual sinner and die. Only this could pay the price for sin and build up a credit which could be transferred.
· It could only be transferred to individuals Jesus knew personally and who believed he could die for them and who felt remorse and asked Jesus for forgiveness.
3. Jesus is our real Saviour
People are naturally afraid of death, judgement and separation from God. The Good News of Christmas is that God has provided each of us with a personal saviour.
· In our Baptism we are taught, get to know and love and make a decision to put our trust in Jesus death on the Cross out of love for for us personally
· In our personal Bible study and prayers we develop our knowledge of and love ofrelationship with Jesus
· In public worship we learn and have an opportunity to confess our sins and be saved from spiritual death
· Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to live in us, teach us, strengthen us and heal us as we grow in our spiritual life
In our new "life in Christ" we do not fear death. Death is only a passing from our physical earthly bodies to a new, higher form of spiritual life.