Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem so that they might “be registered,” in response to the command of Caesar Augustus. It is understandable that Joseph might have been confused regarding what name to use in registering Jesus.
Prior to the birth of Jesus, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream who stated that the Son Mary was about to bear should be called “Jesus.” However, two verses later in the Gospel of Matthew we read this: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.” (Matthew 1:23 ESV) Was Joseph confused about which name to use?
The confusion is resolved by examining the pronouns. The angel told Joseph, “You shall call his name Jesus,” but Scripture prophesied “They shall call his name Immanuel.” Therefore, the name given to Him by Joseph at His birth was Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 1:25, “And he called his name Jesus.” However, they, the people of Israel, would ultimately call Him Immanuel.
While we find Him referred to by the name Jesus in Scripture, the only place Immanuel appears in the New Testament is this passage. We never find anyone calling him Immanuel.
Because of our confidence in the accuracy of Scripture, we are convinced that this prophecy will be fulfilled, that ultimately Jesus will be referred to by the name Immanuel at a future date when he reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords at His second coming.
If celebrating His birth as Jesus is so joyous, imagine how wonderful it will be to celebrate His reign as Immanuel.
But exactly what significance do these names have? I plan to address that issue in the next two posts.