As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:20-21 New Living Translation
Even if you never saw the movie, it’s hard to avoid one of the most famous catchphrases from the 1980 comedy The Blues Brothers, “We’re on a mission from God.” The comedy ensued as these two unlikely characters traveled the country with their blues band playing shows and raising money for an orphanage. Mary and Joseph could have repeated that phrase in their own lives as they learned what God’s plan was for the baby that Mary now miraculously carried. The baby, Himself, would be on a mission from God.
As Joseph pondered how to deal with Mary’s unexpected pregnancy and the shame that it would bring on the two of them, God intervened in Joseph’s plans by sending an angel to tell Joseph that what Mary probably had already told him was true. This baby was not the result of an illicit relationship with another man. God had performed a miracle in creating a human baby inside the womb of a virgin. God had a purpose for this baby and Joseph should not be afraid to play his role in raising this special baby. This baby had a mission from God.
This baby’s mission was summarized in the name Joseph was instructed to give him, Jesus. The Hebrew form of this name was Yeshua (Joshua), which meant “The LORD saves.” The angel proclaimed that this name was to be given because Jesus would save His people from their sins. There is no doubt that this has an individual application in terms of the forgiveness of personal sins but there was also a community application as well. Israel had long fallen short of its call from God to be a people that demonstrated His presence to the rest of the world. By entering the world as a baby, God began to call out a remnant of people that would worship Him in spirit and truth and seek to live by His principles.
“His people” would not be limited to the Jewish nation, though. God desired to redeem a trans-cultural community of true worshipers from all people groups. Jesus, Himself, said that people would enter God’s Kingdom from the north, south, east, and west while those who thought they had a corner on God’s presence would be left out. Since the beginning of time, all cultures have fallen short of the image God had designed for them. Through Jesus, He made a way for those cultures to find their own redemption and enter into the community of true worshipers, as well.
This was Jesus’s mission and it is the mission His followers carry on to this day. We all are given the opportunity to enter into a trans-cultural community of Jesus followers. Once we do, it becomes our mission to invite others to join us in that community.
Father, thank you that Jesus came to save us from our sins and to redeem us from the curses our ancestors have brought on our world and our cultures. Help us to be faithful in living by your values and inviting others to join us as part of your community.