When the angel of God appeared to Joseph in a dream to tell him that Mary was pregnant with a son conceived by the Holy Spirit, he told him to name the boy Jesus, “… for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:22).
What if the angel had left off the last three words and had only said to Joseph, “… for he will save his people,” period? What would have Joseph thought? No doubt he would have assumed, like his fellow Jews, that as the promised Messiah Jesus would save the people of Israel from their enemies. He would expect the son born to Mary to assume the throne of David, establish his reign in Jerusalem, overthrow the Roman oppressors, and rule over a prosperous and peaceful Israel forever. The people were looking for a political Savior, for an earthly salvation.
What kind of salvation do we seek? That depends on what we think is our greatest need. If we believe that above all else we need world peace, we’ll hope for a political leader or a system of world-government to end all wars. Or maybe we see our greatest need as salvation from sickness and disease. If so, we’ll look for a scientist to cure cancer and every other illness that stalks the human race. Or maybe we need happiness and flourishing above else. If so, our ideal savior will be a philosopher or guru who can show us the way to find true peace and fulfillment in this life.
Without a doubt, we’d all be thrilled with world peace, an end to disease, and a humanity free from sadness and misery. But even if we achieved all of this, we’d still face our most fundamental – and desperate – need: our sin. Our greatest problem is spiritual: we are alienated from the life of God because of our sin, and we face the condemnation of God because of our guilt. We need a savior from sin.
Jesus came to be the Savior we needed most. The baby born to Mary did for us what we can never do – he reconciled us to the Father by his life, death, and resurrection. True salvation is the forgiveness of sins and gift of eternal life. One day Jesus will make the world all that we could want – a place of peace, life, and everlasting joy. Until then, he fills our hearts with peace, life, and joy.
May the Lord put upon your heart a sense of your greatest need, and may he cause you to see that in his Son Jesus Christ he has given you a perfect Savior to meet that need.
Soli Deo Gloria!