Dr. Lawrence Butler, The Bridge Church, Pembroke.
“The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up” (Mat 4:16).
These words were written by Matthew in his gospel and speak to the power of the ministry of Jesus Christ. The world had lost its way, crying for a savior, but finding none. The Roman Empire had been in existence for some 500 years at this point but was so filled with idolatry and spiritual confusion that people sometimes worshipped men as gods. The Roman gods were understood to be arrogant, often plotting and fighting with one another. They were described as getting drunk and committing adultery. Their behavior was so similar to humans that it was no great leap to eventually worship leaders as gods. Any leader who could bring peace, security and safety might easily receive the title of Savior. The darkness simply grew worse as did the actions of the people. A real Savior was needed, and one came.
No doubt there was still a consciousness of sin and moral failure, but there existed no ability to change and leave their sins. Their gods had failed. There was nowhere to turn for deliverance. As has been stated in various forms perhaps, no nation has ever survived the loss of its gods (Barclay). Into such a world came this announcement to a lowly carpenter who lived in Nazareth concerning his espoused wife: “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21).
It should be pointed out that there are 8 occasions where it is God who is called Savior. He is called such by Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:47), by the Apostle Paul (I Tim. 1:1, 2:3, 4:10, Titus 1:3, 2:10, 3:4) and by Jude (v.25), author of the book by his name. Both Christ and God the Father are called Savior. This is important because it reveals the love of the Father. He is not shown to be just a God of wrath, but one of love and forgiveness. However, it teaches us something else about God. Jesus’ death does not change God at all, but it demonstrates what God’s attitude toward sin really is. Jesus undergoes agonizing pain and then death because of sin, not His, but ours. The Father will not overlook sin but will punish it. The cross teaches us that we must repent and turn from sin or we will suffer the judgment of Almighty God. There is a way out of sin: “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).