December 22, 2014

Matthew 1:21 “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Names are important. Just as his relative John was named before birth, here the Messiah was given His human name. It was a common enough name, being that of the great leader of Israel who had led them over the Jordan into Canaan, and since surnames were not used by most people, He was called Jesus of Nazareth to distinguish Him from others of the same name. The reason for the name is obvious when its Hebrew meaning is examined. Just as the names of many immigrants to the US got changed in spelling and/or pronunciation as they went through Ellis Island, “Jesus” is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew “Yeshua.” It’s significant that Matthew is the one who records this, because modern computer analysis indicates that he probably wrote first in Aramaic, rather than Greek. (Aramaic could be considered a dialect of Hebrew, and was probably what Jesus spoke most of the time. He also spoke Hebrew, since the Scriptures were in that language, as well as at least some Greek, since the Bible records He made puns in Greek. This Gospel was put into Greek very early, however, and maybe even by Matthew himself. No Aramaic copies remain.) Matthew didn’t see a need to give the meaning of Yeshua, the way he did for Immanuel, because the meaning was obvious in the name itself: God is Salvation. Everything about Jesus, even from before His birth, was focused on His ultimate purpose of being the Savior of mankind. We generally take names much more lightly today, but it’s a worthwhile exercise to think about what God perhaps calls us, since John records that those who overcome will be given a new name. (Revelation 2:17)

My mother told me that when I was an infant someone asked my name. When told that I was Jackson Maxfield Garrott, they said, “That’s a mighty big name for such a small baby.” My mother said she responded, “He’ll grow.” Today I am very pleased to have that name, because my father was William Maxfield Garrott, and he went by Maxfield, or Max. As it happens, I am physically a virtual clone of my father, and I am deeply gratified when people say I am similar to him in spiritual ways as well. That said, I understand that what God says of me is far more important than the name I use. I’m not too pleased that I tend to be weak with other people’s names, having trouble getting them firmly into my head. It’s a comfort to know that God has no such difficulty! I am to treat each person as individually valuable, because God does. I am to do all I can to see that each person also acquires the name Christian, because ultimately, that is what matters.

Father, thank You for parents who thought deeply about naming me. Thank You even more for enabling me to acquire the name of Christian. Help me be the representative of Christ that You want me to be, acting as Your agent in all situations so that Your will may be done through me, for the salvation of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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