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.”
What’s in a name? In current American culture, not a whole lot. Back then, it was thought to express the essence of the person, so much so that telling someone your name could be a gesture of great trust, in some cultures. The Bible tells us a lot of names, many of which we mangle when we try to say them, to the point that they would be unrecognizable to someone speaking the original language. That’s certainly true with the name of the Messiah, because in English we go from the Greek form of it, rather than the Hebrew, and even then the emphasis should be on going from. (It’s interesting to me that Japanese, which mangles so many English words, often gets closer than English to the original form of many foreign names from languages other than English, both place names and personal names.) Many people today are aware that the Messiah answered to Yeshua, which in normal English pronunciation would be Joshua. All such considerations aside, the big deal about His name is the original meaning, which is “the LORD saves.” The starting sound is verbal shorthand for the tetragramaton, the covenant name of the Creator, written in the Hebrew Bible as YHWH and never pronounced, lest it be taken in vain. All of this is to say that Jesus was declared to be the Savior even from before His birth. Among Jews of the day Jesus (or Joshua) was hardly an unusual name. Since they didn’t use surnames in that culture, people were identified as “son of so-and-so,” (Bar…, as in Barabbas, or Ben…, as in Ben Hur) or with their hometown, as in Jesus of Nazareth. In His case that was certainly logical, since they would hardly have called Him Ben Yahweh. That, actually, would be His proper name, since He was born as the Savior, the Son of the Creator.
My name and my wife’s come from family members, just as John the Baptist’s relatives and neighbors expected his to. (Luke 1:59-61) When I was an infant someone said to my mother that Jackson Maxfield Garrott was “an awfully big name for such a small baby.” Her response was, “He’ll grow.” I hope I have, and not just physically. For most of my life I have been very poor at remembering names, which sometimes comes across as being self-centered and not really caring about others. I have accused myself that way in fact, and have worked to be otherwise – though I’m still not really good with names! My wife, Cathy, has been the opposite, which is why it has been such a shock and stress to her that since her brain surgery back in February, names have been one of her weakest areas. Now I often have to be the one to supply the names of people we’re talking about, which can be a real challenge! I take comfort in the assurance that God knows all our names, and He cares very intensely about us. I am to rejoice that He is indeed our salvation, and share that good news with as many as will receive it.
Father, This is yet another reminder of my own imperfection, so thank You. Help me be an instrument of Your salvation, imperfect though I certainly am, so that as many as will may be born into Your family, for their eternal life and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!