“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21
What’s In A Name?
What is the significance of a biblical name? A whole lot, it would seem. Today many parents don’t even think about where a name comes from when giving their children names. Mostly a name passes the selection criteria if it sounds great or a relative or a friend has that name. Others choose names from popular culture, movies, superstars and even objects. In biblical times names said what they meant. To the ancient Hebrew, nothing existed until it had a name that would expose its character. Abigail, the wife of Nabal in 1 Samuel 25:25, describes her husband as foolish in line with the meaning of his name.
Names were so significant in biblical times that people would even change their names when they felt that their character had greatly changed. Some of these include Jacob becoming Israel, Abram becoming Abraham, Saul becoming Paul etc. When Jesus wanted to emphasise that Simon would be a steadfast upholder of his teachings, He gave him the name Cephas based on the Greek word for rock (John 1:42). These names were almost like job descriptions. Therefore when the angel Gabriel comes to Mary and tells her, “call His name Jesus!” it was not just a nice name.
The name Jesus is a version of the Old Testament Hebrew word Joshua or Yeshua. Joshua means the Lord is salvation. This means the Joshua’s in the old testament would be a reflection of what Jesus would come to fulfil. The first Joshua we meet is Moses’ assistant and successor. Though Moses made way for them to leave slavery, he did not get them to Canaan; Joshua did that (Joshua 1:24). The second Joshua appears after Israel is divided and falls into the hands of Babylonia and Assyrians. After they came back from captivity in Babylon they found Jerusalem and the temple in ruin. A high priest named Joshua is used to rebuild the temple so that God’s people would worship again (Ezra 1:6).
The name alone raised the expectation of anyone who had searched the scriptures. Jesus would not be just any other ordinary child. He would bring fulfilment of promises written in the Old Testament scriptures. People were waiting for a socio-political leader who would restore their fortunes and save them from Rome’s hand (Acts 1:6). This description was the characteristic of the many heroes of Israel who came before. They acted in obedience and led Israel through many physical battles. But Jesus is different; we are told, “He will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
He would not be a saviour of bringing relief to hurting people while building palaces in Israel, but rather, He “Himself” was the peoples’ salvation. It’s as if the angel told Mary that this baby is the Lord Himself who has come down to save his people by his own hand. This is what sets apart Christianity from any other religion. It’s not a code of ethics. Jesus is the molten core of the Christian faith. Today, I am interested in inviting you to become more religious but rather want you to meet Jesus for yourself.
King James Version (KJV)
“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.”
New International Version (NIV)
“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.”
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
“She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
New American Bible (NASB)
“She will give birth to a Son; and you shall name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
English Standard Version (ESV)
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
The Living Bible (TLB)
“And she will have a Son, and you shall name him Jesus (meaning ‘Savior’), for he will save his people from their sins.”
A Savior is Born
What an unbelievable miracle. At least unbelievable in our human minds. This moment in time was foretold many years before in prophecy. There were many people who believed this event was coming, but did not understand what it TRULY meant.
This child would be our Savior. The Savior of the world. But many people believed that meant that he would come on a powerful steed and sword and take down all of God’s enemies. But when people witnessed Jesus on a cross, some thought they had been mistaken. “How could this be our King? Our Savior? He is powerless against these enemies of God.”
It’s amazing how our human minds can allow us to believe one thing, while the Holy Spirit can open our minds up to the Truth. The one and only Truth about our Savior. God is already reigning. Jesus is our Savior. But those who actually witnessed Jesus’ life didn’t understand it. And those who live on this earth today certainly can’t fathom it. At least not with our human minds.
I pray that God will continue to reveal to me His one and only Truth. And that He will reveal his Truth to others through me, and through the love of other believers. I pray that I can focus on Him and not allow the world to put my focus on other things. This Christmas, I pray for all believers to love. We are called to Love God and love others. May God shine his love through us so brightly that it can be seen by others.