“And she will bring forth 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? This is a good question. Are names just given randomly or willy-nilly? Usually not. Though there are various ways parents think through what name(s) they will give to their children, though they have different reasons for why they choose the name(s), it’s done with thoughtfulness. Some Christian parents want their children to bear a name that has a godly meaning. Some want their children to be named after godly men or women in Scripture, or notable theologians. Maybe there is a significant family name that is passed down from generation to generation. Maybe there is a family pattern in naming. What ever the case may be – names have significance and meaning.
Naming had high significance in biblical days as well. Some names signified origin, character traits, purpose, etc. For example, Adam (Genesis 1:26) means “man” and he is the representative of mankind. Eve (Genesis 3:20) means “living”. She would be the mother of all of the living. Esau means “hairy” because of how hairy Esau was at birth. (Genesis 25:25). The second of the twin sons was born grasping at Esau’s heel and was, thus, named Jacob, which means “that supplants” (Genesis 25:26). We also see in Scripture that God changed people’s names indicating that their character has been changed by an act of God’s grace. Abram’s name was changed to Abraham (Genesis 17:5), Jacob became Israel (Genesis 32:28), Saul became Paul (Acts 13:9).
As we consider who Jesus is, it’s important to recognize that there is great significance in His name. Matthew opens the window for us to see this in preparation for His birth as an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph, telling him what would be true of Jesus’ conception and birth, as well as what His name would be. Now, our attention should be drawn to two things: 1) Jesus’ name was given by God, not decided by Joseph and Mary, and 2) His name has intentional, redemptive significance. His name wonderfully points us to Jesus being our Mediator, our Savior, the incarnate, eternal Son of God. “Jesus” (“Iesous” in Greek) is the transliterated form of the Hebrew term “Yehoshua”, which means “Yahweh saves”. Considering Matthew 1:21, our catechism rightly teaches this truth in Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 41:
Q. 41. Why was our mediator called Jesus?
A. Our mediator was called Jesus, because he saveth his people from their sins.
Further, Jesus is also the Christ. “Christ” (“Christos” in Greek) properly means “the Anointed One”. Jesus is the divine Messiah. Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. 42, expands and builds our knowledge and understanding of why Jesus bears the name “Christ”:
Q. 42. Why was our mediator called Christ?
A. Our mediator was called Christ, because he was anointed with the Holy Ghost above measure; and so set apart, and fully furnished with all authority and ability, to execute the offices of prophet, priest, and king of his church, in the estate both of his humiliation and exaltation.
So, what’s in a name? A lot is in a name – meaning, thought, purpose. Clearly, there are many other names of our Lord Jesus, revealed to us in the Bible, that speak to important things that are true of Him. His name is “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). As you think about your Savior today and in the days ahead, consider afresh the meaning of His name in what it says about His person and work in your salvation. Jesus is all and did all that He was promised to be and do, is doing, and will do. Amen! Consider afresh today how Christ’s name speaks to His execution of the offices of prophet, priest, and king. Lord willing, we will study this execution in the coming weeks. May Jesus Christ be praised!
“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11