“Call His Name Jesus”
Does your name have a story?
Are you named after a relative? Or perhaps an influential friend or beloved celebrity?
My mom always had an affinity for the name, “Ryan” so that’s how I got my name. She often tells the story of how dumbstruck I was when my parents failed to name my younger brother “Batman.” Just to clarify, my preference was based on affinity, not a family name.
When we recount the Nativity story, the role of names can often be overlooked. But when we slow down, this part of the story reminds us that our God places purpose and redemption in all areas of life. The Book of Matthew vibrantly brings this truth to life.
While all the gospel accounts use names, Matthew, by the Spirit’s inspiration, chose to start with names. The beginning of chapter one accounts for 42 generations which traces the birth of Jesus from Abraham, the lauded patriarch for Jews. With that authoritative lineage established, Mathew makes an incredible transition.
In verse 18, he describes the unconventional context that Joseph finds himself before the birth of his Son. In the midst of confusion, an Angel of the Lord meets with Joseph. Along with comforting him, this Angel instructs him to do something remarkable: ‘…and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.’ How incredible!
It can be easy to dismiss the explicit reasoning of why the angel commands Joseph to do this.
Jesus was to be named ‘Jesus’ because the name means ‘God (or Yahweh) Saves.’ It’s also incredibly important (and amazing) that God Himself, through the angel, named Jesus. But the significance doesn’t end there.
D.A. Carson writes in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew that in the Old Testament, the Hebrew version of this name was “Joshua.” Hebrews chapter four references Joshua from the Old Testament who led the Israelites after Moses. We also see that Joshua saved a known sinner from destruction in Joshua 6:25. Her name? Rahab, a prostitute who ended up being included in the lineage of Jesus (Matt 1:5). What a foreshadowing of the mercy and grace that was to come to helpless sinners around the world through Jesus! Many other parallels between Joshua and Jesus show how this Old Testament leader was pointing to something (and Someone) greater. But even with these similarities, Jesus is not like anyone else – and His name is above all names. He would clearly say that later in Matthew.
In chapter 16, Jesus asks his disciples about how people “name” him saying, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They answered him in verse 14 replying, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
In the next verse, Jesus asks a profoundly direct question, “But you, who do you say that I am?”
In response, Simon Peter boldly replies, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Peter answered with the only correct answer to Jesus’ question.
Every person has their own “name” for Jesus. For some, he was a good man with profound teachings. For others, he was a prophet to prepare the way for someone greater. For Christians, our answer echoes Peter’s–He is the only one that could save us from our sins.
As Jesus has now saved us from our sins, He has now sent us to share with others.
- Consider your circle of influence. Who in your life “names” Jesus differently than you?
- During this season of Advent, reminders of Jesus are uniquely all around us. How could you use the topic of Christmas to transition into a spiritual conversation?
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