My wife and I are having our third child in May and are very excited. We will find out Jan. 2 if it is a boy or a girl and have been going back and forth on names for him or her.
People put a lot of thought into the name of their children these days. Some choose names after family members, others because of their popularity. Another good reason to choose your child’s name wisely is so kids will not make fun of them in junior high. (Some kids are cruel and can make fun of any name – trust me on this one). The classic way of choosing a name though, is found in its meaning.
Jewish culture chose names based on definition. This was not something taken lightly nor done at the last moment. A person’s name conveyed their nature and character. It was chosen in hopes their life would reflect their name’s meaning. Jesus was given the name “Jesus” because He would save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
I’m sure Mary and Joseph would have chosen a great name for Jesus but they didn’t get the chance like most parents. Instead, they were given the name long before He was born. The angel Gabriel told them to call Him Jesus (Luke 1:31). Jesus had a miraculous ultrasound – one that science and medicine cannot produce today.
His gender and nature was revealed earlier than anyone in history – prior to conception by the Holy Spirit. Gabriel said, “You will conceive and give birth to a son and will call His name Jesus” (Luke 1:31).
He was also named “Immanuel” which means “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23). He was called Jesus because His mission was to save us. He was called Immanuel because He saved us by being God with us. Jesus was God fully (Colossians 1:19; 2:9; Ephesians 3:19). Jesus is more than a baby in a manger scene on a front lawn. He is the Son of God who came down to dwell among us and save us from our sins.
Yes, He was in a manger but He was also on a cross and in a tomb that could not hold Him. He is more than the centerpiece of a cute Christmas play. His birth divided history in B.C. and A.D. and His death forgave mankind of their sins.
The names “Immanuel” and “Jesus” both show how much He loves us - “Immanuel” in its meaning and “Jesus” in its commonality. Before the incarnation of Jesus, the Jewish people viewed God as holy but distant and unapproachable. Relationship was not synonymous with God. The name “Jesus” was a common name of the day.
This name showed He truly identified with common man. He took on the name of many of their brothers, dads, and cousins. God became a man who had all things in common with us. He even took on a common trade of a carpenter.
Hebrews 2:17 says, “Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.” If He had not become one of us He could not have saved us. Jesus is now more than a common name. It is the name above every name (Philippians 2:9) and the only one that can save us (Acts 4:12).
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Stephen Harrison is associate pastor of Family Church at White Hall.
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