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December 2021 GPS

So far in our study of names, we have looked at the way names reveal something about the nature/character of the one who bears the name. Since Christmas comes in December, it seemed appropriate, in our study of names, to focus in our study for this month, on what Mary and Joseph were told about Jesus’ names. We will begin by looking at the name “Jesus.”

When Mary was informed about what would happen to her, we read, “And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” (Luke 1:30–31, ESV) When Joseph was told about the conception and birth of Jesus, the angel added an explanation for the reason why the name “Jesus” was chosen. Speaking of Mary, He told Joseph, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”” (Matthew 1:21, ESV) It is generally known that the name “Jesus” is a Greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua.” Furthermore, it is known that the Hebrew name “Joshua” means Jehovah (Yahweh) is salvation. So, when Joseph is told that Mary’s Son will be called Jesus, he was also told the reason why He was to be given that name. “He will save his people from their sins.” As  I noted above, one of the functions of names was to denote the nature/character of the one being named, whether humans or God. That is exactly what the name “Jesus” did when applied to our Lord. He expressed by His life and by His character the fact that the LORD is salvation. He is the One who saves. To “save” is to deliver or rescue from something. From what does Jesus save (deliver/rescue) His people? The angel told Joseph exactly from what Jesus saves His people. He saves (delivers/rescues) them from their sins. What kind of a being would it take to accomplish that deliverance since all human beings have sinned? All of us are caught in the quagmire of sin. None of us stands on solid ground so that we can rescue anyone else. We need someone who is more than human. The rest of the messages, received by Mary and Joseph, give us the answer to that question.

When Mary asked how it could be that she, a  virgin, could conceive and then give birth to a son, “The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35, ESV) After Matthew recorded the angel’s message to Joseph explaining why “Jesus” was to be the child’s name, Matthew added that this was to be a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. He wrote, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” (Matthew 1:22–23, ESV quoting Isaiah 7:14) These two passages tell us that Jesus, the Savior, was more than a mere human. He was the God/man. When the angel told Mary about how she would conceive in her womb, what he described was a miracle because of which the child to whom she would give birth would be called the Son of God. This name would describe His character/nature. He would be human, for He would be her son. He would also be deity, for He would be God’s Son. As such, He would have characteristics of a human (without sin) and characteristics of God. When the angel told Joseph about the child Mary would bear, he said that His name would be called “Immanuel,” “God with us.” This name also would describe His character/nature. He was in reality God with us, with human beings. God was dwelling among human people! Because He was not only human but also divine, He was able to do what no mere human could possibly do. He was, and is, able to save (rescue/deliver) people from their sins.

What does that deliverance entail? We often think only of deliverance from the guilt and penalty of our sins, and that is certainly included. That is not all that it involves, however. It also includes being delivered from the power of sin. He is able to give us the strength to resist temptation and live godly lives. It also includes deliverance from the very presence of sin. One day, when we see Him and are made like Him, we will no longer sin at all. All of this is ours if we have come to faith in Jesus as our savior (deliverer/rescuer). No wonder we sing, “His Name Is Wonderful”! That is indeed His nature, His character! In the next few months we will look at the significance and use of names in the Bible, especially God’s names. For example, what does it mean to take God’s name in vain? What does it mean to make a request in Jesus’ name? What does it mean to give a cup of cold water to someone in Jesus’ name? What does it mean to baptize someone in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit?