Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Have you ever considered why we name children as we do? Perhaps the chosen names are popular or trendy. Perhaps there is some family history behind the selection of a particular name. No doubt, there are nearly as many reasons as there are names. Whatever the name, there was usually a reason of some kind that stood behind the given name. As we, on this New Year’s Eve, celebrate the Feast of the Name and Circumcision of Jesus, this is a question we might want to address to the giving of the name of Jesus.
The name Jesus means “Yahweh saves.” The importance of this name can certainly be inferred from the fact that the Father saw fit to send the angel Gabriel to both Mary and Joseph with the divine message that named His Son Jesus. The name Jesus occurs more than six hundred times in the New Testament writings. Many other names and titles were given Him—like “Christ,” “Messiah,” even “Lamb of God.” But the name Jesus, perhaps, tells us more vital information than any of His other names or titles.
Had the name Jesus not been given the Son of Mary directly from heaven, it would not have been all that significant. The name was actually quite common among the Jews. It was a name that described Israel’s hope for a Savior and Deliverer. For example, it was the name borne by Joshua, who led the children of Israel into the Promised Land. But when given to the One born to fulfill that hope, the name Jesus assumes its unique significance; it means “the Lord is salvation.” Announcing His approaching birth to Joseph, the angel said of Him: “He shall save His people from their sins.” Jesus is called Salvation because that is who and what He is.
That brings us to the predicament that made it necessary for God’s eternal Son to come among us and to assume this saving name. Right from the fall, sin has been our lot, and death comes as the result of sin. But God, in an unending love for His creatures, had compassion on His wayward children. When the time was just right, He sent His only-begotten Son to seek and to save that which was lost. In the person of our Redeemer, the name Jesus takes on the wonderful meaning of salvation at its fullest.
The name Jesus means full salvation, because we can add nothing to His perfect and completed redemption. When Jesus bowed His head on Calvary’s cross with the cry, “It is finished,” he left nothing undone for our salvation. Our deliverance had been accomplished once and for all.
The name Jesus also means free salvation. Even if we had access to all the money in the world, we could not purchase forgiveness for a single sin. But what all the financial resources of the world could never secure—the cleansing of our souls—is freely offered, without money and without price. “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.”
The name Jesus means our only salvation. Although redemption has surely been accomplished for all people, it can be gotten only through faith in Him. As Scripture says: “There is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved.” There are many roads, but all of them lead to hell except the way that leads to the Father through Jesus Christ. In Him only can we have any certainty amidst the changes and trials of life.
Finally, the name Jesus means sure salvation. There can be no doubt about the truth He has proclaimed or the saving work He has performed. His promises have all been proven true. His power has been revealed in the lives of millions over the centuries, many of whom forfeited their own lives for the sake of their confession. Whoever has beheld in faith the Lamb of God will not be lured away by speculation or theories. As we look into the uncertain future of the year ahead and beyond, we know that there is hope amid change and decay; there is truth to guide us with unerring precision on the way to heaven; there is a sure pledge of life that survives beyond the grave. And it is in Him whose name is Jesus.
He is our eternal, unchanging salvation. The whole creation is subject to change and decay. All that we see with the eyes of our flesh will pass away. But Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He said it: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Words shall not pass away.”
So what’s in a name? When the name is Jesus, it is forgiveness, life, and salvation—not just for today, but for every day, and even into the endless day that is eternity. Though all around us will change and ultimately crumble into dust, Jesus and His salvation endure forever. In the name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.