new life fellowship

serving jesus christ the king

What's in a name?

The other day I was reading about a group of missionaries who were working among the natives on one of the islands in the south Pacific. They soon discovered that they weren’t the first English speakers to have been on the island. It turned out that many of the natives had been given English names. Well, not names as we would know them; their parents had obviously picked up a few phases and liked the sound of them so much that they called their children by them.

One man was named ‘Tinned Fish’ and another ‘Second Gear’!

Usually we aren’t too bothered with what our name means. Patrick means ‘Noble’. Eoin and Sean mean ‘God has blessed’. Megan means ‘Strong’, and Naimh means ‘Bright’. We may or may not live up to our name; our parents would have found it hard to guess how we’d turn out.

In the bible, however, we find some people who were given a name that described something of what they would become. The one that springs to mind at this time of year is Jesus. Why was Jesus called Jesus? It was actually a fairly common name. Many young men would have been called Jesus after the great Hebrew general Joshua. Jesus is simply the Greek version of that name. But there’s more to it than that. In Matthew 1:21 we read what God said to Joseph when he told him what to call the child whom Mary was expecting:

“You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

When we name a child, we may hope that they will live up to their name somehow. But when God named this child, he did so knowing that Jesus definitely would live up to his name. God tells us that Jesus came to rescue people from the power and destruction of sin. Sin is the big problem that has plagued the entire human race ever since Adam & Eve first disobeyed God. Their sin got us all into a terrible mess and ruined the relationship that we have with God. That’s true for all of us, whether we like it or not.

So what is Christmas about? It’s all in the name – it’s about Jesus, the one who came to save us from the destiny of punishment and separation from God that we all have coming to us. It’s about the one who came because we could not save ourselves. It’s about God providing the solution, the rescue package, himself. God is saying that there is hope. If we want to be part of it then all we need to do is ask him.

Not only is Jesus the one who rescues us from judgment – he is the only rescue option. For centuries the Jews had looked forward to the one who would rescue them, they had asked over and over again, “Is this the Saviour?” They had named their babies in the hope that this was the one. But now God takes away any uncertainty – this is
the one. “He will save.” It won’t be anyone else – only him.

There is an absolute certainty in these words of God. “He
will save”. God does what he says.

But we need to ask him. “He will save
his people”. Not everyone, just those who’ve asked.

What’s in a name? Eternity - yours, for the asking.