December 24, 2000
in A Name?
"What's in a name?" For some people the choosing of a name is very important. For others, it doesn't seem to mean so much.
When I was a young lad, I went to school with a boy who lived up on what we called "Snob Hill" with all the important people in town. His name was Gordon William Randolph IV. (He had a tough time of it with us "townies") His name very obviously meant a lot to his family, because his mother would correct anyone who called him "Gordy" -- "Gordon William," she would indignantly say.
Then there are names that seem to be given as some kind of joke. There was the couple in Detroit at the beginning of the space age who named their first child "Sputnik" - after the Russian space capsule. Musician Frank Zappa named his daughter Moon Unit -- How would you like to be named "Moon Unit Zappa?" The Chicago Tribune told about the woman who named her daughter "Nevaseea" --
because the girl's father died before she was born and never saw her. Perhaps at the top of difficult names is that old Johnny Cash song, "A Boy named Sue."
No wonder 50,000 people a year go to court to have their names changed!
In the Bible, the choosing of a name is not just important, it is momentous. The name is as important as the person who receives the name. Biblically, a person's name represented their character. Your name was who you are.
The best illustration of the importance of a name in the bible is the third commandment, "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain..." God is Holy and therefore God's Name is Holy. God is so Holy that no human eye can see the Lord and live -- to misuse God's name is to blaspheme God. When the ancient scribes penned the name of God, they went through ritual cleansing before and after the writing.
A name in the Bible tells much about who and what a person is, and biblical names are frequently changed to match who a person is. God changed Avram's name to Abraham which means "the father of many". Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter meaning "A Rock". And who more than Judas has a name that tells what a person is all about?
Eight hundred yeas before Jesus was even born, the prophet Isaiah spoke of the Messiah's birth and cried out:
When we understand the importance of a name in scripture, one of the verses in our text will stand out -- listen to Luke 2:21:
The gospel of Matthew spells out exactly why the name of Jesus is so important.
If you recall, Joseph was in the midst of a crisis in his life because his young fiancée Mary had told him she was pregnant -- you have to read between the lines of both Luke and Matthew to pick up the whole sense of the story, but suffice it to say, Joseph was more than a trifle incredulous when Mary told him about her miraculous pregnancy. We pick up the narrative in Matthew 1:19-21:
Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her Is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
There are four things the name of Jesus tells us about:
The name of Jesus tells us that from the time of his conception, he was destined to come into the world as Messiah -- the One who would bring reconciliation between God and people. Jesus in Hebrew is "Yeshua"- a form of "Joshua". Jesus is the One who saves - "Savior." "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God," the Bible says, "But, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Paul writes, "All who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
The name of Jesus is a powerful name. In the gospel of John,-Jesus said, "If you ask anything :In My name, I will do it. When Christians conclude their prayers, they say, "In Jesus name we pray." No wonder we sing, "All Hail The Power of Jesus Name." It is the power of Christ that helps us through our toughest times -- "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength," Paul wrote. He also said that when we are earnestly praying, the power of Christ is at work within us.
The name of Jesus is a healing name. When Peter and John saw a crippled man begging at one of the gates of Jerusalem, Peter said, '...In the name of Jesus, rise up and walk." The name of Jesus is whispered over a sick child's bed, spoken at the farewell of an aged parent and praised at the hearing of good news.
Finally, in Jesus Christ we Christians find our purpose -- our destiny. Jesus said His disciples, "As the Father has sent Me, so send I you." We are sent to serve in the name of Jesus. As he brought mercy, grace and healing to the world, we are called to do the same. "As you have done it to the least of my brethren, you have done it to Me," He said... and again -- "If you give a cup of water in my name, you have done it for Me." In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us that for Christians, all of life has to do with our relationship with Jesus Christ. St. Paul urges us by saying, "Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus."
On this Christmas Eve, we are at beginning of a whole new millennium. What a wonderful time to reaffirm our trust in the name of Jesus. We are children of God through faith in the name of Jesus. Let us decide to bring great honor to the name of Jesus as we continue our journey into this new millennium!