Thursday, December 15, 2011

Devotion 15. Name Him Jesus

God left nothing to chance. He told aspects of this event to his prophets over the centuries. Now that the time had come, he gave specific instructions. The Father sent Gabriel to Mary with His word about her role in his redemptive plan. Gabriel is God’s messenger. He stands in God’s presence and carries his instructions where God sends him. (Luke 1:19 ESV) records this statement from Gabriel to Zechariah: “And the angel answered him, I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.” (Luke 1:26)

So the Lord sent Gabriel to Mary with a message. The angel said “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus.” (Luke 1:31). That is a very specific instruction. Luke did not tell us why God cared what the baby was called.

Or maybe the naming of the child was not the mother’s prerogative, but the father’s. We see in the story of the birth of John the Baptist that the angel told the baby’s father, Zechariah, what to name the baby. When the baby was born, the neighbors asked Zechariah, not Elizabeth, what he had named the baby.

An angel also spoke to Mary’s husband, Joseph. After explaining the divine pregnancy, the angel instructed 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).

The Savior would be named Jesus. He would bear that name because he would save his people from their sins. We do not know what language the angel spoke to Joseph, but it would seem from history that Hebrew people of that time still gave their children Hebrew names. The New Testament was written in Greek and many people in Palestine spoke common Greek and Aramaic. But the names were Hebrew. For example, Paul had a Hebrew name, but was given a Greek name after conversion.

The Hebrew\Aramaic name translated “Jesus” in Greek is “Yeshua”. That is likely the name he was given. A good indicator is the inscription on the “James Ossuary”, the bone box reputed to hold the bones of Jesus’ earthly brother, James. In may not be the real ossuary of James, but the language on it has been shown to be authentic for the time. The English translation of the inscription is “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus”. The inscription reads “Ya’akov bar Yoseph akhui diYeshua”.

The name Yeshua was not uncommon. In fact, it appears many times in the Old Testament. In English it is commonly translated “Joshua”, although there are other variants. The Greek translates to “Iesous”.

But here is why I look at the Hebrew name. Hebrew names meant something. Yeshua means “the Lord’s salvation” or “salvation from the Lord”. This was yet another way that the Lord signaled to Israel that this was their Messiah, their savior.

I wonder if Mary, upon hearing this command, thought of Isaiah 53. That chapter speaks of the Messiah and his sacrifice for sin. It ways he was wounded for our transgressions (5). The iniquity of us all would be laid on him (6). He would be an offering for guilt(10). He would be the savior.

Peter preached the same message. He said “…there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

Centuries later the Westminster Confession echoed the words of Scripture: “it pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, to be the…Savior of his church…” (Chap. 8, Sec. 1).

There is no other name.
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