We’ve begun looking at the names of God and how his names help us understand him better. This week I want to look at the name, ‘Jesus’, which is used to refer to the Son of God.
We first hear that God’s Son would be called ‘Jesus’ when an angel announces it to Mary, the mother of Jesus: ‘In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end”’ (Luke 1:26-33).
An angel also appeared to Mary’s fiancé, Joseph, to give Joseph similar instructions about the boy’s name: ‘…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”’ (Matthew 1:20-21).
The name Jesus was not unusual. It is the Greek version of the Hebrew name ‘Joshua’ – the same name of Moses’ aide who fought the battle of Jericho. So why was this name singled out for the Son of God?
The name Jesus/Joshua means ‘The LORD saves’. Thus the name firstly reinforces that Jesus is the LORD incarnate. This is not the only reason we believe Jesus is God, otherwise all other Joshua’s would also be God. There are many other Scriptures that teach us Jesus is the LORD, in sharp contrast to all others named ‘Jesus’.
The second part of the name teaches us that Jesus came ‘to save’. But that is all the name tells us on its own. So we naturally ask the question, ‘To save whom from what?’
The explanation is given by the angel in the earlier quote from Matthew 1: ‘…you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’.
Mankind has a problem with sin. They have rebelled against God and deserve to be punished. But who can save them from punishment if they are all sinners? The holy LORD can. But how? He saves sinful mankind by coming into the world and dying in their place as a substitute for their punishment.
But who does Jesus save? Sinners. Yes. All sinners? No. The angel said he only saves ‘his people’ from their sins. Who are Jesus’ people? Those who trust in him.
So have you trusted in Jesus’ work at the cross as payment for your sin? Do you now do as Owens’ hymn instructs you: ‘Sing above the battle’s strife, Jesus saves, Jesus saves; By His death and endless life, Jesus saves, Jesus saves.’