Have you ever known anyone whose name didn’t quite fit? Someone who didn’t really look like an Erica or a Robert? Sometimes we use nicknames for people like that. Sports arenas and locker rooms notoriously spawn nicknames such as Rocky (boxing), Tank or Refrigerator (football), Slugger or Dizzy (baseball), and Magic (basketball).
In some cultures, names are quite simple. For instance, many Indonesians use just a single name. On the other hand, traditional Chinese naming practices were very complex. Chinese males received different names at various points in their lives, in addition to a surname and sometimes a generation name. Still today, many parents in several cultures hope to choose a name that will fit their child’s character. Or they may choose a name that the child will “grow into,” a name that reflects honor, kindness, or another positive trait.
As God prepared to send his Son to earth, he chose specific names that Son would carry. Not one name, but many names, names with precise and wonderful meanings! We will consider several of these in some depth in a moment. But first we need to ask, “Why all these names?”
In the Jewish culture into which Jesus was born, names often captured a person’s fundamental nature or God’s purposes for that person. In fact, the Lord himself sometimes changed people’s names to mark significant changes in that person’s faith walk or spiritual destiny:
- Abram became Abraham (Genesis 17:4–5)
- Sarai became Sarah (Genesis 17:15–16)
- Jacob became Israel (Genesis 32:22–32)
- Simon became Peter (Mark 3:16)
The names the heavenly Father gave his Son describe the Son’s person and his work. One name, two names, even three or four names could not capture all Jesus is and all he came to earth to do for us. God’s gift to us in his Son is too big for that! Let’s consider some of those names now. And as we do so, remember: Everything our Lord is, he is for us, for us individually and for us as his family, his Church!
The Son’s Person
- The Word (John 1:1–2)—Jesus “was God”! His life, death, and teaching tell us much about the One we worship, about what he is like, and about his gracious intentions for us.
- The King (1 Timothy 1:17)—Jesus is the all-powerful, all-wise Ruler whose Law confronts us with our sin—our disloyalty, rebellion, and treason. Jesus is also the One who in love has captured our hearts and now floods those hearts with the peace his forgiveness brings.
- The Son of God (John 3:17–19)—Jesus is the One who came into our world not to condemn but to save and who gives all who believe life, abundant and eternal.
- The Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:5–7)—Jesus was rejected by his enemies, but chosen and precious to the Father—and to us; he is the foundation on whom our faith rests.
- The Way, the Truth, the Life (John 14:5–7)—Jesus is the only One who makes it possible for us to travel safely through this world of sin and temptation and into the eternal Day of glory.
- Immanuel (Matthew 1:22–23)—Jesus is “God with us,” the almighty Son of the Father, who did not despise us in our weakness but chose to take on our humanity and live with us. He lived the life of perfect obedience we could not live—living it for us! He understands our needs, hurts, pains, dreams—in every way—and he has come to help us in them!
The Son’s Work
- Creator (Colossians 1:15–17)—Together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, Jesus made everything that exists and still holds it together; he gives us our next breath and will give us life forever in the New Heavens and New Earth when our lives here on earth end.
- Light (John 8:12)—Jesus scatters the darkness of our rebellion and ignorance and leads us in godly wisdom every step of the way along our earthly path.
- Savior (Luke 2:11)—Jesus, the infant King, born for us in Bethlehem, died for us the cruel death we had by our sins deserved; now, risen from death, he lives forever to give us life and peace.
- Redeemer (Job 19:23–27)—Jesus freed us from the slave market of sin. He paid the full debt for our sin and reconciled us to himself; he promises that death will not hold us. Just as he walked out of his own grave, we, too, will one day rise in victory by faith in him.
Wonderful as they are, even all these names together do not completely capture everything God has done for us in Christ! Perhaps the one name that best sums up God’s love toward us is the last name we will consider today—Jesus. (Read Matthew 1:21.)
Everything Jesus is, he is for you! Everything Jesus is, he is for me! Everything Jesus is, he is for us, for his people, his Church, his family. Our Lord. Our Brother. Our Savior. Our Friend. Our Peace. Our Hope. Our Joy. Our Immanuel—God with us.
Now there’s a name that truly fits, that’s truly fitting—Jesus!
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