Summary: This message deals with the significance of Jesus’ name(s). The focus is about "God with us" vs God "is" with us. The importance of having God "within" us, guiding, comforting, encouraging, loving. Not alongside us, but "with" us.
Now, I’m a long time country/western fan. I just love a good country song that proclaims:
“I don’t love you anymore, trouble is, I don’t love you any less!” There are even some truly classic country Christmas songs such as Momma got run (or run-ed’) over by a reindeer!
I always had a fondness for some of the “outlaw” singers…. Like Waylan Jennings, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristersoferson, who by the way, in addition to being an accomplished actor is a Rhodes Scholar…and one “y’all”, even those who are not country fans may remember… Johnny Cash.
Johnny had a whole lot of hit records and even made it big with some novelty recordings. The one I’m thinking of today is entitled “A boy named Sue.” The story tells how this poor unfortunate boy was given the name “Sue” by his long since “run off” daddy. The singer tells of his struggles growing up stuck with that handle… and finally, after searching all his life, catching up with poppa!
Well as you can imagine, quite a battle ensues, but in the end, dad tells his son he knew he wouldn’t be around to help his boy grow up (of course we’re not told why he won’t be, that’s left to our imagination) but he (dad) knew his boy was going to have struggles in this world, especially w/o a daddy and so he wanted his boy to grow up tough…ergo the name Sue.. and Johnny Cash in the telling of the story through song, reluctantly admits it worked!
We are at the mercy of our name givers aren’t we. And we know these things influence us for the rest of our lives, and we have nothing to do with it.”
The naming of a child is an important part of our Scripture passage this morning. In fact, there are two important names given, both belonging to the same person, but each helping us to know more about him.
He shall be called Jesus. The Scripture tells us that before Jesus was born, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him that the Holy Spirit conceived the child Mary was carrying, and he should not fear to take Mary as his wife. That wasn’t the only piece of information the angle provided… the angel told Joseph what to name the child — Jesus.
Jesus was a common name. There were many Jewish boys with the name Joshua (translated in the Greek, Jesus); It was the “Bob” of the first century. Are you aware there is another “Jesus” named in the New Testament? He was a companion to the apostle Paul and Paul mentions him in Colossians 4:11 as part of a list of people sending greetings to the church at Colossae. And Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, mentions no fewer than 20 different men named Jesus.
Thus, the child whom God sent to be the Savior of the world was given a name common to the time and place, one that by itself did not set him apart from the rest of the human race. Isn’t this too, consistent with what we know of Jesus’ appearance.. that there was nothing to set him apart from the rest of the population…at least in appearance.
Lets look at the three names assigned to God’s Son. The name Jesus means “Savior” and comes from the Hebrew name, Joshua (“Jehovah is salvation”). There were many Jewish boys with the name Joshua (or, in the Greek, Jesus);
But Mary’s Boy was called “Jesus the Christ.” The word Christ means “anointed”; it is the Greek equivalent of Messiah. He is “Jesus the Messiah.” Jesus is His human name; Christ is His official title;
“Jesus” was the name entered into whatever official birth records of those days. In the case of this particular child, that name was sometimes used in conjunction with further identifiers, such as Jesus of Nazareth; or Jesus, son of Joseph; or Jesus, son of David (referring to his ancestry), but all these were actual labels referring to the one who was born to Mary around the beginning of the first century A.D.
While it was a common name, it was not a meaningless one. As we have learned, Jesus means, “God is salvation,” or, as we also have often heard, Jesus = Savior. The angel who appears to Joseph alludes to that meaning when he says, “... you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” This is the mission of Jesus, and we must always remember how the birth leads to our salvation through the Cross.
This child was given a name that would be a constant reminder of the saving grace of God.
Matthew tells us what the angel said, and then tells us that the angel’s announcement to Joseph about the divine origin of the child, and the naming fulfilled what Isaiah had written centuries earlier, and quotes Isaiah 7:14: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.”