You have probably heard the phrase “What’s in a name?” from time to time. Names mean different things to different people. In the reading we heard from John 1:29-42 a few minutes ago, we heard some of the names given to Jesus and given by Jesus.
We heard the name John the Baptist gave to Jesus- “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Deliverance from sin through the blood of a lamb, which was a picture of Old Testament sacrifices, prefigured the coming of Jesus as the Lamb of God. This lamb achieved the final salvation for God’s people through Jesus’ death and resurrection. His death redeemed us from sin, death and Satan. His death also satisfied God’s wrath by making up for our sins.
John’s Jewish audience understood the title “Lamb of God” because they had sacrificed many lambs. This Lamb would be the final, ultimate sacrifice who would take away the sin of the world. As the Messiah, Jesus gathered up all of the Old Testament expectations about an anointed one who would lead and save His people.
Another name that was given to Jesus is “Messiah.” People had high expectations for a rising leader. John the Baptist thought that Jesus was the One…the Coming One…the Lamb of God…The Son of God…The Messiah. But a year or so later, John the Baptist had doubts when the Messiah didn’t act like John thought Messiahs were supposed to act. From prison, John sent his disciples to Jesus with questions: “Hey, I thought you were the Son of God. Why aren’t you Son-of-Godding? Why aren’t you thumping our enemies? Why am I still in jail?”
Another name we heard was “snakes.” John the Baptist could look into people’s souls and see who they really were. That’s why he called the Pharisees and Sadducees “a brood of vipers.” He knew they didn’t want to repent. He also looked at Jesus and knew that Jesus was the Lamb of God. He knew that Jesus had the power to make things new. He knew that Jesus had power over sin and death.
John used his influence to point others toward Christ, just as believers today are called on to do. John’s message was clear: Behold! John the Baptist was the vessel chosen by God to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah. God used John to open truths to his people that they can’t understand on their own. Once we have been introduced to these truths, our teachers must hand us over to Jesus so that he can disciple us.
We also heard the name “teacher.” The role of a teacher of the Bible is to bring people to Christ. That’s what Andrew did when he brought his brother Cephas to Jesus. Andrew is a good example for us to follow. Fellowship with Jesus doesn’t end when worship ends. Fellowship should encourage us to share the joy we have with other people. Jesus called Andrew to catch men instead of fish, and that’s the same call he has for us today.
Sinners who look to Jesus will find a great hope. They will find strength and encouragement. One day our struggles will be over. We will see Him and praise Him as the worth Lamb. Before we can do that, we have to remove everything in our lives that is hurtful and sinful.
God frequently changed people’s names to indicate their special calling. Jesus knows our hearts thoroughly. He sees into them and changes a person into what He wants him/her to become. For example, he changed Abram’s name to Abraham, and he changed Jacob’s name to Israel. That’s why Jesus changed Cephas’ name to Peter. Cephas is an Aramaic word meaning “rock”. By changing Cephas’ name to Peter, Jesus called on him to be the rock on which the church would be built. (In fact, the Roman Catholic Church believes that Peter was the first Pope.)
When Jesus gave Peter a new name, Peter was not yet a rock or a firm foundation. He would later live up to his new name. Like Peter, we have two names. One is the name we were given by our parents. The other one is one we have made, such as “broken heart,” “running scared,” “loved one,” or “a lonely heart.” This is who we are right now, but we can and will be someone else. Jesus looks into our souls, see who we will be, and renames us. If we are faithful, we will be called, “child of God.” He invites us to belong to him. Will we accept this invitation? Will we be witnesses for Jesus like John the Baptist and Andrew?
The name Jesus gives us is “followers.” John the Baptist told even his own disciples to follow Jesus. Jesus’ penetrating question- “What do you seek?” -is for those who truly want to know Him. Genuine followers of Christ are willing to submit themselves to Him. When the disciples answered Jesus’ question with one of their own, they were not asking him where his tent was or the address of the house he was visiting. They wanted to know about the eternal, undying dwelling place of the Lamb of God. They were asking where they could go to be in the very presence of God.
On our faith journey there will be times when we will have questions for Jesus. He loves to hear our questions, but that doesn’t mean that he will always answer them directly. He wants us to follow Him and learn from Him. He invites us into a relationship that will change us forever. As we are changed, we will be encouraged to do Christ’s work in our world. Jesus takes us-ordinary people that we are-and uses us in extraordinary ways. In return, we are to take up our cross, follow him, love him and offer his invitation to others.
In conclusion, names mean different things to different people as I mentioned earlier. The one thing most of the names mentioned in the passage from John have in common is that they describe the different roles Jesus had and the roles we as Christians have to play. Jesus fulfilled all of his roles. Have we fulfilled all of our roles?