Summary: Looking at the names of Jesus from Matthew 1:18-25
What’s in a Name?
December 11, 2016
When it comes to naming children, different people approach it differently. Being raised Jewish, I am named after my mom’s dad who had died. Jewish people don’t name their children after someone who is alive. And you use the first letter of their name to choose your child’s name. My grandfather’s name was Mayer. His name started with an M, so my name would start with an M. My Hebrew name was Mayer, for my grandfather.
When Debbie and I chose names for our children, we looked at baby names, but we chose names which had meaning for us.
Some parents read baby name books and choose a name based on meaning.
Others choose names because they sound good together.
Some choose a name because that person was famous.
Others choose names which make no logical sense, you've heard a few of them.
I heard a story (though I don't know if it's really true; it may be an urban legend) about a couple who's child was named "Phemalley" [note: the spelling here is insignificant, but the pronunciation is crucial; pronounce it with the emphasis on the MAL syllable.]
The couple was asked how they chose such an unusual name. The mother said, "We didn't name her. The nurses at the hospital did. When they brought her to me the first time, her name was on a little wrist band — Phemalley Jones. We decided we liked the name, and we kept it."
The person then asked, "So, how do you spell Phemalley?"
The mother said, "Just like it sounds: F- E- M- A- L- E."
When you read the Bible, there is a great deal of significance given to people's names. Many times, when someone's name is mentioned, the writer says what the name means, or uses the meaning of the name in a sentence that describes why that name was given. For example...
Eve gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, "God has granted me another child in place of Abel..." (Genesis 4:25) The word "Seth" means "granted." It was common for a child to be given a name that had a contextual significance.
When Rebekah gave birth to twins, one was hairy, and the other came out of the womb grasping his brother's heel. So she named them "Esau", which means "hairy", and "Jacob", which means "he grabs the heel."
Oftentimes children lived up to their names.
For example, the name Jacob — he grabs the heel — was a Hebrew idiom for "he deceives." Later, when Jacob stole his brother's birthright, Esau said...
Isn't he rightly named Jacob? He has deceived me these two times. He took my birthright and now he's taken my blessing! (Genesis 27:35)
Later in Jacob's life, after spending years running from God and wrestling with God, God changed his name from Jacob to Israel. Israel means, "Struggles with God."
We see this in the New Testament as well, when Jesus told Simon, whose name means "He who hears" was changed to Peter, which means "rock."
"And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church." (Matthew 16:18)
Names have significance, and people often live up to the meaning of their name.
In the first chapter of Matthew, three names are attributed to the child of Mary and Joseph. His names were not chosen at random; they each have a special meaning. They are crucial in understanding who Jesus is and what His life means to us today. In part, these names define our relationship with Jesus, and His relationship to us.
Let's look at each one. He is our leader.
Matthew refers to Him as Christ ~
18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
What does "Christ" mean?
Actually, it’s not a name as much as it is a title. We hear people named Jesus, but we don’t hear people named Christ! Christ in Greek is Christos, which means anointed. It has the same exact meaning as the Hebrews word for Messiah, which also means God's anointed one.
In the Old Testament the word Messiah was used primarily for kings and priests — those whom God has anointed for a special task. In Judaism the word also was applied to the coming king whom God would send into the world to redeem the people of Israel.
That's who Jesus is. He is the Christ, the Messiah, God's anointed one.
Let's take a look at the word anointed for just a minute. In the Old Testament, anointing was used for induction into positions of leadership. Samuel, the prophet, anointed Saul to be the first king of Israel. Later, Samuel also anointed David to be king. It was a religious ritual of great significance: it was a public proclamation that this man is set aside for God's service. He was to follow God’s plan and call.