Many people do not know what the name “Jesus” means. Others have a fair idea of what this wonderful name indicates. Bible names are very important as they often tell you that person’s characteristic or their future mission. For instance “Micah” means “Who is like God?” and he is the one in the book of Micah that tells us “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy” (Micah 7:18). Elijah’s name means “The Lord is God” and when he was finished praying on Mount Carmel and fire fell from Heaven and consumed his sacrifice all Israel cried “The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God” (See 1 Kings 18:39). What is in a name? What does the name Jesus mean?
Very early in the gospel of Matthew the angel makes sure to tell Joseph for our benefit what Jesus’ name indicates. Matt. 1:21 says “And she [Mary] shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Many assume that this is the literal meaning of Jesus’ name. Actually it is a paraphrase of what His mission was, based on His name. It is a prophecy that stems from the meaning of His name. What is the literal meaning?
The name “Jesus” is the English way to say “Iesous” which is the word used in the New Testament before it was translated from the Greek. Iesous is the Greek way to say the Hebrew Jehoshua. “Jeho” means “Jehovah” and “Shua” means “salvation.” The name is therefore translated as “Jehovah is Salvation.” Jehoshua is also shortened to “Joshua” the same name as the successor of Moses, one of the two faithful spies of Israel. Joshua is the Jewish way to say Jesus. That is why there is even one instance in the New Testament where Joshua is referred to as Jesus. It was not meant to be blasphemous or confusing but the fact remains that Joshua in Greek is Iesous or the anglicized form “Jesus.”
What lessons can we learn from all this?
(1) Jesus is so humble that on coming to this earth to save man He not only took our form, our nature, our susceptibility to temptation but He also took a name that was already used. He could have given Himself a name that was never used before yet He took the name that four people in the Bible used. Of course it could be argued that He already had that name before coming to the earth but the fact remains that that name was not off limits before His incarnation.
(2) Other kings give themselves high-sounding titles or titles that seem to brag about power, wealth or status. Nebuchadnezzar” means “May Nebo protect the crown.” “Darius” means “lord.” “Pharoah” means “great house.” “Herod” means “Heroic.” What does “Jesus” mean? It means “Jehovah [Lord] is salvation.” He glories, not in being Lord, but in being able to save His people! What does He save us from? Jesus saves us from our sins. He saves us from ourselves. He saves us from evil habits of drug addiction, warped minds, physical abuse, selfishness, covetousness, backbiting, bitterness, murder and every gruesome crime. What other human king can attempt to do the same?
(3) One religion in particular says that Jesus is less than God the Father. They say that He is not God although Isa. 9:6 refers to Him as “The mighty God.” It says “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” When confronted with this text they change their tune and say that Jesus is mighty God and the Father is Almighty God. When they are then confronted with texts in Rev. 1:18 and Rev. 22:13,16 which, when compared, clearly call Jesus the Almighty, well, their visits stop after that! But here is the very name Jesus shown to mean “Jehovah is salvation.” Jesus is clearly Jehovah when all these points are taken together and carefully compared. They say pray to Jehovah and not Jesus when even the name Jehovah is encapsulated in the name of Jesus who is clearly God?
(4) Lastly, possibly the most important question is “What does the name “Jesus” mean to you?” Does His name signify boredom and slavery to you or are your happiest thoughts centered around Him? Do you find joy thinking about Him and His Word, His values and promises? Is He allowed to be Lord or Master in your life or just Savior? Do you take orders from Him or do you expect Him to take orders from you? Will you let Him save you from your sins or are you trying to be saved IN your sins clinging to a modern, popular, prosperity gospel that speaks against poverty rather than sin – a false gospel that attacks the cobwebs and lets the spider go unharmed.
Let me close with the words of Thomas Manton who admonished that we must put our faith on Someone solid and not the transitory things of this world. He said:
“To fix our confidence upon a dying world is folly. It is as if we were building our nests when the tree is being cut down, or decorating our cabin when the ship is likely to be dashed to pieces or already sinking.”
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