What’s in a Name?

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”  (Matthew 1:18, ESV)


His name is at once the most powerful and the most painful, the most magnificent and the most maligned, the most delightful and the most disdained.

Yeshua, Jesus’ Hebrew name, is a variant of Yehoshua—Joshua—and it means that Yehovah (or Jehovah or Yahweh, whichever way you lean) is salvation.

Today I’d like to take a slightly unconventional look at Jesus’ name and His “titles.” How we think about these names can really clarify what place Jesus has in our lives. I encourage you to be a little extra mindful as you think on these things this week, just as I was when that still, small voice reached my ears.

The name Jesus first appears in the New Testament in Matthew 1:16, 18 and 21, and it is immediately linked with a title—Christ—which is the Greek translation of Messiah and means “Anointed One.” A cursory look through the Old Testament would reveal that people were anointed to fulfill a responsibility. The priests were anointed. The prophets were anointed. Kings and judges were anointed. But the Hope of all was the coming of The Anointed One, the One who would bring deliverance to the Jews. Unfortunately, they misunderstood the kind and manner of deliverance that the Messiah would bring.

In Matthew 1:23, an angel of the Lord told Joseph in a dream that Jesus would be called Immanuel, and Matthew is so kind as to include the meaning of that title: “God with us.” In the Old Testament God kept a distance between Himself and His people. The Law and the sacrificial system could not make mankind pure enough to allow a much more personal relationship. But now God sent His Son to walk among us, to share in flesh, and to pay the price in full in a way which the Jewish sacrificial system could never hope to do.

In Matthew 2:2 the wise men inquired as to where they could find the One who had been born the king of the Jews. I never had given the thought a consideration, but in that moment when the Holy Spirit spoke to me I was drawn back to the Old Testament when the Israelites said they wanted a king. In 1 Samuel 8, they referenced Samuel’s age, and the ungodly lives of his sons, citing them as reasons for having a “king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5, ESV). They wanted someone to whom they could voice their troubles with each other and get some semblance of justice. And while the wise men sought Jesus, not for justice, but for worship, I felt a bit convicted about the kinds of prayers I bring to God. Selfish. Wanting justice.

That moment forced me to look afresh at “Jesus,” “Christ” or Messiah,” and “Immanuel.” I found that each title provided me an opportunity to be selfish. I sought Jesus for salvation. I sought Christ for deliverance. I sought a king for justice. And I sought Immanuel so that I wouldn’t be alone.

So where did that leave me?

The Holy Spirit directed me to another title: Lord.

In Greek, the word is kurios. It means Supreme Authority. Master. Owner of Everything. God.

I couldn’t spin this one. I sought Jesus for so many different reasons, but—although I used the title so often—I never really sought Him as Lord. Because seeking Him as Lord meant giving up my ambitions and desires, my passion for possessions, and my longing for the respect and admiration of my peers and beyond.

This is what it all boils down to: Am I serving God? Or am I expecting Him to serve me?

I know where I land most often. What about you?

As always, these are the musings of a mindful disciple. Blessings on your week! If this post speaks to you, please consider sharing it with your friends.

Photo by Holly Mindrup on Unsplash

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