18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.
20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
21 “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Throughout the Bible, names have meaning. Since we today are so far removed from the original languages, it may be a little difficult for you and me to decipher some of those meanings, but the meanings are there nonetheless. For example, the Lord God changed the name of Abram–“high father”–to Abraham–“father of a multitude.” (Genesis 17:5) Appropriate, wouldn’t you say? And then we have the name of the prophet and judge of Israel, Samuel, which means “heard of God”:
1 Samuel 1:20
So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked for him from the LORD.”
Samuel was an answered prayer. Good name! And while the Old Testament patriarch Joseph is not in Jesus’ lineage, our Savior’s earthly father bears the same name.
22 Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.
23 And she conceived and bore a son, and said, “God has taken away my reproach.”
24 So she called his name Joseph, and said, “The LORD shall add to me another son.”
“He shall add” Rachel called her beloved son, and so it is no surprise that this later man who raised our Lord was named the same, for the Father encouraged him to allow our Savior to be added to this world to bless us all.
How much more precious, then, is the name of our Lord Jesus when we know the meaning of His name. We read in our Bibles (and sing in worship) that His name is above all other names, and that at His name every knee should bow. (Philippians 2:9-11) And as well as being glorified above all names, the name of Jesus has power.
12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.
13 “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”
But does this mean that we can just willy-nilly ask for ANYTHING in the name of Jesus? Can we ask for more money, a bigger house, a new girlfriend, an “A” on a hard exam? Our Lord says, “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” That is, “If you ask anything in the name Jesus, I will do it.” So, what is this name “Jesus”?
In today’s verses, we see that the angel tells Joseph to name his Son Jesus because “He will save His people from their sins.” (v.21) The name we call “Jesus” is a Greek transliteration–Ιησους (“Iesous”)–of the older Hebrew name “Yehoshua”–or, as we know it a little better, “Joshua.” That name Joshua means “Yahweh saves,” or more literally “Yahweh frees.” The LORD saves.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
If we are to used the name of Jesus–“Yahweh saves”–then we must do so within the will of God, to serve His kingdom and His righteousness. Too often, people invoke the name of Jesus as a sort of magic spell to get them what they want, or at the very least to save them from the consequences of their own rebelliousness and unrepentance.
“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”
But God’s commandment means we cannot simply use the name of Jesus Christ as some sort of incantation to get whatever we desire–not riches nor fame nor power nor love. The name Jesus is to be used in the service of God’s kingdom, so that the Father may be glorified. (John 14:13) In the name of “the LORD saves” we may ask for those things which serve His will, not our own. In the name of Jesus we may ask for salvation, and ask for those things which He has told us to request.
9 “In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 “Your kingdom come.
Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
11 “Give us this day our daily bread.
12 “And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
13 “And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
In the name of our Father in heaven that is hallowed–holy, sanctified, set apart–we may ask for forgiveness, daily providence, personal holiness, and salvation. In the name of the God who saves, we may ask for deliverance and strength, for the power to continue doing His will on earth, for the words to speak to bring others to Him, for the wisdom to pursue His righteousness. The name of Jesus is not “carte blanche” to ask for everything and anything our heart desires, but to ask for those things which best serve the glory and will of the Lord our God.
“And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
When I consider the gospel of Jesus–literally, the “good news of Yahweh saves”–then I am taken aback at the wonder of it all. I weep at the suffering of “Yehoshua.” In His own name–in the name of God saving us from sin–He was utterly obedient even unto death on the cross, so that we who know His name would be glorified with Him. (Romans 8:16-17) This amazing love that He brought from the Father, this marvelous life He lived, this terrifying act that led to our salvation, this glorious resurrection that presages our own–these all served the glory of God.
9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,
11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
At the name of “Yahweh saves,” therefore, let us kneel and confess that Jesus is Lord. At the name of “Yehoshua,” let us embrace the love and will of the Lord our God who has given so much to save us from our sins. In the name of Jesus the Christ–the Anointed One–let us lift up holy hands and praise the name which is above all names. In that hallowed name Jesus, may we all seek His kingdom and His righteousness, so that whatever we ask in the name of salvation shall be added unto us.
Lord Jesus, may we ever exalt Your name. May we never take Your name for granted, tossing Your power and glory about as we will. Teach us, Lord, how not to use Your name in vain but to use Your name with the power and authority it has. In Your name, let us serve Your kingdom with wisdom and grace, so that all may see You in us, to the glory of Your eternal name. Amen.