“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
(Matthew 1:21, NASB)
While standing in line at Cracker Barrel, a card stand caught my eye. The sign at the top read: “What Does Your Name Mean?” Curiosity sparked, and I spun the cylinder like the Wheel of Fortune and found my name. It said, “Mark—thunderous warrior; victor in challenge.” After stroking my ego, I looked to see what other names meant. Surprisingly, all names sounded just as valiant! There wasn’t one name that meant “a big dork” or “a wimpy worker.” American marketing prevents it. In reality, in Western culture, the meaning of a name often has no significance.
Not so in biblical times. In the Bible, a name frequently came from circum-stances or in anticipation of one’s calling. Names were potentially symbolic, casting shadows of expectations on those who bore them. If such meanings were significant when given from human origin, how much more significant would they be if given from divine origin?
After discovering that Mary was pregnant, Joseph had plans to dissolve the pledged union quietly (Matthew 1:18–19). Then came the divine interruption. Things always change when God interrupts. The angel of the Lord asked Joseph to trust as never before: “for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (1:20). Then the angel said the child was to be named “Jesus.” This appointed human name was no ordinary name. “Jesus” was the counterpart to the Old Testament name “Joshua.” Joshua succeeded Moses and led Israel to the land of promise. Jesus, as prophesied through His name, would likewise lead His people into blessing. How? By providing salvation for sinners. As undiminished deity and perfect humanity, only Jesus could substitute Himself in their place and pay the price for sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). Simply put: “Jesus” means “the Lord saves.” The angel knew why He must be named Jesus: because “He will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
So the next time you are at Cracker Barrel, don’t look up your name. Remember His. It’s the name that truly matters.