“You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Many people think that the only person in the first century who bore the name Jesus was the man from Nazareth. That isn’t so. The Jewish historian Josephus mentions at least twenty others who had that name, including five Jewish high priests. Jesus, a name that literally means “Yahweh saves,” was common in first-century Palestine. (It was the Greek version of the name Joshua.)
So why do Christians make so much of the name when it comes to Mary’s son? It’s because this name wasn’t bestowed by an ordinary parent in the hope that God would do something new in a world grown old by sin. This was a name given by the child’s heavenly Father. Through his messenger, God declared to Joseph that this child would live out the meaning of his name: “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Jesus saves us from sin, first, by doing something for us. Jesus became the true sacrifice to cover our guilt. The apostle Paul declares, “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:25). Second, Jesus does something in us. By his Spirit, Jesus increasingly transforms us to become like him.
There is only one person in history who so perfectly fulfills the meaning of his name. Jesus is supremely the One worthy of our hope and confidence.
Father, help us to put ourselves totally in the hands of Jesus. Give us the joy of being forgiven. Give us the delight of being people who mirror his goodness and love. Amen.
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