By Marva Hoopes
What’s in a name? In Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet,” Juliet ponders the significance of a name and asks, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Juliet points to the fact that she loves the person who is Romeo, not his name, Montague. She loves the man for himself, apart from his name. But I wonder about names.
Names identify who we are. It’s how we identify ourselves and how others identify us. My name is important to me. My parents took their two middle names: Lucy MARVA Clark and Alvin LEE Anderson and came up with my name – Marva Lee. That’s precious to me. When we think of someone’s name, we associate the characteristics that person has, the relationship we have with that person, and generally who that person is, with his or her name.
Many of the names and titles given to Jesus reveal who He is and why He came into the world. But what about the very name, Jesus? Just as God’s personal name revealed in the Old Testament is Yahweh, Jesus is the personal name of the One we recognize as the second person of the Trinity. The name Jesus is likely the Greek version of the Hebrew name, Joshua or Yeshua, meaning Yahweh is salvation, or God saves. It was a common name in Israel during the first century.
We read about the naming of Jesus in Matthew 1:20-21 “… an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’” Probably Joseph already knew the name Yeshua meant “Yahweh is salvation” but the angel in his dream specifically pointed out that His purpose in dwelling among us was to seek out sinners and to save them.
There is power in the name of Jesus… power over the enemy of our souls. So often in our culture today the power of God and of Satan, of good and evil, are seen as coexisting and equal. They are seen as equal in power, and often the evil wins. However we see a completely different scenario in an episode in Acts 16:16-18. In meeting the slave girl who kept shouting at the Apostle Paul, he turned and said to the demonic spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. Yes, there is great power in the name of Jesus over the enemy of our souls.
There is power in the name of Jesus for salvation and for forgiveness of sin. We see this specifically in Acts 2:38 in Peter’s sermon at Pentecost: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Many responded and received that salvation that very day. John tells us that by believing in Jesus we may have life: “ But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).
What does this mean for us today? Jesus is God’s way of salvation. There is great power in the very name of Jesus – for victory over the enemy, for help, for forgiveness of sin and salvation of our souls. It comes into even sharper focus when we consider the big picture in Philippians 2:9-11: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
So what comes to your mind when you hear the name Jesus? What power in the name of Jesus have you experienced? What does the salvation that Jesus has graciously provided, mean to you, personally? Take heart and trust in the name of Jesus today!
A helpful book on this topic: Praying the Names of Jesus¸ by Ann Spangler — Zondervan, 2006.