Already in these pre-Christmas posts several names have popped up referring to the same person:

The Word             Seed of the Woman

Immanuel             The coming King

Jesus                      Christ

Messiah                 (and I may be missing one or two more…)

Do these and other aliases give you a problem? We’ve already pondered “the Seed of the Woman” and “the coming King.” But does Matthew’s report that Mary named her baby Jesus seem to contradict Isaiah’s prophecy that she would call Him Immanuel?

It helps to know that these and other Bible names for Jesus wrap around an important concept: Names in the Bible had much more importance and wider use than in our time and culture. They often served as a means to convey qualities of a named person, sometimes even to advance a story or serve as a key point of it. Characters in the book of Ruth give a fascinating example of this. Many Bible prophecies also played on the meanings of people’s or places’ names, often sarcastically. Jesus Himself called people by new names with important connotations: Simon he renamed Peter, meaning rock or stone, James and John he labeled “the sons of thunder,” and Herod he called “that fox.” All these indicated personal characteristics. Likewise the many names of Jesus show us aspects of His essential nature.

Note what Matthew wrote in his account of the angel instructing Joseph not to be afraid to marry Mary: First he reported the angel’s words, “That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for he will save His people from their sins.” then immediately afterward he proclaimed, “… all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying…’Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel.'” Matthew obviously saw no contradiction in these two names. Immanuel expresses the idea of “God with us” (here, in incarnated form), and Jesus (according to Strong’s Concordance) comes from a compound of two words meaning “Jehovah” and “saved.” So the reason for this name is clear. “… for He will save His people from their sins.” This underlines the appropriateness of another name for Jesus: “Savior.” Jesus’ whole purpose in coming to be “God with us” was to save us from our sins.

We’ll consider the meanings of other names for Jesus as they come up in future posts. As we do, let’s revel in what they emphasize about the One who came to earth to take the form of a human baby two millennia ago. Praise be to Jesus the Savior, “God with us” long ago in His incarnation, and “God with us” now in the Holy Spirit and “even to the end of the age”–and thanks be to God the Father for His “indescribable gift”!