Why the Name “Jesus” Matters So Much — God With Us

This is a follow-on to my earlier post, Why is “Jesus Christ” Used as “Blasphemous Profanity”?  In that post, as well as talking about the reasons Jesus’ name has come to be used as profanity, I said that it matters very much to Christians when people do that.  I would like to look at why it matters.

Matthew 1:20-23

20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Given by an Angel

This passage tells us how He got the name “Jesus” — it was given by an angel.

Here, we have two fulfilled prophecies, both from Isaiah 7:14.  The first is that He would be born of a virgin, and the second has to do with His name.

Joseph wasn’t going to go through with marriage because Mary was pregnant and he knew he wasn’t the father.  Yet, he still cared about her and wanted to protect her.  The angel brought exciting news — he COULD marry her!  She hadn’t been immoral, the Child was from God by a miracle.  Thus, the prophecy of a virgin birth was fulfilled.  But the angel didn’t just bring good news, he brought a name for the Child.

I know of a Name,
A beautiful Name,
That angels brought down to earth….

The Meaning of “Jesus”

The name “Jesus” came from the Hebrew name Joshua and means, “Jehovah saves.”  Jehovah is the name of God.  He often used this name when affirming to Israel His promises as the God who keeps His covenants, the God who is faithful to His people.  He often says, in the Old Testament, in speaking of His covenants, “I am the LORD” — Jehovah.

The name “Jesus” (or “Joshua”) was common, for the people rejoiced in a God who keeps His promise to save, and they were looking for His deliverance and His help.  The Jews all knew what it meant.  To name a child “Jesus” was to express faith that God was going to keep His promises, and especially the promise to save.

When the angel told Joseph to name the Child “Jesus”, he was telling him that the time of salvation had come.  People had sinned against God, over and over again, but God was going to save, to give forgiveness and cleansing, to set us free from sin and all its effects — separation from God, judgment, slavery and addiction, fear of death, etc.

The One of that Name,
My Saviour became,
My Saviour of Calvary.
My sins nailed Him there,
My burdens He bare,
He suffered all this for me.

The name “Jesus” matters so much
because it means salvation, forgiveness, freedom, and eternal life!

God With Us

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile hereUntil the Son of God appear.

Rejoice!  Rejoice!
Emmanuel
Shall come to thee,
O Israel!

Now we come to the second prophecy, that of the name.  “Immanuel” (“Emmanuel” when transliterated from the Greek) means “God with us,” as Matthew himself told us in the text above.  But “Jesus” isn’t “Immanuel”, is it?  How does “Jesus” fulfill that?  Did Matthew contradict himself by saying this fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy?  How is the name “Jesus” a fulfillment of a prophecy that He would be called “Immanuel”?

The words of the angel answer the question.  Someone else could name a son “Jesus” (“Jehovah saves”) and say, “For God shall save His people from their sins.”  But the angel didn’t say that, he said, “For He shall save….”  The angel said the Child saves — and named Him “Jehovah saves” — identifying this Child as Jehovah-God, the One who saves.  Jesus could only truly bear the name “Jesus” under the terms the angel gave if He were God.  And if He is God, then He is “God with us,” God here on earth, Immanuel.

The name “Jesus” does not merely mean “Saviour” — it also means “God with us.”  That is the Scripture, the whole story of the Bible, that God is with us.  He made us to be with us, to have loving fellowship with us, because He is love.  But we left and went our own way, rebelling against Him.  Still, He wanted to be with us, and to have us with Him.  He gave the Law, He sent prophets, and finally He sent His Son.  He did not abandon us to our own rebellion — He is “with us,” seeking, loving, finding, saving, renewing, and finally glorifying.

God’s love is true love that serves holiness and justice completely, saving not by reprieve but by redemption, not by amnesty but by atonement.  He is so much “with us” in His love and compassion that He would give His Son to rescue us, paying the price so that we could be with Him without condemnation.  He wanted us to be completely with Him, with Him without guilt, so He dealt with our guilt justly in His mercy.

When the angel brought to Joseph the name “Jesus,” he brought an affirmation of just how much God wants to be “with us” — so much that He would come here, to a world full of sin, to be with us here to save us so that we can be with Him forever.  “God with us” means God loves us, infinitely, eternally, beyond anything we could ever imagine.  Loneliness, fear, despair, doubt, all are cast away when God is with us.  “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

The name “Jesus” matters so much
because it means God is with us!

Returning to the question that began these posts, this is a big part of the reason His name has become blasphemous profanity.  Satan is not for us, he is against us.  But if God is with us, no one, not even Satan, can stand against us.  Satan hates “God with us” — so of course, he tempts people to blaspheme the name “Jesus.”

I love that blest Name,
That wonderful Name,
Made higher than all in Heaven;
‘Twas whispered, I know,
In my heart long ago —
To Jesus my life I’ve given.

That beautiful Name,
That beautiful Name,
From sin has power to free us!
That beautiful Name,
That wonderful Name,
That matchless Name is Jesus!

About Jon Gleason

Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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