In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Ghost.
Today the Church celebrates the naming of Jesus. Though it goes hand-in-hand with the Circumcision of Our Lord, which is celebrated on January 1, the eighth day after His birth, as the Law commanded, it is fitting that the naming of Jesus gets its own share of attention and, historically speaking, its own day of commemoration. The reason why is because the Name of Jesus has so much connected with it.
A name is not an insignificant thing. Parents pore over names as they wait for the birth of their children. They consider new names, family names, what the names mean, and how all of these things might help to give their children identity. So it is with God and His only-begotten Son. His Name given to Mary and Joseph by Gabriel from God was Jesus, an altered form of the name Joshua, which means “the Lord saves.” Jesus’s Name is more than a mere form of identification; it is a description of His person and work. “You shall call His Name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins” (Mt. 1:21).
When we speak of the Name of Jesus, there is more to it than a name. As we heard in today’s Epistle in Peter’s preaching, the Name of Jesus saves, and it’s the only one that can do so. Calling on the Name of Jesus is more than speaking to Him. Invoking Him by His Name means asking Him to come with His divine aid which comes only by His death and resurrection. You can’t have Jesus without all that He has said and done. The “Name of Jesus” is a sort of Biblical shorthand for all of Jesus’ saving work, from His Incarnation, to His birth in Bethlehem, to His perfect life of obedience and love, to His death for the life of the world, His resurrection to guarantee our own, His ascension into heaven to show how our human nature will one day be perfected, and His ongoing intercession for His people on earth.
But there is more to consider than the Name of Jesus. Before the name of Jesus is revealed to us, the personal name of our Triune God is recorded, the name Yahweh. Yahweh, translated from Hebrew as “I AM WHO I AM,” gets at the eternity of God. It comes from the present tense form of the Hebrew verb hyh, which is the equivalent of our English verb “is.” When God says that His Name is a verb, an action word, and that it is in the present tense, He is expressing His eternity. He always IS. There never was a time when He wasn’t; there never will be a time when He isn’t.
Not only does this reveal His power, authority, and holiness, but it shows His realness contrasted with the imaginariness of idols, and that He is the Source of all that is. In this Name God sent to the children of Israel, the Name on which they could rely to be freed from affliction and brought into the land promised to their forefathers, God also revealed His persistence. He is the One who is and keeps on being. Pharaoh was also persistent, but his persistence was no match for God. He eventually gave in, and then was drowned in the waters of the Red Sea. Just like Pharaoh, Satan is persistent as well, but He cannot stand against God, either. God persists. He abides. He endures. He is steadfast and sure. He Is.
And you can’t have the name Jesus without the name Yahweh, because it is a combination of God’s Name and the Hebrew verb [vy, he saves. This act of God combining His Name with other words is not uncommon. Think of all the names the Lord has in the Old Testament: Yahweh-Jireh, “The Lord will provide” (Gen. 22:14); Yahweh-Nissi, “The Lord is my victory” (Ex. 17:15); Yahweh-Mekaddesh, “The Lord sanctifies” (Ex. 31:13); Yahweh-Shalom, “The Lord is peace” (Judges 6:24); Yahweh-Sabaoth, “The Lord of hosts” (Is. 6:3); Yahweh-Rohi, “The Lord is my Shepherd” (Ps. 23:1); and Yahweh-Tsidenku, “The Lord is our righteousness” (Jer. 23:5). Then comes Jesus, the Messiah, the prophet like Moses from our midst, and He is Yahweh-Yesha, abbreviated Yeshuah, The Lord saves, or, the One Who Is—who preservers, who endures, who abides—who saves.
This isn’t simply God’s Name for the purpose of allowing us to call upon Him, though that is a part of it. Jesus says, “If you ask anything in My Name, I will do it” (Jn. 14:4). There’s more to it. His Name is His essence, His defining characteristic. He is the Lord who saves. He saves by prviding the victory that bestows peace by the forgiveness of sin. This He wins for us by defeating the hosts of hell in His sacrificial death. The Lord shepherds us into His own righteousness. The Lord is here, not in a pillar of cloud or fire, not hidden behind a curtain, but here in His risen Body and Blood, given and poured out for our redemption. Here the Lord saves.
Jesus is the eternal Word of the Father. He reveals the Father and the Spirit to us. He prays to His Father, “I have manifested Your Name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world.” (Jn. 17:6) This manifestation of the Father’s Name is the manifestation of salvation, just what Peter preached in today’s Epistle: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other Name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
As we stand just three short days into a new calendar year, this is the first Gospel we hear. We hear of the Name of Jesus, which saves His people from their sins. As 2016 unrolls and we wait to see what it brings, we have one sure thing: the Name of Jesus. When we are given challenges, crosses, and trials, we know that Jesus is faithful to His Name, to His work, to us. He has saved us from our sins, and He is eternal. He is with us always, happy to forgive us, eager to bring us home.
The peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Sermons from Mount Olive
Mount Olive follows the historic one-year lectionary (series of readings).