Luke 2: 21
(The Name of Jesus – Jan. 1, 2016)
“On the eighth day when it was time to circumcise him, he was given the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.”
“Jesus Means Salvation”
“What are you going to name him?” New parents poured over baby name books, searched into family history, and avoided negative connotations (I married a teacher and there were certain names we just could never have used). Eventually the new parents are certain of the answer to the question in the hospital: “What’s his name?” Mom is shedding tears of joy as she wipes the sweat of pain away. Proud Papa holds the little guy and says “His name is …” Mary and Joseph needed no such searching. They were instructed from the throne of heaven on what their baby should be called: “You will give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” [Matthew 1: 21; Luke 1:31]
“On the eighth day when it was time to circumcise him …” God does all things well. There is an order to his plan and it goes His way. The Laws of Israel had many requirements, but one purpose: point the people to Jesus! Circumcision on the eighth day was no exception. From the time that the Lord established circumcision for Abraham’s descendants it remained a physical reminder for God’s people. They were set apart for a special plan until a special child would be born and brought to that very Temple. It is fitting that the fulfillment of that plan completes every expectation to the fullest. (Later upon his own Baptism Jesus would remind John that it was necessary to fulfill ALL righteousness [Matthew 3:15]).
Jesus’ name means salvation. He will save his people from their sins. Thousands upon thousands of baby boys were circumcised from the time of Abraham to the time of Joseph. Only a few are mentioned to us and none of them have the significance of the Boy in the Temple with Mary and Joseph that day. Generations of sinners had been brought to temple, were given a name (some “Ishua”), and sent on their way with one less piece of flesh; but they all returned to Mom and Dad just as sinful as the day they were born. Not one of those circumcisions earned a place in heaven or purchased any of God’s forgiveness.
Today we remember what we learned a week ago: this is God’s Son. This is the Word of God who became flesh. He was given the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.” That small phrase speaks volumes! It was not Joseph’s right to name the Boy. God the Father named his earthen Son before he arrived in the Temple. This is Immanuel: God-With-Us. This is the Son begotten of the Father before all worlds began. He was born to save sinners. He was born under law to redeem those under law [Galatians 4:4]. He was born with human body to be given as the atoning sacrifice for sin. Eight days after his birth, the Son of God gives his first drop of blood! Jesus’ name means salvation!
His name means our salvation. As in the days of Israel’s prophecies, generations of children continue to be born. Together with them, we are born nameless, guilty recipients of Adam’s disobedience. As with all mankind we are born into this world with a deep-seated need: rescue from sin; rescue from death; rescue hell’s fierce powers! We know those enemies well. We battle their lingering attacks every moment of each day. Guilt before God flavors our sense of namelessness. Satan loves to place us into pits of despair believing that are too sinful to have value before a righteous God. We certainly do not deserve to be named by him, but to be labeled citizens of hell.
Instead, this is how our Father speaks to us. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called the sons of God, and that is what we are! [1 John 3:1]” God has placed his Name upon us … as certain as he had Aaron place the blessing of his Name on his people Israel [Numbers 6: 22-27 is the Old Testament lesson for today and reminds us of that special blessing we receive to this day!]. Many of us were brought to the house of God for our new name: recall your Baptism when God placed his Spirit into your hearts to call him Abba Father. Far more significant than our own names, is the label God gave us at the Font: You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus [Galatians 3:26].
Paul reminded the Philippians of the importance of Christ’s humble entrance to earth in order to receive that Name, Jesus: “being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross [Philippians 2: 8]” It is that act of selfless love for us which moves Paul to conclude “Therefore God … gave him the name that is above every name … that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow! [Philippians 2:9-10] ” The Son of God whose flesh was broken on his eighth day, was willing to have it completely broken for you on Calvary. And then, in a promise made the night before his death, he gives you his broken body in The Supper where his Name means everything to us!
As new parents welcome a new child, they wonder what this life will bring. They wonder what will become of their child. Mary and Joseph had plenty of instruction on the distinct purpose of their Son. That very day the Lord provided Simeon and Anna as voice pieces, not only to Mary and Joseph, but to the rest of the world. Simeon rejoiced to know that this was the glory of God to his people Israel and is the Light of Salvation to all nations of people. He specifically reminded Mary of the “sword that would pierce her soul” [Luke 2:35] referring to the cruel death she would see him suffer.
We now begin our week to week review of the many events of Jesus. From Epiphany to Lent; from Palm Sunday to Good Friday, from the cross to grave, from the grave to the sky, the boy Jesus will live the life of God’ servant. He will grow to manhood with the focus of his Name in full view: Jesus’ Name means Salvation for you and me and for the world of sinners he came to rescue! He will carry that salvation out in his holy innocence. He will carry out the meaning of that name on Golgotha. He stands in glory now to receive rightful honor and glory above every name!
How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear
It soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds, and drives away all fear
Dear name! The Rock on which I build, My shield and hiding place,
My never-failing treasury filled, With boundless stores of grace! (CW 358: 1, 3) Amen.