The Most Holy Name of Jesus
In the ancient world names were not given lightly. A name was significant because it expressed the personality, the ‘mission’ of its bearer. In several places in the Bible, God chooses someone for a task and gives him a new name. Jesus was given his name at the time of his circumcision, eight days after he was born. Today’s feast celebrates this.
His name describes Jesus’s mission: “You will give him the name ‘Jesus’”, says the angel to Joseph, his foster-father, “for he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus, in fact, is the Greek form of the Aramaic ‘Yeshua’, from Yehoshua/ Joshua, which means ‘God saves’, or ‘God heals.’
How does God save us? The Bible puts it in a word: God, in Jesus, saves us from sin.
In everyone’s life there is some experience of loss and diminution, of death and destruction, of evil. All religions deal with this phenomenon and offer a solution. As Christians we believe that evil comes from sin, from acting other than God wants us to, and it is this which brings pain, suffering and misery in its wake. Jesus saves us from this, and brings us instead whatever is good, healthy and life-giving in all abundance. This freedom from evil and this fullness of life, is what we call salvation.
All those who call upon the ‘name of Jesus’ – like the many whom he healed from illness and demonic possession – will be saved. Jesus leaves no one out. For the Bible says that “there is no other name” -- no other personality, that is – able to save us and bring us to the fullness of life. For those whom he heals, Jesus invites to a new relationship with him, a friendship which is life-affirming and enriching. He invites us to live by his values.
What are these?
To practise forgiveness. To show mercy to oneself as well as to others. To serve others with genuine love, not out of compulsion, like slaves, nor out of pretence. Jesus himself gave us many examples in his life of true service. And then, to leave no one out of the reach of this love and forgiveness, to be inclusive in our relationships. Where humankind is divided on the basis of class, caste, race and sex, Jesus wants all to be united in his ‘kingdom’, as children of one common Father.
This in a nutshell is living up to Jesus’s name, being Christ-bearers, “Christians”, in name and in truth. The ‘holy name of Jesus’ is truly our life and our salvation.
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