In this lesson we focus on the name “Jesus” and its significance for us as believers today.
What’s in a name? Jesus is called by His name 500 times in the gospels. In the New Testament the name Jesus appears 909 times. It is obviously the most endearing and most loved name for our Savior. And, as we will find out, it is packed with meaning and significance.
I. Jesus Is Pronounced the Same in Almost Every Language
II. Jesus Is an Esteemed Name
III. Jesus Is an Enduring Name
IV. Jesus Is an Exalted Name
V. Jesus Is an Exclusive Name
There are at least 562 names for Jesus in the Bible.
If we study how people name their children, and if we go way back, we discover that often children were named for their fathers. That’s why we have common names in the English language like Thompson, Johnson, Peterson, and Jackson. That practice was fairly common in New Testament times as well.
Sometimes people received a name based on a role that they would bear for the family. Their name reflected the hope that was wrapped up in the child.
Sometimes a name would be given just because of preference. We do that today when we use those little books with all the names of girls and boys in them.
But when an Old Testament Hebrew named his child, he did so with great thought. Hebrew children were named carefully because they bore some special message within the family. An Orthodox Jew would never glibly decide the name of his child. So as God sent His Son into the world to be clothed with humanity, He would need to give Him a meaningful name.
How would He do it? What would He call Him? He would not leave it up to the human parents to choose. It was so important that this name be right that God originated it and brought the message down to earth by means of an angel. The angel delivered the name to Mary’s husband. The record of that conversation is in Matthew 1:21. The Bible says that the angel spoke to Joseph and said to him, “And she [Mary] will bring forth a Son and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). By special instruction expressing God’s will, it came to pass in Bethlehem, that when the Child was born and someone said, “Who is He and what is His name?” the answer was clearly given: His name is Jesus.
One interesting thing you can do if you have the opportunity is to glance through a hymn book and see how hymn writers have memorialized this name so we can worship using the name of Jesus. John Newton gave us, “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds.” Edward Perronet exalts this name with, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.” Bernard of Clairvaux leads us in an old hymn called, “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee.” Lydia Baxter gave us, “Take the Name of Jesus with You.” And Frederick Whitfield adds, “There is a Name I Love to Hear.”
It is a wonderful name that our Father gave to His Son, a combination of two words, put together to mean, “Jehovah Saves.” Salvation, you see, was the expressed purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world. And if a name is to call forth the primary character wrapped up in the person, then Jesus could not have been better named, for He was here for one purpose, and that was to bring salvation to lost men and women.
Let’s think for a moment about the fact that “Jesus” is an easy name.
Jesus Is Pronounced the Same in Almost Every Language
The name Jesus has only two syllables and five letters. It is pronounced the same in almost every language. I love to listen to missionary stations on short wave radio, and often, even though I don’t understand the language, I will be able to pick the name “Jesus” out of the lyrics of a foreign language. There is something symmetrical about it in almost every language. It is a name which is known around the world, yet even a child can learn it.
If you carry that name into all the languages and dialects of the world, whether Hebrew or Greek or Anglo-Saxon, you can translate it—but you can never rob it of its music. Its tones break in upon your ear when you hear it. There is no word that is sweeter to a person who is a Christian than the word “Jesus.”
God said to the angel, “We shall call Him Jesus,” and that name was registered in heaven for the Son of God.
Bernard of Clairvaux expressed our heart when he wrote these words which we still sing often today:
Jesus, the very thought of Thee.
No voice can sing, no heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find
A sweeter sound than Thy blest name,
O Savior of mankind.
The Christmas name of our Lord is, first and foremost, the name Jesus. Jesus is an easy name.
Jesus Is an Esteemed Name
According to Josephus, there are eleven men in the Old Testament who have the name Joshua, the Old Testament equivalent of Jesus. No Old Testament parents had ever called their child Joshua until one day Moses was renaming some men. They were men who were going to go in and spy out the land, and in Numbers 13:16 we read these words: “These are the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Hoshea, the son of Nun, Joshua.” Moses gave him a new name, and that name is the same name we would call Jesus in the New Testament. It means “Jehovah Saves.”
There are many Bible scholars who believe Joshua is an Old Testament picture of Jesus. And there are some wonderful points of resemblance in this way. Joshua led the Israelites out of the wilderness into the Promised Land. Jesus, as our Savior, brings us out of the wilderness of sin into the spiritual Promised Land.
Joshua led his people to conquest over their enemies and their walled cities and their tall giants. Jesus leads us to conquest over the enemies of our soul, and helps us to fight against life’s difficult giants of temptation and trial and testing. As our Joshua, Jesus leads us to the inheritance that God has promised us.
But obviously the Jesus of the New Testament far transcends anything we can say about Joshua in the Old. In fact, in Hebrews 4:8 the writer of Hebrews says this: “For if Joshua had given them rest, then he would not afterward have spoken of another day.” In other words, if Joshua could have provided the victory which we truly need in the Old Testament sense of the word, there wouldn’t have been any need of another Joshua. But Joshua could only do that which was temporal, only that which was earth-bound, only that which is for our physical well-being. But Jesus came to do something eternal. He didn’t just come to free us from slavery and lead us out of the wilderness into a new land. He came to give us life everlasting. That’s why our Jesus is better than Joshua. It’s an esteemed name.
Jesus Is an Enduring Name
He was given that name over 2,000 years ago, yet His name today is the most well-known name in all the world. No other person has a name as well-known as the name of Jesus. This season of the year always intrigues me, because those who are absolutely in conflict with Jesus, those who don’t want anything to do with Him, who use that name as a swear word, those who defy everything we try to do in the name of evangelism, those who are enemies of Jesus—they all come to His birthday party. If you want evidence for the power of the name of Jesus, you don’t need a Bible, you don’t need a preacher. Just watch what happens during the Christmas season. Jesus has an enduring name.
Jesus Is an Exalted Name
His name is an exalted name. Ephesians 1:20–21 reads, “… which He [God] worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” How exalted is His name? It is far above every name that has been named, or that ever will be named. It is the highest name of all names in all the world for all time. It is the number one name.
Paul wrote in Philippians 2:9–11, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven and those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Paul said it as well as it could be said. The name of Jesus is the most important name in all the world. It is an exalted name.
Jesus Is an Exclusive Name
Jesus’ name is different from any other name. The angel told Joseph the reason when he spoke to him and gave him that name: “And she shall bring forth a Son and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus has an exclusive name because the purpose of that name was to stamp forever upon His personality the uniqueness of His mission. What was His mission? Jesus means “Jehovah Saves.” What was the uniqueness about Jesus? He was the one who would come into the world to be the Savior of lost mankind. That is why He was called Jesus. Exclusively, one of a kind. There never has been, nor will there ever be anyone who can do what Jesus came to do.
I love to tell that story. I love for people to understand that this unique person of all the universe was the only hope of lost mankind, for He was the only God-man. He was God reaching down for man because God could not reach up to God. And in Him is salvation.
That is why the writer of the Book of Acts says, “Nor is there salvation in any other for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”(Acts 4:12). That’s the only name. Do you want to go to heaven? You have to go through the name of Jesus. It is exclusive.
Jesus does for you what no one else can do. The Lord Jesus Christ changes a person from the inside out and makes them new.
Do you know Him? We go through all these celebrations, and parties and gift giving and decorating our homes and celebrating the Christmas season. There are certain times in the year where I just have such an incredible burden to be as simple as I can be about what it means to know God. It means to know His Son, Jesus Christ, as your Savior.
My friends, Jesus can do for you what nobody else can do. Your wife or your husband can’t do it. Your children can’t do it. Your parents can’t do it. Your teacher can’t do it. Your pastor can’t do it. But Jesus can. He came into the world, born of a virgin, the uniquely born Son of God, God walking around in a body, and His Father said, “Call Him Jesus, for He is going to save His people from their sins.”
He went to the cross, hung there between heaven and earth, and paid the penalty for your sin and mine. He fulfilled the prophecy that His Father has spoken of Him when He named Him. And today He is in heaven at the right hand of the Father making intercession for those who believe in Him.
If you have never put your trust in the name of Jesus and in the Jesus of the name, then you must do it. Without Him there is no hope, there is no future, there is no meaning in this life. He came to give you what you cannot get any place else—forgiveness for your sin and the assurance of eternal life.
1. What attributes of God are connected with the name of Jesus in the following passages?
a. Ephesians 3:9
b. Philippians 2:10–11
c. 2 Thessalonians 1:7
d. Hebrews 13:8
e. 1 John 2:1
2. What benefits for every believer are connected with His name in the passages below?
a. Romans 5:15
b. Romans 8:2
c. 1 Corinthians 15:57
d. 2 Corinthians 5:18
e. Galatians 3:26
f. Ephesians 2:13
g. Philippians 3:14
h. 1 Thessalonians 5:9
3. What kinds of responses, actions, and words did the name of Jesus stimulate during the earliest years of the church, according to the passages below?
a. Acts 9:29
b. Acts 15:25–26
c. Acts 19:17
d. Acts 21:13
e. Acts 26:9–10
4. In light of Acts 4:12, how would you respond to a statement like, “Jesus is just another name for the same God worshiped by other religions”?
5. In view of all you know about the name of Jesus, God’s Messiah, what kind of person do you think is being described in 2 John 1:7?
Can you think of some examples in today’s culture?
Did You Know?
The most common compound name of Jesus—“the Lord Jesus Christ”—was originally used as a very technical description of His identity, and today is an extremely accurate description of who He is.
The word for Lord in Greek meant “master” or “ruler,” which Jesus not only will ultimately be in the future, but should be in each of our lives today. The word Jesus is, of course, His human name, which constantly reminds us that He came in human flesh, and was given a name which means “YHWH saves.”
Finally, the word we so frequently use, Christ, actually was the Greek word for “Messiah,” and was used first and foremost by the Jews of that Greek-speaking day. This title alone should be a continual reminder to us that our deepest understanding of who Jesus really is will develop best as we pursue an understanding of God’s Messiah, as revealed from the earliest pages of the Old Testament all the way through the final words of Revelation.
The Legend of the Candy Cane
In the late 18th century in England, all religious symbols were banned from public display. It is said that a dedicated Christian candy maker wanted to provide a way for Christians to identify each other in spite of the restrictions. He began with a piece of white candy to signify the purity of Jesus Christ. Next, he formed the candy into the shape of a shepherd’s staff as a reminder that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Three small red stripes around the candy represented the power of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. One bold red stripe through the candy represented the redeeming power of the blood that Christ shed for each of us, and for the forgiveness of our sins.
 Jeremiah, D. (1999). Celebrate his love: Study guide (pp. 76–87). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.