What's in His Name?

by Ava Pennington

How many names do you have? You probably have a first, middle and last name. Maybe even a nickname. Do you know what these names mean? Parents often choose a name for their baby based on the name’s meaning.

Names in the Bible also had specific meanings. They often described something about the person’s characteristics, family or job.

When God sent His Son to Earth, He wanted Jesus to have some special names, too. God’s Son is known by more than 100 names. Nobody in history has as many names as Jesus Christ. Many of His names were predicted hundreds of years before He was born. Each of these names tells us something about who Jesus is and what He came to do.

Here are some of His names used at the time of His birth.

Mary and Joseph didn’t just pick a random name for their baby. In Matthew 1:21, an angel told Joseph that Mary would have a boy. The angel said, “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

The name Jesus is the Greek version of the name Joshua from the Old Testament. It means “the Lord is salvation.” Jesus’ name describes what He came to do—to bring us salvation from sin.

In Matthew 2:1-2, Matthew wrote about wise men visiting King Herod in search of the “king of the Jews.” When Herod heard this, he wanted to know where the prophets said God’s new king would be born.

The religious experts quoted from the prophet Micah, who had written 700 years earlier, “But you, Bethlehem... out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel” (Micah 5:2).

Someday Jesus will return and will rule over Israel... and the whole world.

Son of God
The angel Gabriel told Mary her baby would have a special Father. “The power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

Because Jesus is the Son of God, He could pay for all our sins. He never sinned, but He took our sins upon Him when He died on the Cross.

Matthew 2:6 shows one of Jesus’ best-known names: Shepherd. Matthew quotes from Micah 6:4, “He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord.”

Sheep are helpless animals. A good shepherd provides places for his flock to eat and grow and protects them from enemies. Jesus takes care of His children by providing for us and protecting us.

When Matthew wrote his gospel, he noted that Jesus’ birth fulfilled what the prophet Isaiah wrote about 700 years earlier. In Matthew 1:23, he quotes Isaiah 7:14, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel”—which means “God with us.”

When we believe in Jesus, we know that God is always with us.

Christ and Savior
The name Christ isn’t really a name, it’s a title. Christ is Greek for the Hebrew word Messiah. Both words mean “anointed one.”

When an angel announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, he told them, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

The people had been waiting for God to send the Messiah—the One who would save the people from their sin. Now He had come!

Call My Name
Here are six names Jesus called himself:
Bread of Life—“I am the bread of life, He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)
Light of the World—“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Gate—“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” (John 10:9)
Resurrection and the Life—“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” (John 11:25)
The Way, the Truth and the Life—“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Vine—“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.” (John 15:5)

This article originally appeared in the December 2009 issue of Clubhouse magazine. Copyright © 2009 by Ava Pennington. Photo © Joel Kramer/Flickr.com; used under Creative Commons license.