Eve of the Name of Jesus – December 31st, 2015 – Luke 2:21
In the Name of Christ the Newborn King +
While tonight the world celebrates the last day of 2015 (and an OU victory in the College football playoff- hopefully) and prepares to look forward to 2016 – indeed, while we ourselves in a few moments will be doing the same, our worship service is focused on something far more monumental and profound than any turning of a calendar, than any change of date. Tonight, we address something so utterly profound and wondrous, that our Gospel need only be a single verse – that is how deep this simple verse is. All the insight or wonder of a long parable, all the profoundness of a much longer passage contained in one simple verse – and even tonight, dear friends, we won’t come close to fully delving its depths. That verse again is as follows: And at the end of eight days, when He was circumcised, He was called Jesus, the Name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.
There are many traditions that come up around names. I’m sure some of you have names that are traditional in your family, ones that get handed on and on throughout the generations – being named after a grandfather or an aunt. If I had been a girl, I would have been named Bertha since mom's Aunt Bertha had the same birthday as I do. Being named after a relative was a tradition they did have in Jesus’ day, and one they followed more vigorously – remember, everyone looks at Elizabeth strangely when she says that her boy will be named John because None of your relatives is called by this name. But there are two traditions dealing with names back in the days of Christ that we really don’t have any more, and tonight we will use these as our insight into this wondrous text. For the first tradition, did you note, dear friends, when Jesus is given His name? And at the end of eight days, when He was circumcised, He was called Jesus. Even though Mary knew that she was going to name her child Jesus, even before He was conceived, Jesus did not receive this name until He was circumcised.
There was a reason for this. For a young boy, it was the 8th day when you were circumcised, where you officially joined the family of God, when you officially were. And only then do you get your name. This even used to be the practice up until 100 years ago or so with Baptism – until a child was Baptized they would simply be known as the so-and-so baby – they would be given their name at their baptism. Another word for Baptism is Christening – literally “Christ –in-ing” or “putting into Christ” – but we still use the term Christening for giving something a name, like a ship or a building. Your first name was known as your “Christian Name” Another example – Martin Luther was born November 10th, and his father took him to church on the 11th to be baptized. The 11th was St. Martin’s day – in honor of St. Martin of Tours – so the Luther baby was named Martin.
Your name is your identity, it is who you are – and for a Jewish baby in Jesus’ day, you only had an identity in light of God’s covenant – you were one of the males of Israel, and of your number one day God would produce the Messiah. That was who you are – and when and only when you were circumcised, when you were physically marked as being of Israel, did you receive your name, your identity. And so it was with Jesus. And on the 8th day, He was circumcised. But for Jesus, He was not just one of the race that could be the Messiah, He was the Messiah Himself. And on that day, there was a bit of foreshadowing. The Baby Jesus shed His blood. The Law demanded Blood, and Jesus gives it. This event is the first time that the Son of God sheds His Blood – God Almighty, Maker of the Universe becomes Man – we have been celebrating that all this Christmas – but here we see what that literally means. He is born under the law – and being born under the Law – He bears its consequences. His Blood is shed. Just a little right now – but you dear friends know where this Child will be when He grows, you know where He willingly goes – to the Cross to win you salvation. The blood that is but a trickle on the 8th day pours down His whipped and beaten back on Good Friday – it spills from His pierced side – all for our salvation. Indeed, it is poured from every Chalice in Christendom whenever and wherever the Lord’s Supper is celebrated, that we might receive salvation, that the Blood which was shed for us might be applied to us, given to us.
And to make it most clear that it was indeed this Child, shedding His Blood, who would indeed more fully shed His Blood to save the world – when He was circumcised He was given the name Jesus. Nowadays we don’t think too much about what our names mean. In America we pull from so many heritages and languages that we forget that names have meaning. For example – my name is Eric. It’s Swedish for powerful – but you look at me and don’t think “powerful”. My dad’s name is Gregory – that’s a Greek Word – when you get the instruction to be watchful – to keep awake – that’s be Gregore-o. My mom’s name is June – and we even know that’s a month – but her name doesn’t really have anything to do with the month because she was born in April. Nowadays we pick out names because they are pretty, we like how they sound. I didn’t name Victor Victor because he won anything, and Ambrose doesn’t smell like Ambrosia – but back in Jesus’ day, more importance was given to what a name means. Think about it – Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter – Rock, Petros, after he makes a solid confession. Daniel, great name – Dan-I-el – God is my Judge. El at the end of a name refers to God. Abram, exalted father, is changed to Abraham – father of a multitude. Micah – Mi-ca-yah – Who is like The LORD, who is like Yahweh? The names all have meaning, have importance.
And then we get the name Jesus. In the Hebrew, the name is Yeshua. We say Jesus, because Yeshua in Greek is Iesous, which got put into Latin as Jesu – into English as Jesus. There is another way of doing this name in English – the name Joshua is the exact same name, it’s just Yeshua going straight from Hebrew to Latin and then English – same name. But what does this name mean, Pastor, since you said names are so important? Ye is a form, a short form of Yahweh, or Jehovah – the Divine Name – the LORD. Shua is a verb meaning to save. So literally the name Jesus, the name Joshua, the name Yeshua – they all mean one thing. The Lord Saves.
His name tells you what you are seeing. The child is cut, He bleeds, He is placed under the law. Though He is not sinful He takes up His place with sinful man – and why? Because Yeshua, because Jesus, because the LORD saves. This is how the Lord brings about Salvation – by becoming Man, and by taking up in our stead the punishment for sin, and by giving us His own Life, so that we are made whole and spotless and without blemish by His divine power. Behold the Lord’s Salvation – behold what God does to give you life.
In all things, God points us to His Son, so that we might remember that we have life in His Name – that Christ Jesus came into the World to be our Champion, to be our savior from sin. And even from His youngest days, this is what He does. This is His identity, it is who He is known as – He is Jesus, the one who becomes Man and sheds His Blood for us. Let us ever give thanks to God the Father that He does not abandon us poor sinners unto everlasting death, but freely sends His Son to be our Savior. In the Name of Christ the Newborn King + Amen.