Jesus: The name above every name
Here’s the name above every name in Great Britain this year: Muhammad. A survey conducted by a parenting website has declared the name Muhammad to be the most popular name for baby boys in Britain, surpassing previous favorites, Oliver and Jack. Muhammad jumped 27 spots from last year to claim the top spot on the list of the 100 most popular baby boy names for 2014.
That may be so. But, the name that is above every name has been given by God to Jesus. “You shall call His name Jesus,” the angel said to Joseph, “for He will save His people from their sins.” It is a name that is set apart, even by those who don’t believe in Him. Philip Yancey wrote, “Today, people even use Jesus’ name to curse by. How strange it would sound if, when a businessman missed a golf putt, he yelled, ‘Thomas Jefferson!’ or if a plumber screamed ‘Mahatma Gandhi!’ when his pipe wrench mashed a finger. We cannot get away from this man Jesus.” Or from His name.
But Jesus’ name in His day would have been as ordinary then as Bob or Joe is today. This was a time of a revival of Jewish pride, and parents were naming their children after the heroes of the Old Testament again. So Mary was named after Miriam, Moses’ sister. Joseph was named after one of the patriarchs. And even the name “Jesus” was a form of the Old Testament name, Joshua, which means, “He shall save.” So the thought that someone named Jesus could be the Messiah was unthinkable. For people raised in that time and in that tradition, Phillip Yancey wrote, it would have been scandalous to even consider that someone named “Jesus” could possibly be the Son of God. Jesus was just a man; He was Mary’s oldest boy, a carpenter who grew up in Nazareth, for goodness’ sake!
Paul wrote, “Therefore God has highly exalted Him (Jesus) and given Him the name that is above every name.” Sinclair Ferguson argues that Paul was making a clear connection between the name Jesus and the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. Isaiah wrote 700 years before Christ, “Truly you are a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, the Savior. … For thus says the Lord …’I am the Lord, and there is no other’ … And there is no other God besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. … To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.”
Here’s the point: God is the only Savior, God says of Himself in Isaiah. Jesus, says Paul, is that Savior. God is the Lord before whom every knee will bow and every tongue confess, God says in Isaiah. And Jesus, says Paul, is that Lord.
This is why the birth of Christ divides time, as well as nations, even families. At His first appearance, Jesus hid Himself in plain sight, as a babe in a manger. At His next appearance, He will split the skies as King of kings and Lord of lords. He will not come, hat in hand, asking for us to “please accept Him.” He never did that in His first coming. When He returns, it will be to consummate God’s perfect plan for all of mankind and judge the world in righteousness.
“When He shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in Him be found, Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.”
May Christ alone and His righteousness alone be yours this Christmas.