“…you shall call His name Jesus….” (Matthew 1:21).
In our modern culture a person’s name reveals little, if anything, about who they are. That was not true when Jesus was born. Back in those days, a person’s name was very significant. In fact, you could often learn a lot about what an individual was like just by knowing the person’s name.
This fact is even more important when it comes to the Lord. It is essential that we understand the names that were given to our Savior because we need to know what He is really like. Jesus is not just not an imaginary, fun character we focus on at Christmas time. He is a real, historical person, and yet He is also the Lord of all history. He is not what we imagine Him to be, or a character we create in our own minds.
When we hear or see the words “Jesus Christ,” we might mistake those words to be His first and last name. That is not the case. Let’s take a brief look at those two words.
“Jesus” literally means “Jehovah (or “I am”) Saves.” It was an angel who told Joseph that, “… you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). From the very beginning of Jesus Christ’s time on earth, we are told WHY He came. His very name tells us that Jesus came to earth to save us from our sins.
“Christ,” on the other hand, is more of a title than a name. It comes from a Greek word that means the same thing as the Hebrew word for “Messiah.” It would be accurate to say “Jesus the Christ” or “Jesus the Messiah.” Andrew made this clear when he told his brother Peter, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ)” (John 1:41).
We know that the title “Christ” is very important because the New Testament refers to Jesus as the Christ over five hundred times. The title “Messiah” or “Christ” literally means “to spread a liquid over” which is sometimes translated “to anoint.” That word was used for a public ceremony when expensive oil was poured on a man’s head to set him apart for some kind of important leadership role. Anointing ceremonies were mostly used for prophets, for priests, or for kings, (see Exodus 28:41; I Kings 19:16; I Kings 1:34).
Why is this important? If a man was anointed to be a leader, that meant he was qualified and specially chosen by God for that position (Deuteronomy 17:15). Think about what this tells us about Jesus the Christ.
In the Bible there were some very special people who were anointed to be prophets, some to be priests, and some to be kings. However, no one person was ever chosen to be all three—that is, until Jesus came.
Jesus the Christ came as a prophet because we need someone to reveal who God is to us. “In these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world” (Hebrews 1:2).
Jesus the Christ came as a priest so we could have a relationship with God. “For there is one God, and one mediator [someone who brings those separated back together] also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
Jesus the Christ came as a king because we needed someone to conquer sin, death, and the Devil for us. “Therefore, since the children [all humans] share in flesh and blood, [Jesus] Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Hebrews 2:14–15).
Prophets, priests, and kings each had very different areas of authority. Jesus, on the other hand, has authority over everything. He actually declared, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).
Notice that Jesus’ authority is closely tied to His name: “Being found in appearance as a man, [Jesus] humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2:8–10).
Yes, Jesus came to earth as a helpless baby, but that was only the beginning. He conquered all. He is not helpless! We must never forget that “…[God] raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:20–21).
Jesus, or “Jehovah Saves,” has promised to rescue you from your sins and their eternal consequences if you turn away from them and follow Him. Tell Him that you are sorry for your sin and call on Him by faith: “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).