(If you want to see how a dialogue sketch works on this theme and passage, go to Dialogue Sketch for the “Naming of Jesus” )
What’s in a name? Perhaps not a lot, in our Western society. Names seem to be chosen much at random, from the celebrities of the day. The meaning is something we have to look up – unless you have a “nickname”, which may be more descriptive. On the other hand, people like me who find it difficult to remember many names quickly find how little people like their names being forgotten or confused.
In the ancient world, names were more important and powerful. God reveals his name to Moses ( Exodus 3:11-15 ). We find it hard to interpret “I am who I am”, but for Egyptian slaves, it was a free God, and to those who used magic and idols, perhaps a challenge from a God who created, and was not made by others. Numbers 6:22-7 tells us to use the name of God in blessing – perhaps because we become like what we admire or worship, and to summarise our becoming more like God, and living in God’s power.
Then there is the name “Jesus”, given by the angel to Mary, and then given in obedience to Jesus at his circumcision ( Luke 1:28-38, Luke 2:21 ). It means “saviour”, a reminder and summary of Jesus role, and is the same as “Joshua” (in both Hebrew and Greek). As Jesus’ disciples, we also have a part to play in the saving of the world – a good thought to begin the New Year!