What’s in a name? Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet made this question famous. They fall in love before learning they bear the names of rival families. Romeo is a Montague and Juliet a Capulet. Willing to deny name before love, Juliet cries out, “Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou, Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name. Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I’ll no longer be a Capulet.” A few
lines later, Juliet asks, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”
In other settings, the family name becomes even more important. As a young boy, I watched my father endure the pain of a failed business that left my parents deeply in debt. Rather than declare bankruptcy, he went to each of his creditors and told them he would fully pay them back if it took the rest of his life. On his handshake and his name, each creditor took him at his word. He kept his promise, furthering his credibility and example of integrity in the business community.
The significance of a name was particularly true in Bible times. In both Old and New Testaments, names
reflected personal experience or expressed character:
Jacob (GEN. 25:26). Jacob (which means “supplanter”) was so named because he would overtake his brother, Esau, in position and significance. This became reality as Jacob stole both the blessing and the
birthright from his firstborn brother.
Naomi (RUTH 1:20). The name Naomi means “delightful one.” Upon her return from the land of Moab, however, she changed her name to Mara, meaning “bitter.” Why? Because in Moab she had suffered
the bitter loss of a husband, two sons, and a daughter-in-law.
Barnabas (ACTS 4:36). In the New Testament, we find a man named Joseph, who was so active in caring for people and encouraging others that he received a new name—a nickname. That name was Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.”
While names were important to the people of the Bible, nowhere was this more significant than in Matthew 1:21, where we read the words spoken to Joseph:
She will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.
The name Jesus means “Jehovah our Savior.” It is the New Testament equivalent of the Hebrew
name Joshua, Yeshua, or Hoshea. While others wore these names to honor God, Jesus bore His name as the Savior-God that the New Testament says He was. It’s important for us to see that the Scriptures
honor the name Jesus for several reasons:
• It is the name by which we must be saved. “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (ACTS 4:12).
• It is the name that establishes the tone for everything a Christian does. “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (COL. 3:17).
• It is the name at which, one day in the future, every knee shall bow. “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (PHIL. 2:10-11).
From the time of Jesus’ birth until now, many have missed or dismissed the significance of His name. In His childhood days, His neighbors knew Him as the son of Joseph the carpenter. In our generation, many know Jesus only as an expression of anger or profanity. Few understand the many additional names given to Him in the Bible. For that reason, we want to look at four significant names written
in anticipation of a coming Messiah more than 600 years before the birth of Jesus.
By discovering His names, we can be led deeper into an understanding of who He is and why He
deserves our trust.