And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. (Luke 1:31)
The name Jesus was given to both parents, Joseph (Matt. 1:21) and Mary (Luke 1:31), by the angel of God, who took his instructions from God. The Father named the Son. The Father had a specific purpose in this name.
In both Matthew and Luke, we have instructions as to why the child was to be named Jesus. In Matthew’s gospel, the angel states to Joseph that Mary “will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Where did this name come from?
According to commentators, Jesus “is the oldest name containing the divine name Yahweh, and means ‘Yahweh is help’ or ‘Yahweh is salvation.’” You see this name pop up frequently in the Old Testament as Joshua, which is the Hebrew form of the Greek name Jesus. This name is from God, and God assigned it to his son to signify that Jesus’ work will bring about salvation for his people. As Joshua was the type of the one who would lead his people from slavery to freedom, so Jesus is the fulfillment of that type.
We also need to consider what the angel states in Luke, which gives us a different perspective from Matthew. Luke tells us what the angel said in verses 32-33: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
The angel declares to Mary not what Jesus will accomplish, as he does to Joseph, but who Jesus is. He will be of the same nature as God the Father – his Son. He will reign over all, the ultimate and final heir to the throne of David. His reign will be the reign of God, because God can only reign forever. Jesus will in fact be God. Luke gives us a theological interpretation of the person of Christ, like Paul in Phil. 2:9.
The name Jesus not only describes what Jesus does in providing salvation, but also who he is and why he is able to provide salvation. Jesus is God himself, worthy of praise because he is able to accomplish salvation. As we approach Christmas in just two days, praise the name of Jesus for who he is and what he has accomplished!