170101 Luke 2:21

Last Updated on Sunday, 01 January 2017 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Luke 2:21
Theme: A Name That Says It All!

Shepherd. Rock. Door. Anchor. Cornerstone. Bread of Life. Author and perfecter of our faith. The Resurrection and the Life. The Way, the Truth and the Life. Alpha and Omega. King of kings and Lord of lords. Vine. Gate. Rabbi. Master. Lamb of God. Son of God. Morning Star. Messiah.

So many names. So many vivid descriptions in the Bible. Each one is different. Each one is unique. Every name focuses our attention on a unique aspect of our Savior's saving work. But there is one name for this holy child that rises above the rest. There is one name that honors him as true man and true God in one person. And as we mark the eighth day after he was born, the day when this specially chosen name was bestowed upon him, we rejoice. We give thanks. We give him all praise and glory because Jesus is...

A NAME THAT SAYS IT ALL!

There are lots of reasons to be excited about being a first-time parent, including the chance to pick out names for the baby. Some parents choose a name to honor someone in the family. Other parents look through baby name books for ideas. Mary and Joseph didn't do either of those things because the decision had been taken out of their hands. But in their case I don't think they were the least bit upset.

Before Mary became pregnant the angel Gabriel appeared to her in Nazareth, and he shared with her some amazing news. He told her that she had found favor with God. He told her that she would give birth to a son, but not just any son. Her son would be the son of David and the Son of God. And Gabriel told Mary to give her special child a very special name, Jesus (Luke 1:31).

A few months later Joseph had an angelic encounter of his own. In a dream an angel of the Lord told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. He told Joseph that the child in her womb was not the result of infidelity. The Holy Spirit had conceived the child miraculously. And then the angel told Joseph to give the child the name Jesus with this added explanation, "because he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).

The night Jesus was born shepherds came to the manger to see this tiny Savior. They had seen angels too, lots of angels, and I wonder if their report reminded Mary and Joseph of the angel's instructions. I wonder how many times they replayed those events in their minds between his birthday and this day. I wonder if they understood how prophetic their child's name would prove to be.

"Jesus" is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name, "Joshua," which literally means "the LORD saves." It was not uncommon for Jewish parents to name their child Joshua. It was a way for them to remember God's promises. It was a way for them to express in a tangible way their trust that the Lord would fulfill his promises. And on this day, after hundreds of years, after hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Jewish baby boys had been given the name Joshua/Jesus, their faith was finally rewarded.

Jesus was born into this world to save his people from their sins. Jesus came into this world to save the world from sin. And because he did what he came to do, because Jesus literally lived up to his name, we honor him by always giving his saving name the honor and respect it deserves. Or do we?

I am reminded of an experience I had in Israel just after I graduated from the seminary and before I started at my first call. I was part of an archaeological dig, and even though our group was made up of mostly Lutherans a few other people tagged along with us. One of them I will never forget. He was a young and rather brash Jewish college student named David.

David was working in his 9 x 9 foot square with a friend of mine who was also a first year seminary student, and the two of them were talking. My friend was explaining that he had studied Hebrew at the seminary, and to prove it he recited one of the first verses future pastors memorize in school, Deuteronomy 6:4: "Shema, Yisrael, adonai elohenu, adonai echad" (Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one).

When my friend was finished, can you guess how David reacted? He wasn't impressed. He was upset. He was upset with my friend because he had uttered God's name out loud. In some Jewish circles doing that is forbidden, or at least it is very strongly discouraged. The logic goes something like this. The second commandment reads: "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God." And you can't misuse God's name if you never actually use it. Even when reading from the Old Testament, they will skip over the name of God or replace it with something else.

You and I might consider that a bit extreme, but think about it. Think about where we fit on the spectrum. In our country, in our culture, in our own homes, how do we treat God's name? Are we so careful with it that we are reluctant to even whisper it? Or do we curse and swear so often that we don't even think about it? Are you more likely to invoke Jesus' name when you are witnessing to a friend or when Aaron Rodgers throws an interception? When it comes to honoring God's name and obeying the second commandment, has your conscience become dangerously dull?

I think James hit the bullseye in his epistle when he observed: "Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be" (James 3:10). It shouldn't be the case, but all too often it is. Instead of using God's name to pray, praise and give thanks, we curse and swear and lie and deceive. We use God's name carelessly and casually, and when aren't misusing it, could it be because we are not using God's name at all?

Sins of the tongue are serious. Our sins against the second commandment put us under an eternal death sentence. But instead of giving us what we deserve, God gave us his Son, and he gave his Son a name that gives us hope. Jesus. The Lord saves.

In Mary's arms Jesus didn't look like the Lord of heaven and earth. He looked like a little baby. And for the first seven days of his life he didn't do much to save us. But on the eighth day something important happened, something besides his parents giving him a name. Did you catch it? Let me read that verse again: "On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived" (Luke 2:21).

Jesus was circumcised, a rite that had been performed on week old Jewish males for two thousand years. The Lord had established that covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17) and confirmed it with Moses (Leviticus 12). On the eighth day Jesus' circumcision was the first example of him actively obeying the law for us, but it wasn't the last. For thirty three years, for his entire life on earth, Jesus obeyed the law perfectly in our place. He honored his parents. He respected his elders. He obeyed the government. He followed the letter and the spirit of the law for us, and it began on this day, the day of his circumcision.

When Jesus was circumcised, something else happened. At the very beginning of his life he shed a few drops of his holy, precious blood. And that event foreshadowed what would happen to him at the end of his life. As he prayed in the Garden his sweat was like drops of blood. Blood flowed from where the lashes made their mark and the crown of thorns pierced his head. Blood ran from where the nails were pounded through his hands and feet.

Jesus' circumcision was nothing like his crucifixion, but they do have one thing in common. Blood. Jesus willingly shed his blood to pay for our sins, to purify us from all sin. Jesus was born of a woman for us and lived a sinless life for us and died on the cross for us. Why? The name he was given tells us why, to save us!

Jesus' saving work began on Christmas. And we celebrate his saving work today, on the first Sunday after Christmas. But we need to remember that Christmas is only the beginning. We need to remember that Christmas anticipates Easter. The key to our salvation is the resurrection. Because Jesus has defeated death you and I are victorious. Because our Redeemer lives, we will live with him forever.

According to babycenter.com these were the top ten boy names in 2016: Elijah, Oliver, Caden, Mason, Ethan, Noah, Liam, Lucas, Aiden and Jackson. Jesus is not anywhere on that list. Come to think of it, I have never baptized a baby named Jesus. And I don't think I know anyone who goes by that name either. Parents may give their child that name in other parts of the world, but it rarely if ever happens around here.

Why is that? Is it because it's just not as popular these days, or is there more to it than that? Do parents intentionally avoid that name because they know their sons could never live up to it? Do we stay away from it as a way to give special honor to the name, or to honor the special child the angel Gabriel had given that name?

I can understand why parents may decide not to name their baby boys Jesus, but don't let that stop you from using God's name entirely. God has given us his name to bless us and save us. God has shared his divine names with you because he wants you to use them, to pray to him, to give him thanks and sing his praises. I can't think of a better resolution for the New Year. Every time the name "Jesus" comes from your lips, I want you to say it like you mean it. Shout it from the rooftops because it is a name that says it all. Shout for joy because you have a Savior who has done it all. Amen.

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