Call His Name JESUS

“She shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS, for he shall save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:21[1]

[Please see “The Wonderful Works of God” for the correct etymology of “Jesus” and “Yeshua.”]

It is finished - Jesus Christ on the crossTomorrow is Good Friday. On this day, nearly two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ died on a cross to “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Because Jesus “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross … God also hath highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:8-11).

The name “Jesus” means “Jehovah is salvation” in Greek (Strong’s G2424). It’s identical to “Joshua” in Hebrew (Strong’s H3091). So, by virtue of being called “Jesus,” everyone who met this man knew that he had one clear purpose: salvation. His name was his identity. Yet not even his disciples knew who or what Jesus intended to save until after his resurrection, when he told them that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations” (Luke 24:47). They didn’t really understand until Pentecost that, on the cross, Jesus “put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26).

The angel Gabriel told Mary to “call his name JESUS” (Luke 1:31). An angel of the Lord gave Joseph the same message (Matthew 1:21). The first verse of twenty-one books in the New Testament contains the name “Jesus.”[2] Just like the Old Testament, this “new testament”[3] or covenant came “by inspiration from God” (2 Timothy 3:16). Matthew to Revelation is no less inspired than Genesis to Malachi. The message of heaven is clear then: the one and only name of the Son of God is Jesus. Why do some believers, both Jew and Gentile, resist this name? Why do they use “Yeshua” instead? Do they think that they know better than God the Father, his angels, and the New Testament writers? Whenever I see “Yeshua” in print and online or hear it in a song, I find it jarring. Some believers point to anti-Semitism in church history, but I consider this a flimsy excuse. Something else is going on.

“Yeshua” is Hebrew. “Jesus” (Iēsous) is Greek. The New Testament wasn’t written in Hebrew but in Greek. God chose this language to let Gentiles know that they too can be saved. He isn’t “God of the Jews only” (Romans 3:29). So why do some Jewish believers resist Gentile ones, persuading them – wrongly – to prefer Jews as God’s “chosen” people? Do these same believers think – wrongly – that Hebrew is the language of heaven, making all other languages impure? If these beliefs aren’t stated, then they’re certainly implied! Post-resurrection, God’s “chosen” people are believers, Jew and Gentile.[4] I don’t know which language is spoken in heaven, but I do know it isn’t a human one. Hebrew is a human creation! It isn’t pure by virtue of being used in the Old Testament. In other words, Hebrew isn’t special. Neither is Greek. God simply deigns to use the vessel of human language to speak to his children.

The apostle Paul was “circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews,” and “a Pharisee” (Philippians 3:5). After his conversion, he made it clear that God makes no spiritual distinction between Jews and Gentiles. “There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek” (Romans 10:12). “There is neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3:28). “There is neither Greek nor Jew” (Colossians 3:11). I see a pattern here!

Ephesians 2 - one new manThe message of the cross is reconciliation, not only between a holy God and sinful people but also between sinful Jews and Gentiles. Jesus died “to make in himself … one new man” (Ephesians 2:15). This spiritual man is his body, the church (1:22-23). The cross “has broken down the middle wall of partition between” Jews and Gentiles so that “both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (2:14, 18). The message of the cross isn’t “separate but equal.” Jews and Gentiles should worship together, calling on Jesus as Savior and Lord.

So why do Messianic Jews worship in separate buildings? Why do they also resist being called “Christians,” or little Christs (Acts 11:26)? The word “Christ” means “anointed” in Greek (Strong’s G5547). It’s identical to “Messiah” in Hebrew (Strong’s H4899). Most people in Jesus’ day were Messianic Jews, even the Pharisees (John 1:19-20, 25). Everyone was looking for the Christ. Many Jews have messianic hopes today. That doesn’t make them Christians. They don’t believe that Jesus is “the Christ.” Only Christians do. Jesus warned that “false Christs” would try to “deceive” and “seduce” believers in the last days (Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22). So does “Messianic Jew” mean anything? Does it tell an unbelieving world that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? No. The emphasis on “Jew” is troubling too. It makes a biological distinction when God has made us “one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

One day, every knee will bow “at the name of Jesus” (Philippians 2:10). They won’t hear Yeshua. So I have one question for Messianic Jews. Why do you “always resist the Holy Ghost” (Acts 7:51)? If the name “Jesus” – humanity’s one and only Savior from sin – offends you, then you have a problem. As angels told Mary and Joseph two thousand years ago, so I tell you today. “Call his name JESUS”!

IMAGES: Poets for America, U B David

[1] All Bible verses are from the King James Version (KJV). Punctuation and spellings have been altered for clarity.
[2] Matthew, Mark, Acts, Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, James, 1-2 Peter, Jude, and Revelation
[3] Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25, 2 Corinthians 3:6, Hebrews 9:15
[4] Ephesians 1:4, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Peter 2:4, 9


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