Skip to content

What’s in a Name?


“And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.” (Luke 2:21) 

Though not often descriptive today, there have been many names in times past with meaning behind them. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what Charles the Bald or Louis the Fat might have looked like in person. And I think we can all agree that Louis the Do-Nothing must not have been a very popular king. Some positive names also appear throughout history, the kind that any of us would happily accept, such as Charles the Hammer, Louis the Pious, and Alexander the Great. Even Paul’s companion Barnabas had received such a name; his given name was Joseph, but the apostles nicknamed him Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”).

Do you ever wonder what you might be called if you were given such a name by others?

Perhaps names like “the Helpful,” or “the Nice,” or “the Generous” flit about your mind. Sadly, these are nothing more than products of our imaginations. How much more likely is it that your name would be something along the lines of “the Selfish,” or “the Gossip,” or “the Quick to Anger,” or even “the Hypocrite”—and deservedly so!

On the eighth day after His birth, the Christ Child was circumcised and named, according to custom. In this case it was the very special name Jesus (which means “Jehovah saves”). The name Jesus itself was not a very unusual name; it seems that it was actually rather common. But when applied to this particular Baby, this name carried real meaning. As the angel told Joseph, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) Never in human history, before or since, has such a fitting name been given.

At eight days old, before He’d even begun to lift His head, our Savior already started living up to His name. In the Lord’s covenant with Abraham, He had demanded that “he who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised.” (Genesis 17:12) This was law, God’s requirement for any male to be considered a child of God. And in this we see the great irony of Scripture: the one true Son of God Himself underwent this requirement. The very God Who had made this demand of us was allowing it to happen to His own body. This was the first shedding of God’s blood, the same blood that would be poured out thirty-three years later on the cross. Jesus kept this ceremonial law which He had required, and then He died to end it.

And now, circumcision is no longer a requirement for us. Instead, Paul writes about another act through which Christ’s circumcision counts for us, “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism.” (Colossians 2:11-12) Through your Baptism, the labor of our Savior counts for you! God regards your Baptism as if you fulfilled the entire Law that He required.

That’s not all. Paul also writes, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27) So wonder no longer about what your name might be; cringe no more at what it rightfully should be. Because, having put on Christ, your new name is one that fits perfectly: “the Child of God.”

Samuel Rodebaugh is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Winter Haven, Florida.