The Bible places a lot of emphasis on the importance of names—especially the names of God. Most of the names used in Scripture communicate an important element of each character's personality.
It only makes sense to assume that Jesus' name means something significant. Right? Let’s take a look.
The origin of the name Jesus
When westerners say "Jesus," We’re using an anglicized version of the Greek name Iēsous, which corresponds to the Hebrew name Yeshua—a shortened form of Yehoshua.
Yehoshua is made up of two parts. The prefix "Yeho" is a version of the Tetragrammaton: the four-letter name of God (YHWH). We can find this prefix in many Hebrew names:
- Jehoshaphat (YHWH has judged)
- Jehoiachin (established by YHWH)
- Jehonathan (YHWH has given)
The second part of the name comes from the Hebrew verb "yasha" which means rescue, deliver, or save. Jesus' name communicates the truth that Yahweh will save!
Jesus: the dramatic significance of a common name
It's worth noting that Yeshua is a completely common name. It's not much different than if He had been born in 21st-century Philadelphia with the name John Smith. Let's a take a moment to consider the significance of giving Jesus such an ordinary name.
When an angel of the Lord comes to Joseph in a dream to encourage him to take the pregnant Mary as his wife, he also instructs Joseph to name the child Jesus:
"Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.'" (Matthew 1:19–21)
You have to wonder why such a common name would be chosen for history's most unique and important figure. Doesn't a member of the Trinity and salvation of all humanity deserve a distinct name that sets Him apart from everyone else?
In the second chapter of Philippians, Paul instructs us to have the same mindset as Christ. He then goes on to describe that attitude:
"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:6–8)
Jesus demonstrated His love for us in leaving His throne and humbling Himself to become one of us. On top of that, He died a criminal's death to release us from the bondage of sin. It's no surprise that His humility would even cause Him to adopt a common human name with such a profound meaning—Yahweh rescues.
Interested in learning more exciting details about Jesus? Check out the post "Who is Jesus."