What’s In A Name?

By Greg Quinn

December 22nd, 2014

When we were born, we were all given a name.  A name is how people identify us.  Some names carry family traditions, some carry personality traits, some are given for popular culture at the time, some are unmistakable, some are common.  A name is the most important identifier that any of us have.  We name our children names that we think have significance.  We even name our dogs names which have significance.  So to us, a name is very important.

We are known by our names.  Our names are our most significant identifier.  Sometimes our given name is not enough, and we are given nicknames that further identify us.

Native Americans gave their children names based upon what they saw that day.  Running Deer or Crooked Tree or whatever other name was given was based upon something they saw that was significant.  Most of us are given names after family, friends, important people, a name that identifies with our looks or character, or just a name that sounds cool.  In any event, names are important.

God thinks names are important.  He named the first man Adam.  He asked Adam to name every animal in the world.

And, God’s name is important.  From the great I AM to Jehovah to all the other great names for God, each name has significance.  From Eternal God, to Everlasting Father, there are so many names for God, each with great significance.  God’s names show His love, His patience, His power, His judgment, His all-knowing, His presence everywhere, His grace and mercy.

In this Christmas season, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior, we should also pay attention to the significance of His name.


Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.

20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.

22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,

23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:

25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.

“Jesus” was actually a common name of the day.  So to name Mary and Joseph’s son Jesus wasn’t unusual.  However, the significance of the name shouldn’t be lost on the commonality of the name itself.  God said He should be named Jesus, for he would save his people from their sins.  No doubt others in Israel named their baby boys “Jesus” in looking for the forthcoming Messiah.  But this baby named Jesus WAS the forthcoming Messiah.

Another translation for Jesus’ name was Emmanuel, meaning “God with us”. 

So in this passage we see that Jesus is identified with two names and one title.  No other “Jesus” was given the title of the Christ, or the Savior, or the Messiah.  Jesus’ name means that he will save us from our sins.  And Emmanuel means “God with us”.  Although Jesus has many more names associated with Himself (Savior, Son of God, Son of Man, Everlasting, the Word, the Bread of Life, etc.), we will look only at these names indicated in this one passage of scripture, a common scripture known my most as the Christmas story, to understand the significance of the name of Jesus.

Jesus, the Son of God, the Word which was from the beginning, left the riches of Heaven to come to earth to be born in poverty.  Jesus left a throne for a manger.  He left royal garments for swaddling cloths (rags).  He left Father God to be raised by an earthly father Joseph.  He exchanged Heaven for a world of pain and sickness and sin.  But this is why he came.  Jesus came into a world that needed a savior, to redeem to God a people who had fallen.  Jesus came to be our Savior, the one “who would save his people from their sins”.  For generations man had been trying to justify themselves to God through their works, through their sacrifices, through what they did, but nothing man could do was good enough.  Only God himself could redeem mankind from their sins.  So God came from Heaven, in the form of Jesus, to do just that.  Therefore the name of Jesus, as the one who would save his people from their sins, the Messiah, the Christ, is important.  Jesus is who He is, and what He does.  Savior, Redeemer, Christ, Messiah.

Emmanuel was spoken by the prophet Isaiah as God taking form of man and becoming here “with us”.  Emmanuel: God with us.  “God with us” is very significant, and shows the close personality of Jesus and His intention to form a relationship with each of us.  Following Christ is not a religion of rules and regulations and do’s and don’ts.  Following Christ is to establish a relationship with Jesus, a close fellowship, a love relationship, which is why he came.  Jesus came to be “with us”, not in a temple, not in a manuscript, not in the heavens watching down on us, but to be “with us” every day in everything that we do.  Jesus came to save us from our sins, but also to establish a relationship with us and fellowship with us every day.

So as we look at the beauty and majesty of the Christmas story, let’s think about “what’s in a name?”.  Jesus’ name signifies what He does and who He is.  As our Savior, he came to redeem us back to God when there was absolutely no other way to do so.  As Emmanuel, “God with us”, Jesus reminds us that he lives in us, that He is with us each and every day of our lives, with us during the good times and bad, and leads us into paths of righteousness and good living.

If Christmas for you is only gifts and presents and money and shopping, then you are missing out on the best gift.  Jesus is the best gift, the only gift that keeps on giving, the only gift that delivers for you peace and joy and happiness and health and prosperity and satisfaction and eternal life.  If you haven’t received the gift of Jesus, then this Christmas, open the best gift.  Accept Jesus as YOUR savior, the one that can redeem you to God and save you from your sins, the one who can give you eternal life, the one that can give your life purpose and value and success, the only one that can give you peace.  And, accept Jesus as YOUR Emmanuel, your “God with us”, the one that lives in you and directs you and guides you and gives you joy and happiness and protects you and comforts you.

What’s in a name?  My name, Gregory, might not mean much.  It’s just a name, but it tells who I am.  Quinn, my surname, tells who I belong to, what family I am in, where I came from, my heritage.  Your name might have more significance, as you may be named after someone famous, or your great-grandfather, or something else.  Your surname may come from families with royal blood or great wealth or importance.  Or you may just be a regular Joe.

But the name of Jesus, the only name given under Heaven through which man can be saved, the Savior, the Christ, the Messiah, the Bread of Life, the Living Water, the Word which was from the beginning, Jesus’ name has huge significance.  His name means that he is MY Savior, and MY Lord, and My Comforter, and MY peace, and MY helper, and He has redeemed me from MY sins.  Jesus as “God with us” is MY comfort and MY joy and MY healer and MY friend.  And, Jesus Christ the Emmanuel can be the same for YOU.

This year, think about the name of Jesus, it’s significance, it’s purpose, and how this one name can change your life.  If you haven’t yet unwrapped the best gift, the gift of a relationship with Jesus, do so this year.

What’s in a name?  A lot.

God bless, and Merry Christmas.

Greg Quinn