What’s in a Name?
At the risk of deflating a few images, let’s look behind the screen names of some well-known entertainment personalities. Did you know that singer Tina Turner was born Anna May Bullock? Would John Denver’s career have been different if radio deejays had used his actual name, Henry John Deutschendorf Jr.? Or would Kirk Douglas’s cowboy persona have seemed the same if “Issur Danielovitch Demsky” had appeared in the movie ads?
Today’s passage tells us about an individual who had several names, all of which were prophesied hundreds of years before His birth. Rather than being intended to improve this person’s image, however, these names defined who this Promised One would be and what He would do for the world.
God spoke through the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament and said that one day a sign would be given to the world. A virgin would give birth to a son who would be called “Immanuel,” which means “God with us” (Isa. 7:14). This promise was intended to give hope to a decimated nation. When this amazing, miraculous prophecy was fulfilled, God would personally be in their midst.
A few hundred years later, a teenage virgin named Mary became pregnant. God spoke again, this time to Mary’s future husband (though not the father of the child), saying that the virgin birth of the child was to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy. Immanuel had come, and Joseph was to give the child another name, “Jesus,” which means “the Lord saves.” God had come to live on earth to save His people.
Jesus Christ’s various prophetic names (see also Isa. 9:6–7) reveal to us the depth of His character and role in coming to earth. “Immanuel” affirms the fundamental truth about who He is: God with us. “Jesus” affirms what He came to do: to become our Savior. And Jesus’ resurrection keeps the meaning behind these names in the present tense. Not “God was with us,” but “God is with us.” Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).
His names are not labels; they are mirrors that reflect who He is.