Weekly SNAC, 11 February 2018 - What’s in a name?
Most of us know what our name means. My name – ‘Jason’ – is a name boxed in time. When you meet a ‘Jason’ you can be fairly confident they were born between 1972 and 1978. You can be almost as confident that they are some sort of nerdy geek involved in IT - but that’s a different story. The name ‘Jason’ is a Greek name meaning ‘healer’ but unless it means fixing broken computers then I don’t think that trusting in the meaning of the name is a good idea.
Last week we began our series in John’s Gospel and focussed upon the amazing incarnation of Jesus – the Word became flesh and took up his residence amongst us. Sadly, we also saw, that though God entered the world his own people largely did not receive Him. Yet some did and John 1:12 speaks about these people saying:
“….to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God,
to those who believe in His name”
Incredibly, and as we more fully discover by verse 18, believing in the name of Jesus is how God brings people into his family.
So, what does it mean to believe in Jesus’ name? John wants us to discover that more fully as we read his Gospel. The name Jesus means ‘saviour’ – but given my name means ‘healer’ and Phil’s name means ‘lover of horses’ we need more to go on. Fortunately John introduces us to many different names for Jesus in his gospel.
Just today in the rest of chapter 1 Jesus is given 7 names rich with meaning:
the Lamb of God [v25];
the Son of God [v34];
Rabbi / Teacher [v38];
the Messiah [v41];
Jesus of Nazareth [v45];
the King of Israel [v49];
the Son of Man [v51].
Going beyond chapter 1 and further into the Gospel we come across more names and titles for Jesus that he himself introduces:
I am the bread of life [6:35];
I am the light of the world [8:12];
I am the gate for the sheep [10:7];
I am the good shepherd [10:11];
I am the resurrection and the life [11:25];
I am the way, the truth, and the life [14:6];
I am the true vine [15:1].
All of these names help us to see more fully who Jesus really is. Over the coming weeks we will continue to think about each of them but it is also helpful to see them all together and to see the breadth of what is meant by believing in the name of Jesus.
Finally, it is worth noting that each of Jesus’ self-identifying names begins with the phrase “I am”. This is exactly the same phrase God used when he revealed his name to Moses in Exodus 3:14: “I AM WHO I AM”. It is no accident that the phrases Jesus uses to reveal himself actually hint to his true divinity. John made the very same point in John 1:1 - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Whilst shortcutting the phrase in v12 “believe in the name of Jesus” to simply meaning to “believe in the person Jesus” is perfectly fine, there is also a great richness in stopping to remember the breadth of who Jesus is as expressed in the names we find in John’s Gospel.
You might like to reflect upon these names yourself and read through all of John’s Gospel to remind yourself of the glory of our Saviour. Our hope, like John’s hope in John 20:31, is that this series in John’s Gospel will help us all to trust more and more in Jesus and to have the full life, as children of God, that comes by believing in His name.