The Holy Name of Jesus

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time


The Holy Name of Jesus

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“Jesus” represents the Greek (and Latin) form of the Hebrew name Yeshua, a very common name among Jews in antiquity. Until the exile, the longer form Yehoshua was used, which appears in the English Bible as Joshua.

In Judaism a new-born baby boy is circumcised when he is 8 days old. This is understood as the sign of the first covenant between God and Abraham and his descendants. (Genesis 17:11-13), Jesus was Jewish and therefore this ceremony was performed when he was 8 days old. A few significant events occured at Jesus circumcision. A child was normally named at birth, and the name may have been linked with this occasion, much as infant baptism is often supposed to include a naming ceremony. In the case of both John the Baptist and Jesus they deviated from the norm and named the child differently to what had been expected. God had chosen their names in advance. Then in Jesus case Simeon prophesied over Jesus, he knew who he held in his arms.

The origin of the name Jesus is drawn out, not in the story in Luke, but in the account in Matthew of the annunciation to Joseph of Jesus’ birth, “for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The Hebrew, Yeshua, was thought to mean “The Lord (Yah) saves.” Its significance will have been evident to Jews, and indeed to those who heard Jesus himself preach salvation. But the angel refers not to political salvation like that gained through the leadership of the first Joshua (Apocrypha: Ecclesiasticus 46:1); Jesus will save his people, yes, but he will save them from their sins. It will be in fulfilment of the psalmist’s promise that “the Lord will redeem you from all your many sins” (Psalm 130:8); our relationship with God will be restored. Indeed, at the time of Jesus, it was expected that the Davidic messiah would establish a “holy people”, i.e., the house of Israel set free from its sins. Matthew makes the links of Jesus to the line of David very clear.

There is power in the Name of Jesus, he taught that if you pray in his name, you gain his attention, his presence and his authority.

“In solemn truth I tell you, anyone believing in me shall do the same miracles I have done, and even greater ones, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask him for anything, using my name, and I will do it, for this will bring praise to the Father because of what I, the Son, will do for you.– John 14:12,13

In Acts you see the disciples healing the sick and bringing the dead back to life using only the power of Jesus name. The power of the Holy Spirit accessed through the name of Jesus is still the mightiest power in the universe.