What’s in a Name?


Jesus Christ’s various prophetic names were to reveal to us the depth of his character and his roles in coming to earth.

Matthew 1:20-23

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 Walter Matthau’s real name is Walter Matuschanskayasky? What if the singer Tina Turner had used her real name—Annie May Bullock? Would John Denver’s career have been different if radio deejays had used his actual name, Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr? Would Kirk Douglas’ cowboy persona have seemed the same if “Issur Danielovitch” (his real name) had appeared in the movie ads?

If we had never known these media stars by any other than their real names we would still have grown to appreciate their talents. But the fact that people change their names to change their image presents a stark contrast to the truth concerning God’s presence with us. It is one thing to change your name in order to change your identity. It is quite another to simply translate your name in order to reveal your identity. The former is what image-conscious people do; the latter is what Immanuel-conscious writers of the Bible did.

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 translated into English means “God with us.” The promise to Isaiah was to give hope to a decimated nation. God would personally be in their midst when the sign was fulfilled. And fulfilled it was when a virgin named Mary gave birth to a son a few hundred years later. God spoke again, this time to Mary’s husband (though not the father of the child), saying that the birth of the virgin-born child was to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy. God had come to dwell with man.

Jesus Christ’s various prophetic names were to reveal to us the depth of his character and his roles in coming to earth. “Immanuel” affirms the fundamental truth about who he is: God with us. And his resurrection keeps it “present tense.” Not “God was with us,” but “God is with us”—the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).      

God’s Promise to You: “My names are not labels, they are mirrors reflecting who I am.”


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