Thursday

01 January 2015

“After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (v. 21)

Psalm: Psalm 8


Background

We seem to be working backwards after Sunday's passage but the reason that these verses are chosen for today is that 1 January is kept as the Festival of the Naming of Jesus. Luke's Gospel records that, in conformity to the Jewish tradition, the baby of Bethlehem was circumcised and given his name on the eighth day of his life. Why both Genesis (Genesis 17:12) and Leviticus (Leviticus 12:3) prescribe the eighth day is not known: perhaps there was a sense that the fragile new life was secure after surviving the first week or perhaps it was only after a week that was a reminder of the seven days of Genesis 1 that it seemed appropriate to mark out one of God's chosen people from the rest of humankind.

We can note three significant points about the naming of Jesus:

  • Luke's Gospel reminds us that this was not a name chosen by Joseph and Mary but given by God before the baby was conceived (Luke 1:31): this ceremony, therefore, accords with God's purposes.
  • What those purposes are is implied in the name. Jesus is a Greek form of the Hebrew name 'Joshua' which means 'The Lord saves'. The name has echoes both of the successor to Moses who established the people in their promised land and a mysterious figure in the book of Zechariah who symbolised a new future after the exile.
  • However, 'Jesus' or 'Yeshua' would have been a common name in 1st-century Palestine. The message of the incarnation for Luke's Gospel is about the identification of the Son of God with ordinary people.


To Ponder

  • Do you know the meaning of your first (or Christian) name? Does it matter what your name signifies? Why?
  • In Spanish-speaking countries many boys are still named 'Jesus'. Do you find that odd? Or does it say something helpful about Jesus being one of us? What are your thoughts?


Bible notes author:  The Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler 

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