When news comes of the birth of a baby, it seems that there are three “essential” details. If a man hears the announcement, the likelihood is that he won’t pick up on all of these and will be sent back by his wife to find out the gender and the name “. . . and don’t forget the weight”.
Unlike most other births, when Jesus was born two out of these three important details were already known. In fact, they had been known for hundreds of years.
The prophet Isaiah had spoken of a coming Saviour who would be looked for by the people of Israel and called their Messiah. Isaiah, and the people who listened, could not have known that it would be 700 years before the prophecy would be fulfilled.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6 ESV)
The child was going to be a Son, so clearly the gender was revealed. No need for blue balloons or party poppers in Bethlehem.
The name was also given: “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”. It may seem a bit of a mouthful, but the significance of His name had nothing to do with parental preference or “flavour of the month” type choices. Mary and Joseph had no part to play in deciding the name of the baby born in Bethlehem. His name had been revealed long ago to a prophet and recorded in Holy Scripture.
What’s in a name anyway?
The famous Shakespearean play, Romeo and Juliet, posed that very question. In Act 2 Scene 2, Juliet tells Romeo that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention; she loves the person called ‘Montague’, not the Montague name or the Montague family.
“‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy; thou art thyself though, not a Montague. What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man. O, be some other name! What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”
It is very different in the Bible. Names have significance and are not only a means of identification. They cannot be discarded in the way Juliet asks Romeo to “Deny thy father, and refuse thy name”. Jesus was to be called names which revealed His character and mission on earth.
In this short series we will consider whether Jesus lived up to His ancient names.