I once worked in a factory making typewriter ribbons. We made regular spools which retailed for 25 cents each. The same spools were wrapped in gold foil, placed in a gold box and sold for $2.50. People bought the name, a name which meant nothing. It was a deception. The same is true of many products on the market, we think that a name means something but it may be deception. The whole world is filled with such deceit, both in the private and public sectors. We learn not to trust one name and move on to another seeking a name that we can trust. Eventually, we learn that there is only one name that we can trust, and it’s not a name in politics or in the market.
We must learn how important and blessed the name of Jesus is. It means saved from all our troubles, help when there is no help, rescue when there is none, real liberation when all the false liberation promised by this world fails. It means real freedom that no other can provide, freedom from the consequences of all our collective wrongdoing, and it means freedom from death. No other name deserves such honor and respect.
My plan is to show how only the name of Jesus is the one we can put our trust in, how two Joshua’s in the Old Testament gave us clues to Jesus’ mission, and how his circumcision relates to our circumcision of heart. Only he can save us from the terrible consequences of our collective bad decisions, why we should honor the holy name of Jesus.
1. In the Name of Jesus
Jesus was named as an infant (Luke 2:15-21). So what does it mean when we pray, “in the name of Jesus?” There is no single account of a prayer in the New Testament using that phrase in a prayer. We can pray in the name of Jesus without a rote phrase. Saying the phrase is not wrong, but it can lose its meaning, degenerating to a mere signal that a prayer is over. How then can we pray in Jesus’ name as he said (John 16:22-27)? The word for name also means reputation, authorization, power behind the name, in honor of and even for the sake of the person named. When we pray in Jesus’ name, we are praying in honor of the most sacred name, with his full approval and in awe of his most wonderful reputation. (Reference: Friberg, Timothy, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller. Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament. Baker's Greek New Testament Library. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000. BibleWorks, v. 3.5.)
2. Jesus & Joshua
Jesus (Iesous) is from Greek for Joshua (Jeshua, Jehoshua). There were two men named Joshua whose lives were forerunners of Jesus Christ. It was under Joshua the son of Nun that Israel conquered 31 cities in the land of Canaan beginning around 1400 BC. Jesus (Luke 2:15-21) was given a name which means “God saves” because he was born to save each one of us (Matthew 1:20-23). We cannot save ourselves from death, but Jesus can if we let him. Joshua leading Israel into the Promised Land is symbolic of Jesus leading the saved into eternal life. A lesser known Joshua in the Bible, Joshua the son of Jozadak was the first person named as high priest after Israel returned from national captivity in Babylon (Haggai 1). Jesus is our high priest who offered himself (Hebrews 8:3-5). (References: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen; The Oxford History of the Biblical World. 1998. Oxford University Press; http://www.biblearchaeology.org; http://www.orthodoxytoday.org)
3. Circumcision of Jesus
Like most Jewish boys, Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 2:15-21). We may think of it as a bloody practice and that opinion is not new. Over three thousand years ago, Zipporah accused her husband Moses of being a bloody man because of their son’s circumcision (Exodus 4:24-26). Some may even believe that it is a primitive practice that society should outgrow. Yet, modern scientific and medical research continues to show how far advanced the ancients were in this regard. The World Journal of Urology  concluded that positive benefits include decreased risk of HIV infection. Web MD  suggests that circumcision provides a 50% reduction in HIV transmission, threefold reduction in HPV infections which can cause cervical cancer, reduced syphilis and chlamydia, about 10 times less infant urinary tract infections, and virtual elimination of serious penile cancers. ( World Journal of Urology, Male circumcision and HIV infection risk, John N. Krieger, Department of Urology, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA, Springer-Verlag 2011;  http://men.webmd.com/guide/circumcision-decision-weighing-risks-benefits)
4. Circumcision of the Heart
Although Jesus was circumcised as an infant (Luke 2:15-21) he gave no command for Christians to be circumcised in the flesh. Yet, the Old Testament spoke of a circumcision of the heart (Deuteronomy 10:15-17; 30:5-7; Jeremiah 4:3-5) which applies to both old and new covenants. God uses outward things for a lesson about more important inner things. What happens when someone is circumcised in the heart? Physical circumcision pictured what God really wants, a change in heart and soul, a different attitude (Romans 2:28-29). This is a focus on the things of the Spirit, not the letter of the law. We look to praise from God and not human beings. Belonging to a church or a special ethnic group does not impress God as much as a heart that loves him and our fellow humans.
5. Saved from Terrible Consequences
Jesus (Luke 2:15-21) was so named because he would save people from sin (Matthew 1:20-23). Wrongdoing has consequences both now and forever. Having false gods causes us to rely on things that cannot rescue us from calamity. Idolatry causes people to look in the wrong direction for help. Misusing the name of the Lord causes us to take the only one who can help lightly. Not taking a day of rest causes stress and early death. Dishonoring our parents causes broken families, poverty and crime. Murder destroys families and neighborhoods. Adultery breaks marriages and families, and spreads distrust and disease. Theft takes away the peace and security of our neighborhoods. Bearing false witness fills the land with false advertising and distrust. Coveting causes crime and war. Only Jesus can rescue us from the consequences of our bad decisions.
6. Holy Name of Jesus
Jesus was named when he was an infant (Luke 2:15-21). It means “Jehovah [God] is salvation.” Salvation is liberation or help from God. Jesus would save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:20-23). His name would be the hope of the whole world (Matthew 12:15-21). The disciples complained about those who healed in Jesus’ name without authority, but Jesus said not to stop them. Anyone doing a miracle in his powerful name is on our side (Mark 9:38-40). The Catholic Society of the Holy Name is a fraternity that prays for those who blaspheme the name Jesus. In Greek Jesus’ name is Ἰησοῦς [capitalized ΙΗΣΟΥΣ] pronounced yay-soos. The first three letters capitalized in Greek were a common abbreviation for Jesus ΙΗΣ. In our English alphabet, those letters are written IHS, letters used to decorate churches everywhere.
Let us learn to appreciate, honor and revere the holy name of Jesus and let us teach others to do the same. There is only one name that we can trust, and it’s not a name in politics or in the market. No name other than the name of Jesus deserves to be treated with such honor and respect.