“What Shall We Name the
Dr. Jeffrey K. Boer
[Cf. John Murray’s Collected Writings, Vol. III, p 178 and Jay
Adams’s More Than Redemption, Ch. 5]
Before we discuss the Name that was given to Jesus, and the way that He
received His name, I want to give you a little bit of information about His
parents, Joseph and Mary.
We don’t know much about Joseph, other than the fact that he wasn’t
wealthy, and that he was a carpenter. We know that he was a man of
good character. He obviously was upset when he found out that the woman to
whom he was engaged to be married was pregnant. But he immediately
obeyed the Lord in everything the Lord told him to do regarding Mary and
Jesus. It’s speculated that Joseph probably died when Jesus was a young boy, since there’s no further mention of him after the early chapters of Luke’s Gospel.
Mary, on the other hand, is spoken of in numerous Scripture passages.
Of course, there are some false ideas floating around about Mary as
well. Many people today go so far as to worship Mary, or at least
venerate her as a special saint with powers that others don’t have. Some teach that Mary, as the mother of God, was a virgin when the Holy Spirit conceived in her (which she was), and that she remained a virgin after the birth of Christ as well (which she did not). The doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity is taught nowhere in Scripture.
Many even pray to Mary, thinking that, being a woman and a mother, she’ll
be more understanding and more compassionate, even, than Jesus Christ. The theory is that she might be able to influence her Son in a way that we
can’t if we pray to Him directly. The famous “Hail Mary” prayer that’s
prayed over and over again while fingering Rosary beads is a prayer to
To worship or pray to Mary, is, of course, idolatry. Such practices are nowhere encouraged in Scripture. In fact, Mary’s own son, Jesus
Christ, says, in Matthew 4:10, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” Prayer is a part of that worship that we must bring to God alone.
Another false doctrine that many believe about Mary is the immaculate conception. That’s the idea that Mary was not conceived and born in sin, like the rest of us, but was sinless, just like Jesus Christ. There are no Scripture grounds to support such teaching, and there are many Scriptures which teach that there is no one who is sinless, except the Son of God.
We all believe in the immaculate conception of Jesus Christ, but nowhere do the Scriptures teach that Mary was spotless and sinless from her earliest
Usually those who hold to this view just can’t believe that Jesus could
have been born of a sinful woman. But the Scriptures are quite clear in
their teaching that Jesus Christ is the only sinless One. The Scriptures are also quite clear that even though Christ was born of a sinful human being, He had no sin Himself.
Such a birth was a very humbling and humiliating thing for the Son of God. Just think, God the Son, the Holy, spotless one,
placed Himself inside a sinful human being! What love! What sacrifice! To set aside His glory and majesty to be born of sinful flesh. And all for the sake of those He loved and came to save: sinful men and women.
So why do you suppose God chose Mary to give birth to Jesus Christ? Was it
because she was more holy and righteous than every other woman living at
that time? We know, from Scripture, that Mary was a very devout
But Mary wasn’t perfect. She was subject to human frailty and sin
just like anyone else.
Mary was apparently even in agreement with Jesus’ brothers at one point
in thinking that Jesus was “out of His mind.” Mark 3:20-21 says, “Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his
Then, just a little later, in vv. 31-35 we read, “Then Jesus’ mother and
brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.’ ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever
does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’”
Now before we go any further, I should mention, at this point, that Jesus is
here said to have brothers. That’s sort of difficult to accomplish if Mary remained a perpetual virgin!
I know some people argue that these brothers must have been “step
brothers.” They argue that Mary must have married someone else after
Joseph died and that that person probably already had children by a
previous marriage. But there’s not a word of any of this speculation in Scripture. It’s all a pure fabrication, developed in order to try to protect the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity, a doctrine which is nowhere taught
in all of Scripture!
If the Scriptures were truly concerned to protect the doctrine of Mary’s
perpetual virginity, you’d think the Scriptures would teach that doctrine somewhere, somehow! And you’d also think, since the Scriptures
mention Jesus having brothers, if the Scriptures were concerned to teach that Mary was a perpetual virgin, then they would also give some clarification as to how Jesus could have other brothers while Mary remained a virgin!
No, the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary was never taught in
Scripture, for one simple reason: There was a need for Mary to be a virgin before the Holy Spirit conceived in her, as proof that Jesus was born of God.
He was not conceived by a human father but by God, the Holy Spirit. After Christ’s birth, there was no longer any need for Mary to remain a virgin. It’s
This doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity was devised by those who think
that sex is somehow sinful. Since they want to believe that Mary was
somehow sinless, then it follows that she must have never had sex with
But that’s just plain ridiculous. Sex, in and of itself, is not sinful. The Bible clearly states, in Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” Sex within marriage is pure and righteous.
Now, to get back to the passage where Jesus’ mother and brothers thought
he was crazy, and where Jesus says, those who obey Him are His mother
and brothers. Jesus wasn’t renouncing His blood mother or His blood brothers there. They still remained His blood mother and His blood brothers.
But He was emphasizing the fact that there was a more important relationship to Him than that of blood. The covenant bond with Christ is a bond that
supersedes all other bonds, including the bonds of blood and marriage.
We also know, from Mary’s own lips, that she saw herself as a sinner in
need of God’s grace and salvation.
In Luke 1:46-47 we read, “46 And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the
Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.’”
If Mary was sinless, she wouldn’t need a Savior!
So God didn’t choose Mary to be the mother of Jesus because she was
sinless, or because she was such a wonderful person. God doesn’t choose to
pour out His grace and special favors on people because they’re so
wonderful or so righteous. In fact, He often chooses the weak things
and the despised things to show the greatness of His own grace and glory.
So God didn’t choose Mary because she was the best and most wonderful
human being He could find to give birth to the Son of God. He chose Mary because she was the best instrument, in God’s providential plan, to show us His grace and undeserved favor to sinful mankind. She was simply the one
whom God had planned, from all eternity, to bring our Savior into the
world. She was an ordinary, sinful, young woman.
In Luke 1:28, listen to what the angel Gabriel says to Mary. He says, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Most people think that means that the angel is praising Mary for her good
character. But notice, he does not say, “Greetings, you who are deservedly chosen by God!” No, he says, “you...are highly favored.”
In other words, “You are greatly blessed by God’s grace today, because ‘The
Lord is with you.’” He’s implying, “How fortunate you are, Mary, of all women, that such great love and such a great gift to mankind has been selected to come through you, an ordinary, poor teenager, a nobody!
You are ‘highly favored!’” In other words, “God has done you a great favor in choosing you!”
But is the angel Gabriel’s message only for Mary? Is she the only “highly favored” one in this incarnation of the Son of God?
Certainly not! You see, because of the fact that Mary is an ordinary person and a sinner, no different from any of us, there’s a sense in which Mary represents the whole church of Jesus Christ.
All humankind who are in Christ are “highly favored” in that God has become flesh to dwell with us, with sinful men, in humble circumstances, as Immanuel, which means, “God with us.” All of us, then, can join in with
Mary in what’s known as, “Mary’s Song,” in Luke 1:46ff. We can all sing, “My soul praises the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty one has done great things for me...”
Notice that Mary does not say, “I have done great things for Him.” When Mary says “all generations will call me blessed,” she wasn’t saying all generations would think how wonderful she was, or how all generations would venerate her. Her whole point here is that she was graciously and
highly blessed by God. The whole point of her song is to exalt God, not to exalt Mary! I’m sure Mary would be horrified to see all the people in the
world today worshipping her and praying to her!
How is it, then, that all of us can sing the Song of Mary, full of rejoicing? Why all this rejoicing? Why should you and I, like Mary, get excited at the thought of God being born of a sinful, human being?
Our text in Matthew 1:21 tells us. This verse, too, is for all of us, not just for
The angel Gabriel says, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name JESUS, BECAUSE he will SAVE his people from their sins.”
I wonder how much thought God the Father put into naming His baby? Jeannie and I thought for years about what we’d name our kids. When
you give a child a name that’s going to be with him for the rest of his
life, you want to pick a name that’s just right.
When royalty choose a name for their children, even more thought goes into choosing just the right name. I’m sure when Charles and Diana first got married and had a son, they spent a lot of time in picking out the many different names of their son, because the name of a firstborn prince is
But how do you choose a name for the Son of God?! What name is worthy
of the Messiah, the Lord of lords and King of kings? What name could possibly fit such a person? What name can you give to the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace?
God had all eternity to choose just the right name for His Son (not that He
needed all that time to make up His mind). God chose a name that was very
precious to Him and very fitting for His only begotten Son. God didn’t want Joseph and Mary to choose a different name, so He had the angel Gabriel specifically tell Mary what the child should be named. Then, He told Joseph also. God was the Father of this child so God wanted to make sure that this baby got the name that He chose. So Gabriel said, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.”
The name, Jesus, means, Savior.
Did you ever try to think of a name that would be unique for your child alone? A name that would be exclusively your child’s name and no one
Well that’s what God did. God gave His Son a name that truly fit, a name that truly described only one Person in all the world.
It’s true that there are many other people in this world who are named, “Jesus,” or, “Hey-SOOS,” in Spanish. And it’s not wrong to name
a child, “Jesus.” It’s a beautiful name. In fact, the name, “Joshua,” also means, “Savior,” and there are lots of Joshuas in this world.
Many names, both in Scripture and today, have reference back to God. My
name, “Jeffrey,” actually means “God’s peace.” And there were people named, “Jesus,” and “Joshua,” in Bible times as well.
For example, in Colossians 4:11, Paul writes, “11 Jesus, who is called
Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me.”
In Acts 13:6-7, we read of another “Jesus” on the Island of Cyprus. It says, “6 They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos.
There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus 7 who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus.”
In Aramaic, the prefix, “Bar,” means, “Son of.” So “Bar-Jesus,” means, “Son
In fact, it’s even quite possible that Barabbas, which means, “Son of the
Father,” was also called “Jesus.” A few manuscript copies of the NT read as
follows in Matthew 27:16-17, “16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas [which means, “Jesus, Son of the Father”]. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”
In other words, Pilate was asking, “Which Jesus do you want me to
release? Jesus, the Son of the Father, or Jesus who is called Messiah?”
In any case, we know that Jesus Christ wasn’t the first person to have
the name, “Jesus,” nor was He the last.
The point, however, is this: Jesus Christ was the only person in all the world Who actually lived up to the Name, “Jesus.”
The angel Gabriel said, “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he
will save his people from their sins.”
He is the Savior of men. Only the Christ or Messiah, Who is both God and man, could be the Savior of men.
Isaiah 43:11 says, “I, even I, am the LORD (Yahweh), and apart from me, there is no Savior.”
Of course that means that if Jesus is Savior, then Jesus is also the LORD
God! He is Yahweh God!
Men have looked to other men to be their savior ever since OT times. The
Philistines looked to Goliath for salvation. They thought that he was their savior. And God said (to use Bill McKee’s loose paraphrase), “I will use a little skinny-armed sheepherder, David, to destroy this overgrown amplifier,
Isaiah 45:21 says, “There is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me.”
So if Jesus is, indeed, the Savior of men, then Jesus is also God.
The OT prophets of Baal thought that Baal was their God and Savior. They
tried and tried to get Baal to “bail” them out of a jam on Mt. Carmel. They prayed and yelled and danced and cut themselves with knives, to get Baal to send fire from heaven, all to no avail. NOTHING HAPPENED! Not even a
Then Elijah, the prophet of God, soaked the offering with barrel after barrel of water, even filling a trench full of water around the offering. He then prayed one, short, simple prayer, and God answered immediately and whoosh – the fire came down! This was no challenge for the Almighty God of Scripture!
All He had to do was give a little snort from His nostrils. He didn’t even have to open His mouth, just a little “hmnth,” and fire came down and consumed
I Kings 18:38-39 describes it this way, “38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD – he is God! The LORD – he is God!”
And all the prophets of Baal were destroyed.
In Hosea 13:4, God says, “You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Savior except me.”
Jesus is the only One with that exclusively Divine power of a Savior. Of Him, Acts 4:12 says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other
name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Jesus is the only Lord and Savior. Yet, when we’re afraid to obey God because we fear certain consequences of obedience, when we compromise our morals just to avoid pain or problems, or merely to seek our own happiness, then we’re turning to another Savior. When we lie to bail ourselves out of a jam, we turn to ourselves as our own Savior. When we do something for our employers or anyone else that should not be done, in order to bail ourselves out of debt, we’re turning to those people or to those means as our Savior.
When we allow someone else to take the rap in order to save our own necks, we seek to make them our Savior. When we go outside our own marriage to fulfill our sexual or emotional needs, we make those illicit relationships to be
But our text says, “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he
will save his people from their sins.”
Jesus, the only Savior, is the only One Who can save us.
And the text says, He saves “his people from their sins.”
If you acknowledge Jesus as the only Savior, He’ll save you from your
How? Two ways.
First of all, He saves you from the penalty of sin, by taking upon
Himself that penalty. He suffered the full wrath of God against the
sins of His people on the cross.
Second, He saves you from the power of sin, by giving you His Holy Spirit to dwell in you.
If you have Jesus as your Savior, you don’t need to be afraid to obey God. You needn’t fear, no matter what the consequences, since your Savior will
You see, every sin is, in a certain sense, turning to Satan to bail you out
of a jam. To avoid some pain or some inconvenience, to satisfy some
desire, to remove some discomfort or to avoid an uncertain future, we’re
often tempted to disobey God. Satan says, “I’ll save you that discomfort or that inconvenience. I’ll save you having to worry about the future. I’ll satisfy
that need or that desire for you. I’ll save you!”
But God said to Mary, “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he
will save his people from their sins.”
And He truly does save us, both from the penalty and from the power of sin. So don’t turn, in sin, to other saviors. There’s only one Savior. Those who put their trust in Him will never be disappointed in the end.