Thursday, June 9, 2011

Name Calling

Today's passage:  John 1
     I remember researching very carefully the meaning of the names I would give to my children when they were born. If I didn't like the meaning of a name, even if I liked the name itself, I reconsidered.  I remember weighing girl's names (before I found out I would be having all boys) and loving the name Lorelai.  The name means destruction.  As much as the name appealed to me, I couldn't get past the meaning, so it got tossed.  My second son's first and middle name are almost identical in meaning.  One means "warrior" and the other means "war-like". It might seem like I did this on purpose, but I really didn't. We just happened to really like the first name (in fact, it was the only name we could agree on) and the middle name was after his father. Though those name meanings may seem like I'm raising a boxer (and if you know my second son, this very well may be the case) I pray that he will be a warrior for God.  For my third son, I neglected to do the research.  We had such a difficult time choosing his name, that as soon as I found one I liked, I settled on it without thinking about looking up the meaning.  It wasn't until after he was born that I found out the meaning, and was relieved because not only did it sound delightful, but it seemed to suit him perfectly.  His name means, "Manly" and "Great and Bright".
     There are a lot of names thrown around in this first chapter of John, and I think they are important because they really give us a good idea of who Jesus really was, and who people thought He was.  God refers to Him as the Word and the Light.   He is the Word because He was at the very beginning of Creation, and He was even before that.  It was His Word that spoke the universe into existence.  When He came to earth, it was His Word that told people the way to Heaven.  God sent His Son to be heard.   Sound can travel faster than the speed of light.  A thunderstorm this morning reminds me that I often hear the thunder seconds before I see the lightning.  Jesus was also the Light.  He was sent to be seen.  He was sent to Light up this dark world.  In case, people had not heard Him, they would see Him. 
     John the Baptist calls Jesus by two names, the Son of God and the Lamb of God.  This tells us who Jesus belongs to, and what Jesus came to do.  He belonged to God the Father, and He came to sacrifice Himself, by God's design.  I also think that Lamb of God, and I don't mean this at all irreverently, speaks of Jesus being God's pet, His favorite, as in "Come sit with me, my pet (my love)."  These names show me who Jesus really is.  But there are other names given to Jesus in this passage.  Names given by men.
     Andrew had been following John the Baptist but is redirected to Jesus.  When he encounters Him for the first time, he calls Him "Rabbi".  This word was given to many teachers of the time.  The word is still in use today in the Jewish faith.  Andrew was not completely sure who Jesus was, but he wanted to be respectful.  After he visits with Jesus for a few hours, he must come to a different conclusion.  (A brief aside here--What a soulwinner Andrew was!  The passage says that Andrew "first findeth his own brother", which leads me to believe that he must have found someone second and third, in other words, he was telling everyone he could find about Christ.  Also, he goes out to get Peter and brings him to Jesus.  Too many times, we wait for people to come to us, but true soulwinning is bringing them to Him.  Okay, aside over.)  By the time Andrew tells Peter about Jesus, his name for Jesus has changed.  Now He is not just Rabbi, but the Messiah.  Spending time with Jesus can really change our view of Him, and it certainly did in Andrew's case.
     When Philip tells Nathanael about Jesus, he refers to Him as Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.  He tells Nathanael about Christ's earthly credentials.  As Nathanael goes to meet Jesus, after Jesus proves He already knows who He is, Nathanael calls Him by three names.  This is not a progression.  Nathanael reveals who he thinks Christ is by the names he calls Him.  He first calls Him "Rabbi".  Besides meaning "teacher", it can also mean "master".  Nathanael is being respectful and giving Jesus a proper earthly title.  Then he calls Him the Son of God.  He obviously realizes that there is something divine about Him since He was able to identify who he was.  Then he falters a little and calls Jesus, "King of Israel".  He can only see what the Messiah was supposed to do here on earth, make Israel a kingdom again.  I can't fault him for this.  If I were a Jew living at the time, I would have the same mindset.  Many Jews, at that time, and even today, could not see that Jesus would have His time to rule, but His first coming was not that time.  For now, He would be the Lamb of God, the sacrifice.  He would be the Light to show people the path to Heaven.  He would be the Word, the One who could tell people why He came to die.
     Names are indeed important. Sometimes they are self-fulfilling.  I hope mine will be (although I'm afraid I'm a long way off.)  Have I told you what it means?  Crowned Jewel.  Lord, I know you lived up to Your Name, help me to live up to mine.

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