Joseph and Mary got their son’s name wrong.
…or did they?
One of the things that have always made me wonder is Jesus’ name. In Isaiah’s prophecy about the Virgin giving birth, Isaiah is clear that the boy’s name is to be Emmanuel, God-with-us. Yet when the Angel—we presume it’s Gabriel—appears to Joseph in a dream, he says that “you are to name him Jesus.”
So…what happened? Did the Father get his memos confused? Did Gabriel get the wrong stack of notes to pass on? Was he supposed to say that John was supposed to be named Jesus, and Jesus was supposed to be named Emmanuel and Abraham was supposed to be renamed Chuck?
Names are incredibly important. And they are thought-out, purposeful, and are laden with meaning. Why did Isaiah name the Messiah one thing and the Angel name him another?
Admittedly, I haven’t done too much research on this topic, but I would like to make this proposal: that the two names refer to aspects of Jesus. “Emmanuel” is who the Son of God is. “Jesus” is what the Son of God does.
“Emmanuel” means “God-with-us”. By his birth, God is with us in a substantial way. Jesus laughed and cried, danced and sang. There was not one experience that Jesus did not have. Jesus had the full human experience. Thus, Jesus is always with us. We can fully relate to Jesus because he too cried, felt sad, laughed, was angry and was happy. Moreover, Jesus is Emmanuel by virtue of the Eucharist. We have taken him in, Emmanuel is inside us, always within us, always accompanying us on our journey. Jesus is Emmanuel. It is who the Son of God is.
“Jesus” is what the Son of God does. Jesus means “God saves.” By virtue of his passion, death and resurrection, Jesus had given us a path in which we can see our Father face to face. Jesus had provided a road in which we can unite our very selves to God.
Moreover, we remember that “Jesus” is a derivative of “Joshua”. Joshua was Moses’ number two in the desert. It eventually fell on Jacob to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. So what did Joshua do? He led armies that conquered the other nations that have taken over the land. He proportioned the lands of the twelves tribes. He was a leader of the people and effectively, saw the fulfillment of a promise made long ago. …sound familiar?
Jesus led his new people into the new land of milk and honey, the New Jerusalem. He had promised us land in heaven. Not only did he fulfill the Mosaic and Davidic covenants, he provided for a new covenant, using the Blood of the Lamb.
Jesus fulfills. Jesus saves.
“Emmanuel” is who the Son of God is. “Jesus” is what the Son of God does.
Merry Christmas to you all.