By Joel Hess
On January 1st many Christians celebrate the circumcision and naming of Jesus as recorded in Luke 2:21. It rings ironic to celebrate such a transgression on someone’s individual rights; naming said individual and taking a knife to his genitalia. But as my friend, the Rev. Koch said, “The church can be a dangerous place.”
I will focus on the naming part of the holy day so you may enjoy your holiday treats. What is in a name? The peasantry name their kids so frivolously these days. Throw a y in Kevin and a parent believes he has created a unique individual ex nihilo. Names have become like graffiti. They are almost sad bursts in a vast and busy universe exclaiming ‘j’existe’. We are all artists.
Why were you named? Why did you choose the name you did for your progeny? Did you choose a name due to its meaning or did you select it for acoustic or visual delight. I named my second son, Samuel, because I love Coleridge, Barber, and the prophet, but to be honest I also like the way it looks on paper, all duck dynasty manly like.
God gave man the opportunity to name the animals. And man named his wife. Though we do not see where God named Adam “Adam.” Though he did come from adamah. Hmmm.
Why did God choose the name Jesus from an infinite – though not infinite to Him – selection of sounds?
Did he choose the perfect arrangement of sounds to be divinely pleasing to the ear or is He a boring utilitarian? Frank Lloyd’s Wright’s chairs are beautiful but I wouldn’t sit in one for more than a snapchat. Therefore are they chairs at all? Plato? Aristotle?
Turns out God is a bore. He chose the name because it means – YHWH saves. It doesn’t just mean that, it actually says that. However, not only is the name not unique in scripture – see Joshua who led Israel into the Promised Land, but every other male in Israel at the time was named Jesus! Maybe I exaggerate.
“Hey I’m the messiah!” “So am I!”
Seriously though think about it? The most important man to ever be born, through whom the universe was made was given a common name!
For some time now thinkers and tinkerers have been debating the relation between words and meaning. Are sounds just random utterances that a community arbitrarily attaches to an object? What came first words or their correlating reality? God said, ‘light’ before there was light.
Jesus and the apostles frequently ascribe power to His name. Does that mean the very sounding out of syllables causes waves in the universe? Or must one mean the right meaning, the right Jesus? So to say, ‘in the name of Jesus’ is powerless if you are thinking of Jesus Montero, catcher for the Yankees.
Ahh, but the name Jesus, the divine idea, Word, wisdom, is soaked in blood; in the circumcision, in the cross. He indeed saves. He does exactly what His name proscribes.
At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow! It is uttered with reverence by even the angels.
The person gives power to the sounds as they are spoken – music to our ears. A totally common name – everyone’s name as Jesus became the everyman – is vaulted to the highest of names. We will forever call Him Jesus, not just now but in our resurrected bodies with our resurrected lips.