When the King Came: Stories from the Four Gospels - George Hodges

The King's Name

A week went by after the night when the King came, and the day arrived when he should be given a gift which he would keep all the rest of his life. You know what I mean. Many gifts are given to little new babies, some of which they play with till they are torn or broken all to pieces; a few, like spoons and cups, last a long time; but this gift lasts always, and the child carries it with him wherever he goes, even when he becomes a man; and never loses it, no matter what may happen to him. This gift is his name.

The naming of a child is therefore a matter of such importance that people may properly make a great occasion of it. In those days it was the custom to pray God to bless the child, much as we do now at baptism. The neighbors and the cousins came together, as they did at the naming of little John, the son of Zacharias and Elisabeth, and there was much rejoicing.

It was time, then, to name the King, who had been laid in the manger; though he lay no longer in the manger. They had, no doubt, found a better lodging for him. Far from home as they were, there would be some interested neighbors to come in. The shepherds would be there. And for cousins, it is quite likely that Zacharias and Elisabeth came, bringing their little boy, the King's herald, now six months old. There was no question as to the name; no need to decide between this good name and that. The angel had told Mary at the beginning what the child should be called; saying, "Thou shalt call his name Jesus."

Now, Jesus was a very common name. One would think that a name which came straight from heaven, brought by an angel, would be uncommonly beautiful; or at least quite new, such as no mortal had borne since the world began. For example, as St. Matthew suggests, the King might have been called Emmanuel, which means God with us. But the fact is that there were other children by the name of Jesus. It was a plain, ordinary name, like John or James.

The reason why it was so common is that it had been the name of a celebrated general; as boys are sometimes called now after the heroes of the wars. This general is known to us under the name of Joshua. You remember about him: how he led the army of Israel into the Promised Land, and drove out the people who lived there, fighting brave battles and settling the country, like William the Conqueror. There were two ways of spelling his name. Sometimes they spelled it J-o-s-h-u-a, and sometimes they spelled it J-e-s-u-s. Thus it is spelled once in the second way in the eighth verse of the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. One was the Hebrew spelling, the other was the Greek: that is the only difference.

For the King had come to be like us, and to live the same life which we live. He did not wish to take a strange name, nor even a royal name, different from us.

And Joshua was a good man to be named for; because the King had come to fight hard battles and to lead us against strong enemies and finally to settle us in the Kingdom of Heaven. You know that when little children are baptized, and the minister says, "Name this child," and the child is given a name, then the minister says, "We receive this child into the congregation of Christ's flock; and do sign him with the sign of the cross, in token that hereafter he shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully to fight under his banner against sin, the world and the devil; and to continue Christ's faithful soldier unto his life's end." Thus we are all soldiers, striving for the right.

Moreover, the name Jesus means Saviour. It stands for the whole purpose for which the King came,—to save us from our sins.