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Date: January 1, 2017 (The Naming of Jesus) 1. Texts: Numbers 6:22-27; Ps. 8; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:15-21. 2. Subject: soteriology. 3. Topic: our response to God’s offer of salvation. 4. Aim: encourage, challenge to respond. 5. Proposition: “Jesus saves us, this we know—but let’s actually live it.”

 

JESUS SAVES US, THIS WE KNOW Joshua—it’s an ancient and ordinary Hebrew name. Of course, in Hebrew it’s not pronounced with a j, Joshua. It’s pronounced with a y, Yeshua or Yehoshua. Jewish families have been using this name for thousands of years, stretching back before Joshua, son of Nun, who was the successor to Moses. It’s all pretty ordinary. Until we come to a certain infant born in a stable in Bethlehem. Yes, his father called him Yeshua, too, but it wasn’t at all ordinary or commonplace. Joseph had been commanded by an angel to name the boy Yeshua.1 That doesn’t happen every day, even in Jewish families. This extraordinary event followed an even more significant one with Mary, the betrothed: The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus…Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.2 This Yeshua was not commonplace or ordinary. This Yeshua was the Son of God, Immanuel, God with us. Actually, the name Yeshua means “Yahweh—or God— saves.” But now you’re probably squirming in your seats waiting to hear how Yeshua or Yehoshua becomes Jesus. Ok, a quick lesson in historical linguistics. 1 Matthew 1:20-21. 2 Luke 1:30-31, 34-35. Page 2 of 5 -Jesus savesHebrew is not written in the same Latin-based letters that English, French, German and Spanish are. There are 22 letters, all of which are consonants, and a number of dots, dashes and symbols that are used as vowels. It looks like this: and is read from right to left, contrary to Latin, Greek, and other Indo-European languages like English. Well, the authors of the New Testament did not write in Hebrew. They wrote in Greek. So, they had to take the Hebrew letters for Yeshua, and turn them into Greek letters, Ίησους, which sound like “Yaysoos.” But that first y-sound didn’t get turned into a y in the European languages. It got turned into a j alongside names like Jerusalem, Jerome and Joseph—because many Indo-European languages pronounce initial js as y or h as in the German “ja” and the Spanish “José”. So, there you go: Yeshua becomes Yaysoos in Greek, Yaysoos in German, Hesoos in Spanish and Jesus in English. Ok? Done. But now we have to deal with the impact of extraordinary reality of this one Yeshua. You see, the infant’s name was given to him by the angel. God named this kid. The Holy Spirit conceived this kid. This Yeshua was never going to be ordinary or commonplace, no matter how we spell his name. And, since today is the feast called the Naming of Jesus in the Anglican Church, we have to figure out what this is actually going to mean for us. So, here’s the deal: Yeshua means God saves. This boy’s given name is prophetic—it proclaims the reality of God’s will for all humanity. God saves. Copy and project on screen or print on to posters. Page 3 of 5 -Jesus savesThis means, of course, that humanity needs saving. And we know that’s true: we can’t save ourselves. Even the good things we try to do can’t buy our salvation because even the good is tainted with self and the barriers we create. We need saving from ourselves—from the spiritual and moral impact of our choices. We need someone from outside ourselves who has the power to save us. That someone is God, God in human form, Jesus. It is this God who lives the life that he intended us to live, a fully just, righteous and loving life. Jesus not only shows the quality of life and love God intended, but also illustrates that such a life can be lived. Through the presence and action of the Holy Spirit—the same Spirit who conceived Jesus in the first place—we can be empowered to follow the example of Jesus and live the life God intended. So, we humans need saving and God is the one to save us. That’s the reality behind the name of Jesus. In Jesus God has saved humanity and all we need to today is accept that salvation for our own. Accepting that salvation is a matter of faith. Faith is a relationship with God marked by love, trust, self-sacrifice and surrender to the will of God. Faith is a relationship between you and God, God and you. God has already extended his love, trust, self-sacrifice and surrender to you. That’s what Jesus was all about. In faith, we respond with our own love, trust, self-sacrifice and surrender to God. ‘The first [commandment] is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’3 In love we dedicate all that we are—heart, soul, mind and body—to God so that his mission may be made complete through us. We trust God to both love and save us. We sacrifice our lives for the sake of his life as we surrender to his plan 3 Mark 12:29-31. Page 4 of 5 -Jesus savesand intent for us and our world. It is in faith that we accept God’s will to save us in Jesus. Let’s pray. Lord God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we turn to you in love, trust, self-sacrifice and surrender. We accept Jesus as our Saviour. Implant his truth, reality, gospel, mission and Spirit in our hearts. Fill us to overflowing with his presence and power, that we may live day to day in the faith for which we have been created and for which your Son was born into our world. AMEN. This prayer illustrates a necessary part of our lives as disciples—the renewal of our faith. St. Paul once wrote, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. 4 This is what we do when we turn again and again to God through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. We fulfill and must constantly fulfill that which Jesus said to Nicodemus, Jesus answered [Nicodemus], ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again from above.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born again from above.”5 Time and again we must turn to God in that two-sided relationship of love, trust, self-sacrifice and surrender. Disciples of Jesus are constantly on the route through renewal to our salvation. 4 Romans 12:2. 5 John 2:3-7. Page 5 of 5 -Jesus savesBut now that we have recommitted ourselves to loving God with all that we are and to loving our neighbours as ourselves through love, trust, self-sacrifice and surrender, we must also work on demonstrating this faith. It is never enough to say, “Jesus has saved me.” We must also live as if we have been saved. Others must be allowed to witness our salvation in Jesus. Through our words and actions we prove that Jesus has fulfilled the meaning of his name. We live and proclaim the salvation of Jesus. So we worship frequently and regularly. We pray frequently and regularly. We read Scripture. We serve the poor, lonely, frightened and oppressed. We practice hospitality and a non-judgmental acceptance of all. We give to the Church so that Jesus’ salvation might be carried beyond the walls of our buildings. We become the living gospel, a gospel that can be witnessed and experienced by those who stand outside the salvation of Jesus. We are not “born again from above” if our faith relationship does not transform how we live and move and have our being. We only demonstrate that we are “renewed by the transforming of our minds” when we proclaim Jesus’ salvation in all that we say and do. Our lives become the pictures worth a thousand words said in worship and prayer. This is what happens when you take an ordinary thing like the name Joshua and pursue it until salvation itself comes pouring out from it. You may never have heard of the Feast of the Naming of Jesus before. You may never have celebrated it before. But the divine name given to that boy in the stable challenges us to respond in faith and so live the resurrected life of Christ in the here and now. For that we can only say, “Thanks be to God.” AMEN