“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” (Luke 1:30–33 NLT)
As any first-year Bible student learns, Jesus was not the exact name given to Mary by the angel Gabriel. In the original Hebrew text, Jesus is instead rendered as Yeshua, a name that is derived from the Hebrew verb, yasha, which means “to save.” Through translation from Hebrew to Greek to Latin to English, Yeshua became Jesus. Yet, through his divine grace, Jesus does not refuse us entry into his Kingdom simply because the curse of the Tower of Babel continues to sow seeds of confusion in our world. Even so, it’s fascinating to see how much importance this name actually holds to the overall story of God at work in our world.
Holman Bible Dictionary points out that “the biblical concept of naming was rooted in the ancient world’s understanding that a name expressed essence.” For example, Moses (“drawn out”) was given that name because he was drawn out of the water of the Nile and he would go on to draw out his people from Egypt. In the original Hebrew, Jacob means “supplanter;” he came out of the womb grasping at his brother Esau’s heel, and he ultimately supplanted Esau’s role as the brother who received their father’s greater blessing. Repeatedly throughout the Bible, names are often indicative of what the person will accomplish; they are also used by God as a way of pointing to the larger narrative, such as when he instructs Hosea to name his children Jezreel (after the Jezreel Valley), Lo-ruhamah (“not loved”), and Lo-ammi (“not my people”) to serve as prophecy and rebuke to the people of Israel.
The name Yeshua does both: it indicates that Jesus is our salvation and it points to the larger story found throughout the Bible. Once you discover that the root word yasha is found throughout the Old Testament, it can be hard to read verses like Psalm 51:12 without thinking about Jesus: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation (yesha), and make me willing to obey you.” Jesus is salvation, and because of this, we have a place in his Kingdom that will never end.
In John 14:13–14, Jesus says if we ask for anything in his name, he will do it. Being as specific as you can, spend time in prayer, asking Jesus to bring healing to the sick, freedom to the oppressed, and rescue to those in need of salvation.