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What Does the Name “Jesus” Mean?

Blumhardt Bible Study

Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt


In this Plough Weekly series, we read Scripture together with Blumhardt (1842–1919), a theologian, evangelist, and pastor who inspired Barth, Bonhoeffer, and Moltmann.

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. Luke 2:21 (NRSV)

When Mary’s son was born, the angels sang a song of joy: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:14). Eight days later, the baby received the name by which humankind was to know him and call on him: Jesus.

Through the name Jesus, God reveals himself to humankind. It is not an arbitrary name chosen by humans, but rather the name that the Father in heaven gives to the Son of Man, thus designating him as his own son and introducing him to us as our brother.

“Jesus” Means “Rescuer”

The name Jesus means rescuer, healer, savior. The Father in heaven called his son a savior and made him a brother to us in order to tell us that we may be saved (Matt. 1:21).

A great darkness has overshadowed humankind since its origins – the hopelessness of the future and the certainty of death. Throughout the ages, it has been a torment to people not to know what will become of them. But now, because the Father has named this newborn child Jesus, we can be certain what lies ahead of us: we will be saved. What is more, if you wish to become a true person, you can only do so if you understand the meaning of the name Jesus. You must understand that the Father in heaven intends to secure your salvation, as well as the salvation of all humanity. The name Jesus not only preaches salvation, but also creates it.

In this age of widespread disaster and misfortune, so many people lose the light of life. Even Christians lose the understanding that the Father in heaven wants to give them: that our present life, which is beset by misfortune, will not end in defeat, but instead will lead to a new life of blessing and light. Wherever the gospel is preached in the present death-ridden world, people will be given a new wisdom. They must learn that through the name Jesus, life and salvation are promised to a dying, unhappy humankind. They must know that this world’s suffering will not have the upper hand. The Father in heaven is alive and keeps watch over all living things because they came from him; he will not allow them to be lost.

Learn to Live in the Light

At the start of this New Year, let us stand firmly together in the realization that in Jesus the light of life has risen for us (John 8:12) and that in him a promise of salvation is given that embraces the whole of humankind. This would be enough to make us a community of light in the present world. While in general, people see death and corruption when they look at earthly conditions, we will stand full of light in the midst of death and corruption, affirming life and salvation.

Although the name Jesus can give us this realization, nevertheless each of us must make an effort to keep this knowledge alive within ourselves. It is not good for you to question what God intends for you. It is an offence against the name of Jesus if you, having experienced the wiping out of your sins, begin to doubt that God wants to save you.

Do not be misled even if the world teaches something different, even if your own experience tempts you to think that God does not care about your life. You know otherwise, and must affirm: “I shall be saved” – for that is Jesus’ first teaching. Although even today Satan tries to attack this certainty of our salvation through Jesus Christ, suggesting that it is not absolutely sure, we must refuse him a hearing. Otherwise we would weave a dark strand into the gospel, a teaching of damnation rather than of salvation.

Do Not Doubt Your Salvation

For anyone who has accepted the gospel the first thing must be, “Now I am saved.” I would say that this is the oil of faith that we need to remain true to Christ. Once the Lord Jesus has gripped us with his Word, we must remain firm in our conviction: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). If this has gripped you, and you know that Jesus Christ was born, that he died for your sins, rose again, and sits on high at the Father's right hand – then know also that you will be saved.

The name Jesus teaches you this. It should teach you day by day throughout the year. Bow to the Word of God in Jesus and you will always hear only one thing: “You will be saved.” If there is confusion in my life – “Nevertheless I shall be saved.” If sins come into my life – “I shall still be saved.” If hell attacks me, and the devil comes with his temptations – “I shall still be saved.”

We have a certainty, and we will assert this against flesh and the world, against the devil and hell, and against anything that can be named: “We shall be saved, Jesus is here.” We are certain of this, because the Father in heaven told us so himself when he named his son Jesus. We don't even have to believe it – we know it. It is our foundation, it is a given, a self-evident fact: we shall be saved. Because the Father in heaven has allowed the light of the gospel to shine on us (2 Tim. 1:10), we are assured in our souls, “I shall be saved.” This is why he is called Jesus. This is why he came to earth.

Will Jesus Save All Humankind?

But there is more. We should not think only that we will be saved, with the implication that others will not be saved. Even if we don’t actually express such words of condemnation, let us not fall into indifference toward others who do not yet seem to be gripped by the gospel as we are. We have no right to harbor doubts about the world or about the souls of people in general.

The most certain thing in the Bible is that God will save the whole of humankind – yes, all of creation. Jesus, the “Rescuer,” has been born of woman and sent by the Father, yet he is the firstborn of all creation (Col. 1:15), who came as God’s eternal Word, in whom all living things have their being (John 1:1-3). And the name Jesus, which God gave him as the Alpha and Omega of creation (Rev. 22:13), proclaims that the whole of creation will be saved. God wants to bring the teaching of salvation into the world, and in this age of Jesus in which we now live, we must regard each person as someone who will be saved and must help him toward that goal.

As soon as we accept in our hearts what the name Jesus means for all creation (Mark 16:15), we will be more filled with light. We already have a certain amount of light when we are sure of our own salvation. But we shall be far more filled with light and much more powerful – more apostolic – when our spirits recognize that the name Jesus offers salvation to everyone, without asking who they are, what they do, or what sort of life they now lead. Jesus, named by God the Father, guarantees the teaching of the gospel and the proclamation of salvation to all creation; we must realize that even the lost are included in this.

Follow Moses’ Example

Far too many Christians today are blinded by contemporary events, which seem to point to mass corruption rather than to salvation. And it’s true that the more time goes on, the more the powers of sin and unbelief, death and hell, seem to ensnare humankind, whether in a subtle or crude manner, wresting them away from the teaching of the gospel.

All the more, then, must we be convinced that God really has salvation in mind for his creation. All the more must we gather up courage to oppose the demons of our time and deny them their prey. For it comes from demonic influences, not from God’s intention or desire, that humankind is perishing in body and soul. Yet the final generation shall not be one of perdition, but a people who are a blessing to all generations of the earth in the name of Jesus, who, as the seed of Abraham, are in possession of the promise (Gen. 18).

In our times much evil has arisen and still threatens, but we will not accept this and sleepily say as Eli did: “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him” (1 Sam. 3:18). No, we want to resist like Moses did, throwing ourselves into the breach in the name of God and striving for compassion and grace, patience and faithfulness for the whole of the people of Israel (Deut. 9:18). Like him, and with the same courage and the same repentance, we must proclaim the Gospel of salvation as the will of God. We will shout this out to the devil, and to all the powers of hell that accusingly proclaim the damnation of humankind, we declare: “You will not win! We know this because we know Jesus, and you must depart from the world. Humankind belongs to God and to Jesus Christ. Salvation cannot be withheld from the groaning world.”

Do Not Give Up on Anyone

We know this, for it has been revealed to us in the name Jesus; we will not permit his name to be taken away from us. It would have been different if God had wanted his Son to associate only with good people and was not concerned about the others. But nowhere does scripture describe Jesus in this way; rather it says of him, “Ask of me and I will make the nations your heritage” (Psalm 2:8). “Jesus is the first-born of all creation, the first born from the dead. In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell and through him all things were reconciled to God, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Col. 1:15-20, paraphrased).

Jesus’ incarnation connects him to all humankind, and thus the salvation promised by his name is for all humankind. We can avail ourselves of this and allow the name Jesus to enter our consciousness with fullest impact. We must never allow a contradictory teaching to arise in us. I beg of you, do not be led astray, especially in times of corruption, when sin tries to gain power, when seductions are so great! Do not allow any teaching to arise other than that of salvation; otherwise the devil will obtain power over us in the end.

If we give up on humankind, we also give up on a part of ourselves. For instance, if I think of someone else as being damned, I always feel that part of me is damned at the same time. Who can separate himself from his fellow human beings? If the person sitting next to you is to have no salvation because of his present nature, how much of your own nature will go down to hell? Or do you think that an exception will be made for certain people? God would not dream of that – he is just.

When the Kingdom Comes on Earth

I am not saying what will or will not happen on the Last Day, or whether God will have to make a cut. The last judgment is God’s concern; it is his to decide what will happen to those who still refuse salvation. All I want to say is that now, in our day, until God has come to a decision, it has been laid in our hands to bring the name of Jesus to everyone with its promise of salvation, and help people to salvation with earnest, priestly compassion. That must remain the keynote of our teaching. Whoever comes, we shall say to him or her, “You will be saved, for Jesus has come. He was named Jesus by God to be the one to represent God’s will that none be lost, and that everyone repent and live” (2 Peter 3:9).

May we be awakened to understand the name of Jesus as salvation, and the power of salvation be newly awakened in many hearts. May many souls gain the courage to stand against the whole corrupt world so that it may be won over. And we will win it over – praise God! God is faithful, and he will carry out what he has already determined.

The name of Jesus will not be glorified in letting humankind go down into corruption and millions perishing in hell, but by the fact that he is encircled by a countless multitude, all of whom he has liberated from the powers of death and sin through his might. Not one of them can say that without the right hand of the Lord, without the might of the Father, he could have been saved.

Though earthly years pass by before our eyes, still we know that in these fleeting years Jesus, the eternal Son of God, stands in the power of the living God in heaven, and is able to save all who are lost.

From Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt, Jesus ist Sieger!: 1880–1888 (Zurich: Rotapfel Verlag, 1937), no. 12, trans. Jörg Barth and Renate Barth, © 2013 The Plough Publishing House.

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Contributed By Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

A German pastor and religious socialist, Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt influenced theologians such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Eberhard Arnold, Emil Brunner, Oscar Cullman, and Karl Barth with his unconventional ideas about religion, faith, and the kingdom of God.

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