The Name of Jesus

Today is the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. Let’s think about this for a moment. Paul in Philippians says that because of His humility and obedience to God the Father, Jesus has been greatly exalted, that His name is above every other name, and that at His name, every knee should bend of those in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth (2:9-10).

Isaiah prophesied that the Savior would be called, “Emmanuel.” Emmanuel means “God with Us,” and is a reference to the Incarnation. A fitting reference for Christmas time. But Jesus means, “YHWH saves,” referring to the Unutterable name of God. Jesus is called Emmanuel, but the Angel instructs Mary and Joseph to name Him, “Jesus,” and so they name Him at His circumcision. The name above all other names is God’s own name testifying to His saving power. But this isn’t just a Christmas reference, though the story occurs here. God accomplishes His salvation through Christ’s humility and obedience, those two words most perfectly expressed in the Cross itself. Humility in the vertical beam which connected Earth to Heaven by the descent of the Son, obedience in the horizontal beam, which opened wide the arms of God to the worst of Man. The Most Holy Name of Jesus is all this, His Incarnation and the joy of Christmas, yes, but also His Passion and Death for us.

Thus far, all those in Heaven and those on the Earth have reason to bend their knees at the name of Jesus. But what of those under the Earth? St. Paul very intentionally spells out the three places in Hebrew cosmology affected, and they go beyond the lands of the living and into the realm of the dead. We state in the Nicene Creed that Christ descended to the dead. We state in the Apostle’s Creed that He descended into Hell. To the ancient Hebrews, both were Sheol, the abode of the dead. Why do these have cause to bend the knee? Because God’s saving work continues in His preaching and saving the dead, scouring Hell and reaching even to Adam and Eve (to our uttermost beginnings) in His determination to bring salvation to Mankind. In three days He accomplished this, and rose from the dead, to finally ascend to Heaven and rule at the right of God the Father.

It is because of this that the name of Jesus is most holy. It is because of this that we genuflect to Him, and bend the knee to God. It is because of this that at His name demons tremble and angels sing God’s praises.

So happy Feast of the Most Holy Name. May God bless you all this day.