I spoke to a friend today who just became a father for the first time. After months of waiting the baby had arrived. I immediately wanted to know what Rory's little girl's name was. Madeline Noel, how beautiful! Names are obviously important in this week's Gospel:
John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, "Behold, the Lamb of God." The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi" — which translated means Teacher —, "where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come, and you will see." So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, "We have found the Messiah" — which is translated Christ —. Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas" — which is translated Peter. John 1:35-42
Jesus is referred to by no fewer than four names in this short passage (six if you count the definitions of two of them). Names were critically important in biblical times. Zechariah gave John (the Baptist) his name after hearing from the angel Gabriel. John pronounced one of Jesus' names as "Lamb of God." Andrew, knowing the significance of John's pronouncement immediately followed Jesus. Next is Simon who hears the long awaited name, Messiah, from his brother Andrew. When Simon meets the "Christ" he receives a new name, Peter.
Parents choose their children's names with care, often giving names with great family meaning. So what is really in a name? Identity. We are identified by our names. In the case of Jesus, understanding His identity means we must understand the meaning of His many names. We also learn of His purpose. John's identification of Jesus as the Lamb of God speaks to why Jesus came. He came to be God's final sacrifice for sin.
Jesus died for Rory and Madeline and for you and me. So what's in a name? When it comes to Jesus' name as the Lamb of God, He suffered and died so that our names could be written in the "Book of Life."