The Name of Jesus

Happy New Year!

January 1 was the Feast of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus. The appointed Gospel reading for the day is a single verse, Luke 2:21: “And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”

In his sermon for the day in his Postilla (Postils), Niels Hemminsen treates two topics or loci, which are–appropriately enough–the circumcision and the naming. He devotes most of his attention to the meaning of Jesus’s circumcision, but discusses the name of Jesus briefly at the end of the sermon.

After noting that when God commands a particular name to be placed upon someone, he does so “not without a signification of something either past or future. For God, who cannot deceive, does not place names on men in vain.”

He then continues:

Why, then, was the Virgin’s Son named “Jesus”? On account of the office he was to have in the world. For so did the angel speak in Matthew 1: “You will call his name ‘Jesus,’ because he will free his people from their sins.” For “Jesus” is “Savior.” The angel added the kind of salvation that was meant, namely, salvation from sin–therefore from death, damnation, the wrath of God, hell–therefore he placates the Father, he restores the image of God, and he bestows eternal life on those who believe. For all these things are joined with the forgiveness of sin. But so that we may more surely maintain the use of this name of Jesus, I shall trace that use back to its four constituent parts:

The first is that it reminds us that we are lost without this Jesus, that is, the Savior. Therefore, it reminds us of sin and repentance.

The second is that it shows us the fountain of salvation. For it is necessary that he who wishes to be saved drink from this fountain. Therefore, we are reminded of faith in this Savior.

The third is that it is our consolation against despair, sin’s magnitude, vileness, and fine-grained nature, and the Devil’s potency and power. From these things, the substance of faith is born.

The fourth is that it reminds us of obedience and gratitude, so that we might not fall away from the salvation acquired by him through our own fault. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

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