Names in the Bible teach us something about the person named. The Lord changed Abram’s name to Abraham because he would not only be father but “father of a multitude of nations” (Gen. 17:5). He changed Jacob’s name (“deceiver”) to Israel (“prince with God”) because he wrestled with God and men and “prevailed” (Gen. 32:28). God also names Himself because He alone can tell us who He is and what He like. He is El Shaddai (“God Almighty”), who required Abraham’s faith and obedience and who would fulfill His covenant promises (Gen. 17:1). He is Yahweh, who is self-existent, eternal, and unchangeable and who is able to keep His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Ex. 3:3, 14–15).
Similarly, Jesus’ names teach us about His role and office as Mediator. Westminster Larger Catechism questions 41–45 teach that Jesus came as the Christ to save His people from their sins by exercising His threefold office of Prophet, Priest, and King. These truths help fill out our picture of who Jesus is and why we should trust in Him for our salvation.
Why Was Our Mediator Called Jesus?
Jesus’ name teaches us about His mission. Jesus means “Yahweh saves.” This name is the Greek equivalent to the Old Testament name Joshua. The angel told Joseph concerning Mary’s child, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). While Joshua brought the people of Israel into the promised land, he could not bring them into God’s eternal rest (Heb. 4:6–9). Jesus is the true Joshua who rested from the work that God gave Him to do at His resurrection just as God rested from His original work of creation (Heb. 4:10). “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest” (Heb. 4:11). We do this by trusting in Jesus to save us from our sins.
Why Was Our Mediator Called Christ?
Christ means “anointed one.” Christ is not Jesus’ last name; it is His title as the only Mediator between God and man. Office describes function. Our Mediator is called Christ because God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit “without measure” (John 3:34). Hannah prayed, “The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed” (1 Sam. 2:10). David would not attack Saul because he was the “Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam. 24:6; 26:9). David became the Lord’s anointed after Saul died (Ps. 89:20), and God promised that a king would sit on his throne forever (2 Sam. 7:4–17; Ps. 132:12). God anointed such men with the Holy Spirit in order to equip them for their offices. The Spirit departed from Saul (1 Sam. 16:14) when he sinned, and David prayed that the Lord would not take away His Spirit when he sinned (Ps. 51:11). The psalmist predicted that the Messiah would be anointed “with the oil of gladness” beyond His companions (Ps. 45:7). The Spirit came upon Christ at His baptism, equipping Him to exercise His public office as Mediator (Matt. 3:16). The Latin Vulgate translation of the Old Testament consistently and helpfully translates Messiah or “anointed one” as Christ, showing how many “christs” anticipated the coming of “the Christ.” The Old Testament, prophets (1 Chron. 16:22), priests (Ex. 28:41), and kings (1 Sam. 16:13) were anointed to fulfill their public offices. When God anointed Jesus with the Spirit, He gave Him the authority and the ability to be Prophet, Priest, and King, in His humiliation and in His exaltation. Jesus is both the eternal Son, who gives the Spirit, and the incarnate Son, who receives and depends on the Spirit.
How Does Our Mediator Execute His Threefold Office?
Christ exercises His office as Mediator in a threefold way, as Prophet, Priest, and King. We need to rely on each aspect of His mediatorial office for our salvation.