By Pastor Glenn Pease
Some people are born risk-takers. Such was the case with Dr. John Haldane who was born in Scotland in 1860. His professional life was spent in seeing how close he could come to dying without actually ending up dead. He wanted to learn why it is that carbon monoxide kills people. So he got himself a partner and they both sat in a lab breathing carbon monoxide. In about half and hour his partner suddenly flipped over on his back and Haldane realized it was time to flee. He ran up the stairs and out into fresh air. He was dizzy and could not see right, but after awhile he returned to normal. His partner was dead, of course, but that was the plan. His partner was a mouse, and mice breath faster than men, and so he died faster. This was how Haldane knew when he still had a chance to escape. He later learned that small birds breathe even faster than mice, and so he did not have to cut it so close in his experiments with poisonous gas.
Haldane did this experiment with every gas that was discovered in the mines. He risked his life over and over again, but in so doing he learned the effects of gas on miner's and thus, developed ways whereby the lives of many miner's were spared. His studies also led to improved ventilation in mines, and he developed the salt tablet to replace lost salt due to severe sweating in the mines. He led the way to the therapeutic use of oxygen, which has been a life saver to so many. By the grace of God, Haldane lived to be 76 years old and died in 1936. He made a name for himself by almost dying time and time again.
The prophets of the Old Testament told of the coming Prince of Peace who would make a name for himself by not, almost dying, but by literally dying for his people. His dying would not just save them from earthly dangers, but from the everlasting dangers of eternal death. There has never been a person like this in history, and so the prophet Isaiah makes a special emphasis on the unique names to be given to this promised Messiah. In Isaiah 7:14 we read. "Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son and will call Him Immanuel." Then in Isaiah 9:6 we read, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders, and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
When we come to the New Testament we see the angel Gabriel telling Mary in Luke 1:31, "You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus." Later in Matt. 1:21 he gave this same message to Joseph, "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
Mary and Joseph did not need to struggle with a name and try out a few to hear how they sound. Their baby came with a name already attached. The name of this baby was so important to God that God himself selected it. He chose the name that He would honor above all names. God left most naming of people, creatures and things to man but He wanted to name this special child Himself.
You would not believe the complexity of life that astronomers have to struggle with. They have to name everything they discover and as they discover more and more they have to come up with names galore. It use to be a one man job. In 1647 Hevelius made a map of the moon and considered naming the mountains and valleys after Bible characters. But he chose instead to name them after earthly mountains and valleys and these have stuck. Galileo named the flat areas after seas and bays and even though there's no water there, these too have stuck.
But life became more complex. When William Herschel discovered the seventh planet, he wanted to name it George after George III. But others said it should be called Uranus to be consistent with the other planets which are named after Roman gods. George almost became a name exalted to the heavens, but some committee shut it down.
Today we have international planetary nomenclature committees. Space exploration is making this a massive job. They now need too many names to be limited to astronomers and other scientists. They are now naming things after poets, composers, painters, historians, playwrights, mathematicians, sculptors, doctors, psychologists, biologists, novelists, engineers, and linguists. God gave Adam the task of naming all the animals, and now man is given the task of naming all of the billions of things that God has created in universe. But when it came to the naming of His Son, God stepped in and took over and said His name will be Jesus. Not his earthly parents; not a committee; not a government agency, no one but God Himself was permitted to give the Christmas Baby His name. It was not a suggestion or a request, it was a command that His name be called Jesus. God is very open-minded as to what man will name all the rest of what He has made, but when it comes to this child conceived by the Holy Spirit, there is only one name that will do, and that is Jesus.
Jesus was a nobody in the world of his day. The really big name was that of the Emperor, Augustus Caesar. He fought the famous Brutus, who betrayed Julius Caesar. He fought and defeated the famous Mark Anthony and Cleopatra. He became the name above all names in the known world and he reigned for 44 years. He was greatly loved and was clearly the most famous name on the planet. Now he is only known because of the decree that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. It is the name of their baby that is now the name known and honored all over the known world, and praised as well in all of heaven. His name is the name above all names, and will be for all eternity.
Even the Moslems with their seven prophets-Mohammed being the last- consider Jesus to be the only perfect prophet, and superior to all the rest. There is no other name like that of Jesus.
The genealogy of Matt. 1, is a list of names that sums up the whole Old Testament. These were the people God used to make history, and to fulfill His plan to bring His Son into history. All of these names are leading to one last and final name. Jesus had no children and so the list ends with Him and goes no further. His is the last name in God's plan because He fulfilled it completely, and their is nothing anyone else can do to add to it. His name crowns the biggest project in the universe, the project of saving lost men for eternity. That is why God insisted that He be called Jesus, for it means Savior, and He was and is the only Savior of man.
There are a lot of names that just fit the people who receive them. For example: the horticulturist named Mr Bloom; the gynecologist named Dr. Ovary; the Undertaker named Mr. Digger; the Ice Maker named I. C. Shivers and the Dentist named Dr. Boring. But no name in history is more fitting for the Son of God than the name of Jesus. It is the name by which we approach the throne of God; the name by which we offer our petitions; the name by which we send the devil fleeing. The poet has written,
Nothing can vex the devil more
Than the name of Him whom we adore.
Therefore doth it delight me best
To stand in the choir among the rest,
With the great organ trumpeting,
Through its metallic notes, and sing:
The Word has become flesh!
These words the devil can not endure
For he knoweth their meaning well!
Him they trouble and repel
Us they comfort and allure;
And happy it were if our delight
Were as great as his afright!
In some parts of the world the name of Jesus is still used for others, but for most of the Christian world this name has been kept exclusive for the Son of God. It, therefore, did not become a popular name. But all who are connected with Jesus had names that became the most famous ever. Mary for girls and John for boys are the two most popular names because of their connection with the name of Jesus.
Charles Wesley is one of the two great hymn writers of all time-the other being Isaac Watts. Wesley was able to get one of his hymns into the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer. An 18th century printer did not know that the Church of England did not like Wesley. He needed a hymn to fill an empty space and he found a Christmas poem that he thought was just right. It was by Wesley. He included it, and it was too late to remove it when it was discovered it was one of Wesley's. It might have been left out of future printings yet, but William Cummings discovered it fit so well with the tune by Felix Mendelssohn. He retitled it, Hark The Herald Angels Sing, and it became one of the most popular Christmas hymns of all time. It exalts the name of Jesus, but it also exalts the names of Wesley and Mendelssohn because they are connected with the name of Jesus.
If you want to make a name for yourself, attach your name to that which exalts the name of Jesus. If you tie your name to this name above all names it will carry your name to the top also. It may not get famous in time, but any name linked to His will be written down in glory in the Lambs book of Life, and will be known for all eternity. The highest success that can be achieved is to have your name positively linked to the name of Jesus. It is not what, but who, you know that ultimately matters. O do you know the wondrous name of Jesus? That is the question of greatest importance. Jesus said so Himself in John17:3, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."
Jesus was either the proudest man to ever live, or he was the Son of God and Savior he claimed to be. No one else would ever dare to make the knowledge of His name the basis for eternal life. Jesus does this and forces every person to choose to accept and exalt that name, or to reject it. Paul writes in I Cor. 6:11, "But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ..." Those who put their trust in this, the only name under heaven by which we must be saved, will bear that name forever like a brand in the most conspicuous place possible-the forehead. In Rev. 22:4 we read this description of the servants of the Lamb in heaven, "They shall see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads."
This is no trifle, for the eternal destiny of every person revolves around what they will do with the name of Jesus. Will they use it to curse and thus, be themselves cursed, or will they bless the name of Jesus and thus, be themselves forever blest? The spirit of Christmas is found in blessing and exalting that blessed name.
O that Thy name may be sounded
Afar, over earth and sea,
Till the dead awaken and praise Thee,
And the dumb lips sing to Thee!
Name of God's tender comfort,
Name of His glorious power,
Name that is song and sweetness,
The strong everlasting tower,
Jesus the Lamb accepted,
Jesus the Priest on His throne--
Jesus the King who is coming--
Jesus Thy Name alone!