In today’s culture, a name is just a name. It is something you see on your report card, your driver’s license, or work papers. When we reflect on the significance of names, the words of Shakespeare often come to mind, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” You can gather from this quote that a name is often thought of as a descriptor word. It helps us understand who is being mentioned, but its significance doesn’t go much further than that.
This was not the case when the Bible was being written. Names were a significant piece of your identity; they helped define you to others. They told people who you were, what you were like, and what was important to you. That’s why it is significant when we see name changes in the Bible. An encounter with God would change a person’s nature, change who they were; God would then give them a new name to reflect this transformation.
But out of all the people we read about in the Bible, isn’t it interesting that Jesus doesn’t have just one name, but many? Jesus was God after all, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that so many names are used, His nature is so vast that we can’t completely comprehend. But what do His names that tell us about Him?
One name that is used for Jesus in the Gospel of John is the “true light”. Light means good and not bad, right? It seems simple enough. This name, however, seems to have a deeper meaning when you look at it in reference to John 1:9 (ESV):
“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.”
So we know from the verse that Christ is coming to bring light to everyone. Since He is the light, He came to give us himself. That much we already know from the gospels. He came to die for our sins. He came to absolve us of our guilt. When God looks at us, instead of seeing us for the mess that we are, He sees Christ’s perfect blood. But what else do we know about light? It needs a continuous source otherwise it goes out. You can’t just break off a piece of it and give it to someone and then walk away. This name implies that Christ will never leave us. He came to give us light and He intends to be our continuous source. This image paints a beautiful picture of the life of a Christian. Faith is not a onetime occurrence. When Christ changes our life He won’t just walk away leaving us to our own devices. It is in His name, in His nature, to stay with us to sustain the changes that He has already started. All of that from one name.