The names that usher in the Gospels

One of my favorite practices of reading Scripture is to translate names instead of transliterating them. It adds such dimension to a passage when we examine what names mean as we look at what is transpiring in the narrative.

The book of Luke begins with a priest named, Zacharias, or in Hebrew, Zechariah, a name that means “Yahweh remembers.” It is a name that brings us to the tension of this moment in time. His wife is Elizabeth, a name that means “God is my oath.” Yet, these two- whose names represent the faithfulness of the Lord- are old, and without the children they seem to have longed for. Not only that, they are living in a time of Roman oppression. Does God actually remember? Will the Lord really be faithful to his promises?

Gabriel, an angel whose name means “strong warrior of God” says yes. God has remembered both them and their people. But this strong warrior angel announces not war but birth. God’s faithfulness will be shown through the birth of a baby to an old and infertile couple. His name is to be John, Jochanan, Yahweh is gracious.

Soon after the conversation with Zacharias, Gabriel makes another visit. This time, to Mary, a young girl from Nazareth whose Hebrew name Miriam means “rebellion.” The trajectory of history is about to be changed through her womb. She will bear Jesus, Yeshua, Yahweh is salvation, the long awaited king.

Here at the beginning of the Gospels…

The strong warrior of God brings messages of birth and hope.
Yahweh remembers and God is my oath become pregnant with grace.
Rebellion’s womb becomes filled with Yahweh’s salvation.

The Bible is always taking place on so many levels…
It is about them, the individuals of the past who were poised on the brink of a new era.
It is about God, an Eternal being who was, is, and always will be pointed towards love and redemption.
It is about us, the readers sitting in the frustrations of our world, wondering with the characters of the Text, whether God is actually faithful after all.


As we sit in this season of Advent, I wonder…

What might the strong warrior of God announce to us today?
How might grace be born to God’s faithfulness?
How might salvation be brought forth from the oppressed who carry the name of rebellion?
Like Luke, whose name means light, how can we look for stories of hope shining into the darkness?

Join 40 Orchards for our next Roots program, Roots: Gospels. Through 10 Gospel passages, we will dive deeper into the narratives of Jesus. What kind of connections is he making to the Old Testament that we might not notice at first glance? How might a way of studying Scripture that is more about questions than answers help us see his ministry in new ways? How do the names of the people connect us with the past and the future? We will explore, discover, and wrestle together. Click HERE to register and for more information!