Before He Was Called “Jesus”
Study Guide, December 13, 2021
Pastor Clay Olsen
Since we are getting really close to Christmas, we’re going to interrupt our series on the Beatitudes with an announcement…not from us, but from Gabriel. Luke 1:26-33- “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” NASU
You talk about an announcement! Wouldn’t it be great if each week during our announcements time that Gabriel would show up to give us an announcement of the week? That would be great. But just think, we are going to meet Gabriel one day. And then you can talk to him about all kinds of things: Like, “Excuse me, Mr. Archangel…can I buy you a cup of coffee and ask you a few questions?” Maybe coffee and donuts…we’ll have to find out what snacks Angels like…besides Angel food cake, of course…
But of the many wonders that Gabriel announced to Mary, our focus is on one announcement in particular: “…and you shall name Him Jesus.” What we are getting at here is that our Lord and the promised Messiah was to be called “Jesus”…as in, He was never called that before. Or, from His miracle conception on and forevermore, now He would be called Jesus…as in Jesus Christ. Or, we could say, He now had an ‘incarnate’ name to go along with His ‘incarnation’. Or, since our Creator and Lord had now taken on a human body, He also took on a new name to go with it: Jesus! Jesus was the title of His humanity and Christ was the title of His Deity. And, although, there are about a hundred things we could say about that, let’s say this: Before He was called ‘Jesus’, He was called many other names. Of course, one of the favorite Christmas passages that reveal a few of His names were these: Isa 9:6- “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” NASU
Now, certainly our Lord has been called the Mighty God and Eternal Father for ages, but after Jesus’ birth, He was now recognized for Who He really was, which was all of those titles and more. By the way, we are also told that the ‘government’ will rest on His shoulders and that there will be no end to the increase of His ‘government’. What’s another name for ‘government’? ‘Kingdom!’ Every government on Earth is essentially ‘a kingdom’. All the governments of the world are actually individual ‘kingdoms’. And, the thing is, that from the beginning of time, all these individual kingdoms were and are supposed to be living in homage and obedience to the King of kings and Lord of Lords. Amen? But we know that they are not…for now. But one day the King of the Earth is going to return and establish His rightful government, His rightful kingdom, and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord! For those who confess this voluntarily as saved children of God, they will enter His Kingdom and be blessed forever. But for those who confess it involuntarily, since they would not repent, they remain unsaved, and they will not enter His kingdom and will be sentenced and confined to the kingdom of darkness forever. That’s why we need to pray for the lost and share the saving Gospel with the unsaved while they still have time to turn to Jesus to be saved.
But here now is what most of the world does not understand about Jesus…and that is that before He was called Jesus, not only was He called other names, why before He came to Earth as ‘Jesus’ He had already come to Earth many times and in many forms. In other words, before He came to Earth as the Incarnate Christ, He had already come to Earth as the Pre-incarnate Christ. In fact, in Theology, these pre-incarnate appearances are called ‘Christophanies’, and also ‘Theophanies’. Now we are really talking about another ‘Wow’ factor in Theology!
Let’s take a look at a powerful example of a Christophany…or a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. Do you remember when the religious leaders were giving Jesus a hard time about Him revealing to them that God was His Father? It’s fascinating…take a look at this. John 8:54-58- Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’; and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” NASU
Amazing, right? While they are standing there looking at Jesus…Jesus says to them that not only had he seen Abraham, but that Abraham rejoiced to see Him! Talk about blowing their minds on that one! Plus, Jesus then raddles their cages even more by adding some additional identity about Himself. He adds that even before Abraham was born, “I Am”. So now Jesus super expands on His identity, because when Moses asked God what name he should tell the people about who sent him, God says this to him: Ex 3:14- “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” NASU The title of ‘I Am’ is the title ‘Yahweh’, which means ‘Self-existent One’, as in ‘God’ Himself! So Jesus tells them not only had Abraham seen Him in times past, but also so had Moses, and the Person that they were now talking to was none other than ‘Yahweh’ Himself, the Great ‘I Am’, the ‘self-existent’ and only God!
And that brings us to the example of this ‘Christophany’, or this pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. Because when was it that Abraham saw Christ? Yeah, it was when Abraham had a special visit and learned that he and Sarah would have their own son, Isaac, and they learned about the coming judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah and Admah and Zeboiim. Yes, Admah and Zeboiim were the other two cities that were also destroyed along with Sodom and Gomorrah. Note Deut 29:23- “All its land is brimstone and salt, a burning waste, unsown and unproductive, and no grass grows in it, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in His anger and in His wrath.” NASU
Notice the encounter here. In the last part of Gen 18, verses 1 and 2 we see this: “One day Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent during the hottest part of the day. He looked up and noticed three men standing nearby.” NASU So, okay, At least, that was their appearance. They had the forms and appearances of men. But the first part of verse one reveals something astounding to us, as it states: “The Lord appeared again to Abraham near the oak grove belonging to Mamre.” So one of these individuals who looked like a man was identified as the Lord. And thousands of years later Jesus tells the religious leaders, that was Him! Before Christ was called ‘Jesus Christ’ He appeared to people in a pre-incarnate, a pre-human form, a Christophany! And even the Angels have made appearances in human form, as we see with the other two men that visited Abraham that day. And we know the other two were Angels because the next chapter in Genesis identifies them as such.
Another pre-incarnate visitation of Jesus as a ‘Christophany’, also called a ‘Theophany’, was in the most unusual wrestling match in history…Jacob finds himself wrestling with Jesus. That would be a good trivial question, wouldn’t it? Like: “Did you know that Jacob once wrestled with Jesus?” And they would probably say… “What? Jacob was Old Testament…and Jesus is New Testament. How is that possible?” And that’s when we have… “Well, He wasn’t called ‘Jesus’, yet. It was when Jesus took on human forms in the Old Testament before He became a human forever.”
Actually, Jesus didn’t give Jacob His name at that time, but Jacob figured out he was not wrestling with just a man. Check it out: Gen 32:24-30- “Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” NASU
So the passage reveals that God came in the form of a man to wrestle with Jacob. Of course we know that God was really taking it easy on him here. It’s kind of like when Dads wrestle with their kids and they try to really go easy on them and then say – “Okay, you won. Good job.” And they have a bunch of fun. Well, we don’t know how much fun Jacob had here, but we do know that when the wrestling was over, Jacob had a new hip-hop in his step; or a ‘hitch in his get-a-long’, as the old saying goes. What was that all about? Remember that Jacob had been a deceiving and independent man…fighting against others, as well as against God. And now God, now Christ, now He who will become Jesus, comes to wrestle with Jacob, not to harm him, but to change him. God even changes his name from Jacob…deceiver and schemer to ‘Israel’ or ‘one who strives with God’, also ‘Warrior for God’.
As Jacob once fought against God now he would fight for God. And even in his physical walk, now with a limp, this, too, would remind him that he needed to depend upon God in his spiritual walk as well. And his encounter with God, this Christophany, would also become a continual object lesson to others of their need to walk in daily dependence upon God as well.
Sometimes we wrestle with God about something and the blessing doesn’t turn out the way we think. In fact, we, too, may even come away from it with a limp of some sort, or with a weakness we didn’t have before. But that’s when we need to realize that this further dependence upon God actually sets us up for new experiences of the power of God, which is about to go to work in your life, like it did with Jacob, who is now ‘Israel’. What we perceive as a weakness in ourselves is actually a strength through which God will work His power. Whatever deepens our dependence upon God deepens our relationship with God and thus deepens our experience of the power of God.
It’s just like with what Paul said in: 2 Cor 12:9-10- “Each time God said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast (to glory) about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” NLT
We don’t ever have to wrestle with God about our weaknesses. Just fight for God and fight the good fight of faith alongside of God, and let Him work His power through your weaknesses. Remember, God’s power works not just better, but ‘best’ in our weaknesses. Also remember: You cannot defeat a man or woman who glories in their weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work through them. And in doing so, you, too, take on a new identity: ‘Warrior for God!’
So those are just a couple of the many Old Testament examples of this wondrous reality of our Lord meeting with people in various times and in various ways even before that first Christmas, before He was called ‘Jesus’. But know this: He would have to one day be called ‘Jesus’ because it was the only way that we would one day be able to be called ‘Sons’ and ‘Daughters’ of God. Our Creator, Christ, would have to become one of us in order to redeem, in order to save any of us.
Look at how Hebrews describes this in detail: Heb 2:9-17- “For a short time Jesus was made lower than the angels, but now we see Him wearing a crown of glory and honor because He suffered and died. Because of God’s grace, Jesus died for everyone. God—the one who made all things and for whose glory all things exist—wanted many people to be His children and share His glory. So He did what He needed to do. He made perfect the one who leads those people to salvation. He made Jesus a perfect Savior through His suffering. Jesus, the one who makes people holy, and those who are made holy are from the same family. So He is not ashamed to call them His brothers and sisters. He says, “God, I will tell My brothers and sisters about you. Before all your people I will sing Your praises.” (Ps 22:22) He also says, “I will trust in God.” (Isa 8:17) And He says, “I am here, and with Me are the children God has given Me.” (Isa 8:18) These children are people with physical bodies. So Jesus Himself became like them and had the same experiences they have. Jesus did this so that, by dying, He could destroy the one who has the power of death—the devil. Jesus became like these people and died so that He could free them. They were like slaves all their lives because of their fear of death. Clearly, it is not angels that Jesus helps. He helps the people who are from Abraham. For this reason, Jesus had to be made like us, His brothers and sisters, in every way. He became like people so that He could be their merciful and faithful high priest in service to God. Then He could bring forgiveness for the people’s sins.” ERV
Actually, this is also the rest of the Christmas story. Before He was called ‘Jesus’ He had already planned to have a Human family. But in order to have this family He had to rescue them from their sentence of separation from God because of their sin. That meant He would have to become one of them in order to die in the place of all of them as a sacrifice for their sin. That’s why Christ became ‘Jesus Christ’. And that’s why ‘whosoever will’ can become a saved child of God.
Jesus is God’s Christmas present to the world. But He must be received, along with His gift of forgiveness and eternal life. And we pray that you have received God’s gift of Jesus and His forgiveness and are now part of God’s forever family.