What Murphy the mutt and the naming of Jesus have in common
Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived. — Luke 2:21
I named the stray dog within the first hour of our not quite two hours of being together. Murphy. The name just fit this awesome mixed breed of gentleness and intelligence that he showed deep within his warm, caring, expressive eyes and obviously tender demeanor.
And okay, before you ask, it was love at second sight. When I first saw him, he was standing in the middle of the road with just a collar, no ID tags. Love? Pfft. We had some business to figure out together.
Naming Murphy easily was a fluke. In my world, there is angst or pressure when it comes to deciding a dog’s name. It’s a really big deal. I mean, let’s be honest here! Duke, Blackie, and Bandit have already been taken. (Okay, Murphy has been taken too—somewhere—but I was ignoring this.)
There is a great deal to a name, especially if you’re Jewish. The name Jesus means “Savior.” It is the same name as Joshua in the Old Testament. It is given to our Lord because “He saves His people from their sins.” In a blog called “What Does The Name Jesus mean?” J.C. Ryle says Jesus’ saving acts are His identity, His special role. Ryle says Jesus saves us from the guilt of sin by cleansing us in His own atoning blood. Jesus saves us from the presence of sin when He takes us out of this world to rest with Him. Jesus also saves us from the consequences of sin because He will give us a glorious body on the last day.
We all know the pregnant couple who had a time coming up with a name for their incoming tike, but naming Jesus must have been easy. It must have been as obvious as someone living on Lake Avenue living near a you-know-what, a lake.
This one verse is the first in Luke that moves us away from the specific birth narrative. Maybe the following isn’t so obvious, but devout Mary and Joseph did exactly what an honorable Jewish couple would do: they brought their son to the temple for naming and for circumcision. Just an event. Just a thing.
But it wasn’t just an event. It wasn’t a big deal. It was the big deal. A Jewish male was circumcised as a symbol of removing sin from his life. Jesus was sinless, so the act of circumcision never needed to happen but did. Why? What this couple did on this day shows us that Jesus was one of us long before a stone was rolled in front of a mountainside tomb so that Jesus would, by resurrection, save all of us.
I named Murphy because of his obvious, wonderful qualities. Jesus was named (and known for) His obvious, wonderful, and divine qualities.
Your name likely isn’t Murphy, whose owner did come from him by the way. Maybe your name doesn’t indicate what you do. [For example, I don’t know anyone named Baker who actually bakes professionally.] However, I invite you into some reflection as we move into the New Year. In speaking of names and in coming to worship like Mary and Joseph did, what are you known for, and what are you known to do?
Jesus’ name was given to Him by an angel even before He was conceived. You have been loved by God love long before you were conceived. Let His love show itself when you, like Murphy, are standing in the middle of the street.
PRAYER: Mary and Joseph show us what we can do, and that is come to worship and celebrate namings, baptisms, confirmations, weddings, ordinations, and, given the date, the ending of one calendar year and the beginning of another. Help us see in this couple what You see in us, and that is our ability to love You and love others. Amen.
Photo credit: I don’t know the photographer of this gorgeous champ here. Murphy wasn’t with me long enough for a photo, but this guy here comes close to the look of the mix who turned my heart to mush. Do I still think of Murphy? Oh, yes, I do.