In days of old, many people acquired names that told something about them.
King Richard became known as “Richard the Lion-Hearted” because of his fearless bravery. The name “Ivan the Terrible” of Russia speaks for itself. John was called “the Baptist” because he baptized Jesus.
And Jesus was known as “Jesus of Nazareth” to distinguish him from others who were named Jesus in his time. In Hebrew, the name Jesus is Joshua. It means “savior,” or “he who comes to help.” In Greek, the name Jesus is Iasathai, which means “healer of souls of men.”
Thus, Jesus’ name means “he who will come to save and to give eternal life.” He has many other names, such as “Creator” and “Only Begotten Son,” that tell of his good deeds and what he represents. Through his deeds and his ministry, Jesus is known by more than 200 names. Following are a few examples.
Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet. Alpha means “the first” or “the beginning.” Omega means “the last of any series,” or “the end.” When you put the two words, Alpha and Omega, together, they mean “from the beginning to the end,” or “from the first to the last.” When Jesus is referred to as Alpha and Omega, it means he was from the beginning and will be at the end in all things; he is eternal.
Why is Jesus known by the name of “Good Shepherd” instead of simply “Shepherd”?
When the Savior lived on earth, sheepherding was a common occupation. There were three kinds of people who became shepherds. One kind of person became a shepherd because his father was one; his father taught him as he grew up.
A second kind of person became a shepherd because he loved sheep and wanted to learn how to be a shepherd. While he worked and learned, he received food and a place to sleep and was sometimes paid with a gift of a sheep or two.
The third kind of person became a shepherd solely for the money. This kind of shepherd was known as a hireling shepherd. When his day’s work was done, he went home. If during his working hours there was danger, he fled in fear of his own safety, leaving the sheep alone and without a leader.
The first two kinds of shepherds were called good shepherds because they never left their sheep alone, even when their own lives were at risk. They guided the sheep along rocky paths and walked in front of the sheep to make certain the paths were safe. They led the sheep to green pastures, where they could feed. Jesus was that kind of shepherd—a Good Shepherd—to all mankind. He gave his life for us, and if we follow him, he will lead us to eternal life.
Baby sheep are called lambs. Lambs are gentle creatures. They are pure and innocent, doing no harm to anyone.
When a person is called a lamb, it means that he is pure and innocent, gentle and kind.
In the Old Testament, a lamb was used as a sacrifice, or an offering to God, for the forgiveness of sins. Other animals were used as sacrificial animals, but a lamb was the first and most often used (see Gen. 4:4).
Jesus is known as the Lamb of God because he was Heavenly Father’s perfect offering for our sins (see John 1:29). He had no faults or blemishes. He had a pure heart—he was innocent, gentle, kind, and humble, and he did no harm to anyone. He was without sin.
When the Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples why he was eating with publicans and sinners, Jesus himself answered: “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” (Matt. 9:12). Why do you think that Jesus would refer to himself as a physician?
Physicians are trained to find out what is wrong with an ill person. They can prescribe medicine and treatment for the person and tell him what to do to help recover from illness.
Physicians promise to aid the ill and the injured and to not turn away from those who seek help. They promise to train others in the art of healing.
Jesus healed people. He healed the lame, the blind, and the leper. He also healed people who were sick with sin. He did not turn away in disgust, but looked at the sinner as a sufferer needing the healing power of grace, love, and forgiveness. He suffered mightily for repentant sinners so that they might be forgiven if they would truly repent. The people who believed in him and repented would be able to live with him and Heavenly Father forever.