Making Evangelism Personal

Day 2 of 6 • This day’s reading


Learning the Power of Someone’s Name

There is power in a name. Think about it. Your name is the word most frequently spoken over you, yet you had nothing to do with picking it out. Someone else had that power. Now, that name is tied to who you are as a person. When you hear it, you automatically offer your attention and expectations. You hope that mention is tied to something good, not something bad or embarrassing. Either way, getting singled out by name can leave a lasting impression. It certainly did for Zacchaeus.

In this account, it’s obvious that Zacchaeus was not used to being noticed in a positive way; his name wasn’t tied to good things. As a Jew collecting taxes for Rome, his name was probably equal to words like: “traitor,” “cheapskate,” “filthy,” and “oppressor.” Not good adjectives. He might not have minded being so short—it may have helped him go unnoticed in a crowd. So, one day, he found a pretty low-key place to look for Jesus. 

But, as Jesus made His way through the city, He came to Zacchaeus’ spot, stopped the group’s progress, and spoke directly to the tax collector:

“Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Luke 19:5 NIV

On hearing Jesus speak his name, bile must have risen in Zacchaeus’ throat. Now, the attention of the whole crowd was on him as he waited for the shaming words he might have expected from this famous Jewish teacher. But Jesus blew him away. After capturing his attention, He offered His presence. By His words and actions, Jesus publicly honored a man who was used to being publicly shamed. So cool. 

Get this. Jesus, being God and also being part of Jewish culture, already knew Zacchaeus’ name and knew what his name really meant. It wasn’t “traitor,” “king of the rip-off” or “Rome-lover.” No, in Greek or Hebrew it is translated as “pure” or “innocent.” Hold up. This guy was anything but that when Jesus first encountered him. Yet, Jesus still called him this name, and the beautiful thing is, this empowered Zacchaeus to step into a different way of living that was consistent with his name. All because Jesus made it personal and understood the power of knowing someone’s name.

Challenge: Do you have to go find out what everyone’s name means in Hebrew now? No. The power remains. When you go about your day today, see whose name you can notice, use and remember that you may not have before. The server at the restaurant you go to for dinner, that one janitor at school, or the kid who literally always sits alone. There’s a story that goes along with every name, and Jesus showed us how to take a step into it.