Monday, November 18, 2013

Name above all Names

"In Jesus name, Amen."  I say it; you say it; my 5 year old says it.  But what on earth does it mean and what's the point?  Peter and John knew things about the name of Jesus that I think we might have forgotten. 

The church was just weeks old, and Peter and John were on their way back to the temple. They were walking into the Beautiful gate when they met a son of Abraham begging alms from the passersby.  Peter looked at him and said, "In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene rise and walk."  And he did.

Do we think those are magic like the wand-waving words in J.K. Rowling's novels?  Can we call out the name of Jesus and expect for miracles to happen? If we are asking these questions, we wouldn't be the first ones; later in Acts the sons of Sceva were trying to cast out demons by Jesus's name like it's some kind of magic word and the demons turned on them (Acts 19:10-17).

Peter was personally powerless.  He had no authority to command the man's healing. Instead he was continuing his teacher's work in his teacher's name.  In other words, Jesus went around healing the sick out of his deep compassion and in order to bring glory to God.  Peter, literally sent by him-that's what apostle means-simply did the same thing.  It's like an assistant who stamps the papers the boss gives her with his seal. She is simply doing the boss' work in the boss' name. 

When the leaders of the Jews killed Jesus, they had hoped to end his ministry.  Many "messiahs" had come before him and as personality cults will, the movements withered away as soon as the leader was dead (Acts 5:36-39). Therefore when they were again confronted with an undeniably healed man, dancing through the temple, letting the whole world know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene that he was healed, it must have been the worst kind of deja vu.  The parallels to stories like the healing of the blind man in John 9 are striking- a person known to all to be permanently and completely disabled publicly healed by Jesus/the name of Jesus.  They were livid.  Off Peter and John went to the jail for the night. The next day every leading man in Jerusalem was asking the same question: where did these uneducated Galileans get the power to do this?

And Peter replied fearlessly, 

Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead--by this name this man stands here before you in good health.  He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone.  And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."  (Acts 4:10-12)

They were struck dumb.  They wanted to argue but what could they say? The middle-aged man known to every devout resident of Jerusalem as the beggar beside the Beautiful gate was standing right there beside them healed.  After an ironic conference wherein they acknowledge the healing but deny the Christ, they made a new demand: they'd let the apostles go but they have to stop teaching and speaking in Jesus name.  

Peter believed in Jesus.  Not just the man from Nazareth, the one he saw with his own eyes and touched with his own hands, but the crucified and resurrected Christ.  He knew that no one can be saved except by the authority and power of him-in his name.  

Not only that, but when Peter called him, "Jesus Christ the Nazarene," he was making a theological statement.  Jesus is the name that our Savior was given by an angel (Matthew 1:20-25).  Christ is the Greek form of the word Messiah and identifies him as the promised king from the line of David coming to redeem Israel.  The Nazarene is one of identifications of Jesus in prophecy(Isaiah 9:1). Each name marks an aspect of his life and ministry.  

Peter understood that this is the name of prophecy, the name of the man he walked with, the name of the Lord of heaven and earth.  It is in this name that a man was healed at that temple.  It is in this name that your and my salvation comes.  This is the name which is above every name, the highest title in heaven and on earth.  This is the name of God incarnate to whom every created thing will bow to on the last great day (Philippians 2:9-11).  

Peter wasn't using magic.  When we say, "In Jesus name" we aren't either.  It's not a catch phrase or the signature to an email.  It's a confession. We are personally powerless but we believe that because we are trying to do Jesus' work in Jesus' name our Father will hear and answer our prayers.

Melissa and I are going to spend the next few weeks thinking about the different aspects of Jesus's name. I know it's the holidays and everyone else will start posting about turkey and their blessings, then move on to nativity scenes and Christmas gifts.  But honestly there's nothing we're more grateful for than Jesus and every gift we've received is given freely from his hand.  Join us, won't you? Come read about the wondrous name of the Lord Jesus Christ!  
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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