May 3, 2009
?Fourth Sunday After Easter (B)
Ever since Adam named the animals, we have been fascinated with names. New parents spend countless hours choosing names for their sons and daughters. Lovers may not be able to lasso the moon and give it away as George Bailey promised Mary in It’s a Wonderful Life, but for a few bucks they can have a star named in their loved one’s honor.
Those of us who lived through the ’70s recall the popularity of the Citizens’ Band (C.B.) radio. No one on the C.B. had a “name” but a “handle.” Names are natural handles for grabbing someone’s attention. How often in a crowded room have you snapped your head around, as if someone grabbed you by the collar, because you thought you heard your name? Psychologically, names of diseases make us feel better. When the doctor is finally able to put a name to our sickness, it eases our pain because we assume that if the affliction can be named, it can be cured. From antiquity people believed names to possess a magical quality. Knowing a spirit’s name gave one a handle to control the spirit.
Shakespeare penned, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” The mangled version of that quote has it that “a rose by any other name is still a rose”-the implication being that names are arbitrary. They may be full of sound and fury but in the end signify nothing. Really? What then are we to make of that story from last December about the New Jersey boy named “Adolf Hitler,” whose name the local grocery store refused to put on a birthday cake? Contra the popular “a rose is still a rose” postmodern blather, names still mean something.
What about the name “Jesus”? It-and its Old Testament equivalent “Joshua”-was a common enough name in ancient Israel and still is in Latin America. To some, “Jesus” is a byword, a profane utterance. To others His name is a talisman-speak it and wonderful things will happen.
In Acts 3 and 4 Jesus’ name is front and center-mentioned in
The following day, Israel’s rulers wanted to know by what right, i.e., in whose name, this work was done. Peter declared “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.” “Christ,” i.e., Messiah, located Jesus historically as the long-awaited hope of Israel. “Nazareth” located Jesus geographically as the lowly servant of God. Then Peter further identified, testified and magnified this Jesus with clarifications that bespoke His singular fame.
“Whom ye crucified.” No other name bespeaks crucifixion like “Jesus.” Hundreds upon thousands upon millions were crucified in the ancient world, yet to this day we remember pre-eminently, if not solely, the crucifixion of Christ. At the sight of a crucifix, our hearts whisper “Jesus.”
“Whom God raised from the dead.” No other name bespeaks resurrection like “Jesus.” He announced to Martha, “I am the resurrection.” He raised others during His lifetime, but all of those folks subsequently died. Jesus arose never to die again.
“By Him this man stands whole.” No other name bespeaks restoration like “Jesus.” Mankind fell on Eden’s floor and broke into a million pieces. Today we lead jagged, ragged lives; but one day His followers will stand in Him complete.
“The rejected stone is now the cornerstone.” No other name bespeaks exaltation like “Jesus.” At the name of “Jesus” every knee will bow.
In sum, there is salvation in no other. No other name bespeaks salvation like “Jesus.” In no movie have I ever heard a hard-pressed soul cry out to Allah, Buddha or any other. As in the chart-topping single, it’s always “JESUS, take the wheel.”
For all He is, for all He has done, we rightfully sing, “No other name but the name of Jesus is worthy of glory, and worthy of honor, and worthy of power and all praise.”
May 3, 2009