Jesus: What’s in a name

Names often strike a chord with people. They cause us to react. Lindsay Lohan. Steve Jobs. Harper. Trudeau. Martin Luther King. Desmond Tutu. Mother Teresa. Hitler. These all carry emotional weight. They’re also full of meaning. When we name our children, we often pick monikers based on who we admire or who we hope our children emulate.

There’s no more recognizable or divisive name in history than Jesus. The name of Jesus is often banned from public prayer, subject to mockery in politics, or forced to backrooms in social settings. Some people are offended by it. Some think it’s politically incorrect.

For others, the name of Jesus inspires hope, provides joy, and offers a profound sense of connectedness to the family of God.

Jesus always evokes a response. People aren’t neutral when they hear his name. Not today, not ever.

Jesus: Power and life

Acts 3 tells the story of how Peter and John healed a lame beggar. The beggar was looking for money but received much more. “Peter said, ‘I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!’” (Acts 3:6, NLT). And he did.

These were the same men who once seemed so ordinary, so ill-fitted for the tasks Jesus sent them to do. They both had scattered with the other disciples on the night Jesus was arrested. And Peter had famously denied Jesus three times.

What changed? How did these fearful men become agents of God who ministered and preached so boldly? Had they figured out a magic spell, a secret code that gave them power? No. The answer was Jesus.

Peter and John, along with 120 Christ-followers, had been visited by the resurrected Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, and transformed by the reality of the kingdom of God. With this new orientation, experience, and understanding of Jesus, they walked in the power of the Spirit and simply did what Jesus trained them to do: call on his name.

When Peter spoke healing to the lame man, he didn’t say, “in the power of Jesus” or “by the authority vested in me by Jesus.” He simply said, “in the name of Jesus.”

What’s in a name?

In Jesus’ name, the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear. In Jesus’ name, demons are cast out, sins are forgiven, and lives are transformed.  Jesus’ name carries authority, establishes identity, provides hope, and delivers security.

To speak in Jesus’ name is to recognize his power, not ours. For Peter to speak “in Jesus’ name” demonstrates that true authority over illness and disease comes from Jesus: “Through faith in the name of Jesus, this man was healed – and you know how crippled he was before. Faith in Jesus’ name has healed him before your very eyes” (Acts 3:16, NLT).

What’s in a name? Everything!

Following Peter’s arrest for healing the lame man, he told the Sanhedrin, “Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene…. There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:10, 12; NLT).

For those who meet Jesus – who find forgiveness, healing, and hope – the name of Jesus is life. Peter and John knew this to be true because they had experienced renewal for themselves. Now they were simply passing on what had been given to them.

Transformation

We’ve also been given new life through Jesus. While the mysteries of the gospel of Jesus Christ could preoccupy us for years, the reality of what Jesus accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection must never be lost on us.

Recently, I listened to a friend describe her life transformation over the past two years. Someone had noticed the radical change in her life and inquired what had happened. Her answer was simple and clear: “It’s all because of Jesus!” Jesus gave her hope as she walked through a battle with cancer and a marriage breakdown. The name of Jesus was the best name she could hear.

If we move away from communicating the reality of the transforming power of Jesus – from speaking his name – we do society a great disservice. To minimize Jesus is to withhold water from a dehydrated soul.

What’s in a name? There is life in the name of Jesus!

—Willy Reimer is CCMBC executive director and lives in Calgary with his family. 

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