October 22, 2017
“What is in a name?” That’s the question Juliet asked the moon as she looked out her bedroom window. “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Have you ever heard that quote? It’s one of the most famous scenes from Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. It’s a story of forbidden love. Romeo loves Juliet and Juliet loves Romeo, but they were forbidden to see each other because their families hated one another. So one night, Romeo creeps into the Capulet’s garden hoping to get a glimpse of beautiful Juliet. As he is standing there watching, Juliet approaches the window and begins her famous speech. Romeo jumps into the bushes and listens as Juliet asks, “What’s in a name?” Her main point? If Romeo was called by any other name it’d be fine and she could marry him. But his last name was Montague, and that name associated him with her family’s most bitter enemy. It didn’t’ matter how nice of a guy Romeo was, she was forbidden to see him because his last name associated him with the Montagues.
What’s in a name? Names are more than just titles. They associate a person with something. For instance, when you hear the name Jeffrey Dahmer, you probably associate his name with a creepy serial killer. If I said the name Donald Trump you’d probably associate that name with president. If I said the name Stephen Apt, you’d probably associate that name with pastor, friend, or husband. What’s in a name? A whole lot actually! We associate names with other things. It is just what we do.
So the question is: What do you think of when you hear the name Jesus? What do you associate his name with? Does it even matter? Well, it mattered a whole lot to a guy we are going to hear about today. We are in Acts 4 this morning. Chapter 4 is really picking up in the middle of a story. So let me explain chapter 3 first otherwise it won’t make sense.
After Jesus rose from the dead, he stayed on earth 40 days appearing to people. After that 40 days, he ascended into heaven. He went up into the ski and is now ruling all things from heaven. That’s how the book of Acts starts. This entire book follows the acts of the apostles. 10 days after Jesus ascended into heaven, Pentecost happened. That’s when the Holy Spirit came and opened the disciples’ minds so that they finally understood all of Scripture, and he enabled them to speak in different languages.
After all this, chapter 3 happens. Peter and John, two of Jesus’ closest friends and disciples, were going into the temple in the middle of the afternoon. As they approached the doors of the temple talking with one another, all of a sudden they heard, “Spare some change?” They looked down and seated right next to the door was a man. Lame from birth. He stared straight forward avoiding eye contact. Too embarrassed to look up at them. Peter and John stopped in their tracks, and Peter said, “Look at me. I don’t have any money, but what I do have I’ll give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” And the man, who had never walked before in his life, immediately jumped to his feet and began to walk. He went into the temple walking and jumping, and praising God.
Everyone in the temple knew this man. And soon people began to look over and say, “Hey, what a minute, isn’t that the man who is always out begging? How is he walking?!” Pretty soon, all of the people in the temple surrounded Peter, John, and this man asking what happened. The crowd pressed together so tightly that the three of them held onto each other’s clothes or else they would have been lost in the sea of people. So Peter told them. It was by Jesus’ name that this man was healed. Jesus, whom was crucified and raised to life again. This Jesus healed this man. Everyone was interested in what was going on. There was such a commotion that it finally got the attention of the priests in the church. And that’s where we pick it up in chapter 4.
The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadduceescame up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people.2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
The priests and the temple guard come running over to see what is going on. They were not happy that Peter and John were proclaiming Jesus’ name because it went against what they believed. They believed that if you lived a moral life, you were good in God’s eyes. Jesus contradicted that, and they were afraid of losing control over the people. But there was also another Jewish group there called the Sadducees. The Sadducees were a group within the Jewish religion that believed in nothing spiritual. No soul, no angels, no resurrection of the dead. They believed only what they could see. Times change, people don’t. So they didn’t want Peter and John talking about the resurrection of the dead because they didn’t believe in it. Jesus contradicted what they believed.
And because Jesus’ name was associated with things contradictory to their religious teachings, they wanted to silence them. They wanted them to stop talking about Jesus’ name. So, they threw them in jail to keep them quiet. Sound familiar? Times change, people don’t right? People today want to get rid of Jesus’ name as well.
Some people want to get rid of the name of Jesus.
Look around the world and see how people are trying to quiet the name of Jesus. In the Middle East, people are put to death if they proclaim the name of Jesus. Christian churches are lit on fire; bombs are thrown into their buildings.
But you don’t have to go over there to see this happening. You see people in America trying to get rid of the name of Jesus as well. Just this week in Maryland the court ordered a World War 1 memorial to be unconstitutional. Why? Because the memorial was a 40 foot cross.
Why? Because Jesus contradicts what they believe. Maybe it’s a certain lifestyle they want to live and Jesus says that lifestyle is wrong. Maybe they believe that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe something, that will get you to heaven. Maybe they don’t want to admit or don’t think that they need a Savior. In all these cases, Jesus contradicts what they believe. So they don’t want to hear his name. So Satan and his demons inspire the same hatred they have for Jesus in people. And they replace Jesus’ name with happy holidays. They replace his name with Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny.
You look around and you realize nothing has changed. People still want to get rid of the name Jesus. Why? Not because the name Jesus is so bad, but it’s what he’s associated with that people don’t like. Times change people don’t. And that’s what landed Peter and John in prison overnight. In the morning, they dealt with them…
5 The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas,John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
This exact same group were the Jewish leaders who condemned Jesus to death. They then brought him to the governing, Pontius Pilate. This group had Peter and John brought forward and they ask, “By what power or what name did you do this?”
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.
I love Peter’s response here. He says, “Look, if you want us to explain our act of kindness, a good deed, done for this lame man who is now healed, then okay all of you know this: It’s by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you crucified but God raised from the dead, that this man was healed.”
They could have said, “Hey, sorry for the mix up. We won’t cause offense anymore.” Or, “We used Jesus’ name. We didn’t think it’d be such a big deal. We’re sorry.” But no! They took the opportunity to proclaim his name.
Take the opportunity to proclaim his name.
Look how unashamed they were. They not only stood there and told them it was by Jesus’ name that they did this, but that it was the same Jesus whom they put to death. They were unashamed and they took the opportunity to proclaim the name of Jesus.
The remarkable thing about all of this is the transformation of Peter. Three months before this Peter rebuked Jesus when Jesus said he was going to die in Jerusalem. Peter said, “Stop talking like that.” Three months before this he cut off a man’s ear with a sword when it came time for Jesus to be arrested. Three months before this, Peter denied even knowing Jesus. And now here he is fearlessly, boldly, courageously proclaiming the name of Jesus.
Do we proclaim Jesus as fearlessly, boldly, courageously as Peter and John? Or are we more concerned about someone else’s feelings? We don’t want them to be offended. Who am I to tell them how to get to heaven. Yes, I believe the Bible is true, but I understand it’s not for everyone. Do we take the opportunity presented before us to proclaim the name of Jesus?
Parents, do you take the opportunity at home to proclaim Jesus’ name? Or do you shy away from it? Do you tell your children that Jesus loves them and forgives them when they do something wrong? Or do they only hear you use Jesus’ name when you take it in vain?
When you’re at your kid’s games, at the gym, out at a restaurant, do you shy away from religious talks, or do you take those moments to proclaim Jesus? If we’re honest, it’s probably more likely that we shy away and we don’t proclaim the name of Jesus. One of the main reasons we don’t is because we are afraid of how people are going to react. We aren’t sure how they will receive the news. But Peter didn’t care, and neither should we. Why?
His name is necessary to be saved.
11 Jesus is
“‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Why was Peter so bold? Because he came to know personally that there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. I mentioned earlier that Peter failed Jesus time and time again. Yet, over and over again Jesus saved him. Peter finally came to understand that Jesus wasn’t for people who morally outperformed others, but for those who admitted their failures and who turn to him for forgiveness. And he realized everyone needed to hear this name because it’s the only name that saves.
And so he declares to the people that the reason this lame man stood there able to walk around was because the risen Jesus stood up and walked out of the grave after being dead for three days. He is the cornerstone of our faith; he is the one that the entire Scriptures are about.
There are a lot of great names in the world. I’m sure you can think of many names of different people who mean a lot to you. But not a single one of them are associated with what Jesus is associated with. Not one of them could do what Jesus did. And that is save you. No one else can save you from the eternal fires of hell. There’s only one person who could save you and his name is Jesus. He never sinned once in his entire life; obeyed God’s law perfectly. He then was your substitute dying on the cross to pay for your sins. So that you don’t have too. Then he rose from the dead so that death no longer controls you. It’s not your final destination. Because of Jesus, you’re forgiven. Because of Jesus, you are saved. He’s the only one
This is the name that is written in your heart. It’s a name that has more power than you know. It’s the name that saves. See, what Jesus’ name means is what he does. Jesus literally means save. He saves. And so when you hear his name, associate it with saving because that is what he did for you. He saved you. He lived perfectly for you. He died for you. He rose for you. Because of him you’re forgiven. Love. And eternally accepted by God.
You want to see the power of his name, proclaim it to your guilt. You can say, “Yes, I am guilty of that, but just lived, died, and rose for me. He saved me from guilt.” And watch as all your guilt is relieved. Proclaim it to your shame. “Yes, I did that sin and I’m ashamed I did it. But Jesus lived, died, and rose for me. He saved me and lets me know that I’m accepted.” Proclaim it to your esteem. When you’re feeling down on yourself and your self-esteem is low, proclaim Jesus name as you remember that Jesus loved you enough to live and die for you. That’s some high worth. Proclaim his name to temptations and watch as he saves you again and again.
Final thought, imagine if doctors discovered a medication that could save you from death, or if you do die, it would quickly raise you back to life. It would matter how ridiculous the medication would be, people would spread the news and soon the lines would be so long they wouldn’t know what to do. In Jesus’ name that is what you have. Hell is lurking in the background for all people trying to snatch us away from Jesus. His name is the only thing that saves. You have this saving name. Take the opportunity given you to proclaim his name. Proclaim it to your kids, to your spouse, to your neighbors, coworkers and friends because there is no other name under heaven by which mankind must be saved. It’s through Jesus, and Jesus alone.