The Power in the Name – June 22, 2014
Isaiah 62:1-5, Acts 4:1-21
June 22, 2014
So, Peter and “the boys” have been “called to the carpet.” (Whatever that means…) They’ve been called in front of the religious council, and they’re being questioned about the healing of the man at the Temple gate. That’s the story we read last week, and as I said, it goes on for several chapters.
As we said last week, the problem was that they were preaching, and now healing, in the name of Jesus, whom they called “the Christ.” In doing so, they had set Judaism on its ear. They told the people that the Messiah, the promised one, the Savior for whom they had all waited for over four hundred years, had indeed come!
That should have been good news! But it wasn’t – at least not to everybody! As you know, the leadership of the Jewish faith had not accepted that. They had opposed this Jesus during his ministry – or at least a strong faction of them had! They had decided that there was no way this itinerant preacher from the lowest of the “social strata” could possibly have been “the promised one” – no matter how many “signs and wonders” he had done. After all, there had been many others who had made that claim before, and they too had done such signs – though none who had done what Jesus had done. But no matter! This man couldn’t be the Christ! So they had decided!
Well, now they had eliminated him – not all that many days before this story. And notice that these are the same names we heard in that story! Here again we have Annas and Caiaphas, the same ones who had put Jesus on trial. And now he was gone! But, for reasons beyond their imagination, (but not beyond their fears!) he was back… sort of. Remember those fears they had on Good Friday. They feared the disciples might “steal the body and claim he had risen.” So they had a Roman guard posted at the tomb. And now, after the fact, all they had to do was to prove that was the case, and this whole thing would end – before it began! But there is nothing in the scriptures that gives us even an inkling that they could begin to make any such proof! No. The best they could up with was to start a rumor that the disciples had indeed “stolen the body” of Jesus.
Now, in this chapter, despite all their efforts, they were faced with the fact that this supposed “imposter” (That was their word from Matthew 28) – this “imposter” was indeed alive, at least in the spirit and in the power, of his disciples. The only thing they were faced with now was the question of what they were going to do about it!
That’s the question that came to a head when the disciples stood before them in the council. They were the law – at least as far as the Romans allowed them to be the law. And again, to their credit, they were the “keepers of the Law.” They were responsible for dealing with anyone who would corrupt the Law and lead the people astray. And despite the amazing, miraculous nature of Jesus and his ministry, they had become convinced that he was one such person.
So, as inconceivable as it is to us, these men we’ve met before – again, Annas and Caiaphas – these high priests charged these disciples of Jesus not to preach or teach, or to heal, in his name. And it isn’t that they objected to the disciples healing people, though I’m sure they weren’t very comfortable with that. What they objected to was the name. And the “legal” decision they made – and it was a legal decision – was to disallow the use of the name of Jesus. And more specifically (and legally) the name and title of “Jesus the Christ.”
That’s what they did that day. They sent the disciples away with that injunction. And at that moment, the boys had to make a decision. And they did. They said, “You tell us, whether it is right (or legal) to obey you or God.” I can’t emphasize enough how smart a statement that was! The Religious Council was the Law. But not in the sense of our Law. They were interpreters and enforcers of the religious Law. And at the heart of the religious Law was “Obedience to God!” And that’s how these disciples made their challenge. They said, specifically, and I think indisputably, “You tell us if we should obey you or God.” That’s pretty good, if you think about it. These were uneducated men, but they were sharp. And they had the Spirit of God upon them!
So, what did God tell them to do? They knew in their hearts that he was telling them to go out and speak and act and minister to people in the name of Jesus the Christ. They knew that there was power in the name! And I hope we know that even today.
That’s what I want you to think about. “The Power in the Name.” And I’m not talking about some kind of power that is “at our fingertips” somehow, power we can “call up” any time we want, if only we will say the right words. Sometimes Christians talk that way, though, don’t they? But the power we have in Jesus is not power that we take control of ourselves. That’s not the idea.
You may recall a story that comes later on in Acts. (8:19) There was a man who was observing the disciples doing miraculous things, and he asked to have that power, too. Do you remember that story? It comes in the 8th chapter. This man went to the disciples and said, “Please! Give me that power, too, that I may lay hands on people and have them receive the Holy Spirit.” “I want that power!” Do you see how that’s the wrong attitude? The power is in the name, not in us. The power we have in Jesus is not separate from our relationship with God! We still look to him! We still look to his power in us, not our power increased by him in some way!
Sometimes we’d like to “have the power,” wouldn’t we? I remember I used to talk about what I called my “magic wand” wish. When someone I knew was hurting, or was in need, I wished I could just “wave a magic wand” and make everything better. But again, that was me wanting to control the situation in my way, wasn’t it? Too many people want to use prayer that way. They pray because they want to get what they want, the way they want it. That’s why Jesus taught the disciples, in the very beginning of his most famous prayer, to say, “Thy kingdom, thy will be done.”
At the end of John’s Gospel, Jesus was with his disciples in the upper room. And he said to them, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world gives.” I think we’ll agree that God’s peace is different than what the world searches for in terms of peace. Well, I think Jesus would say the same thing about the power we have in his name. “My power I give to you, but not as the world gives.”
The power we have in the name of Jesus starts by being his people. It doesn’t start with our desire to have power. In fact, in a world where people seek power and influence over others all the time, the power we have starts by knowing that indeed “the last shall be first and the first shall be last.” The power we have in the name of Jesus starts with our giving up our power as we seek his. That’s when we will truly know the power in the name.
Eternal God, help us to know the power in your Spirit. Help us to rely on your strength, not our own. Help us better to seek you’re will, and to walk closer each day with Jesus, our Lord and Christ, and to know the power in his name. For this we pray in his name, Amen.