4th Sunday of Easter – B LSB #’s 912, 524, 527
Text – Acts 4:12
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
A DANGEROUS NAME
He was the most evil wizard in hundreds & hundreds of years. He was so feared, in the wizarding world, that most characters in the Harry Potter novels referred to him as “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.” It was considered that dangerous even to speak his name.
At the other end of the spectrum is the hymn, “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear! It soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds, & drives away our fear.” (LSB 524:1) The key phrase is this – “in a believer’s ear!” While Jesus’ name may be precious to children of God it is a most dangerous name to many others. It’s a name they never want to hear or speak.
We find that in the book of Acts, chapter 5: “Then they brought the apostles before the high council, where the high priest confronted them. ‘We gave you strict orders never again to teach in this man’s name!’ he said. ‘Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about Him…’” (Acts 5:27-28 NLT)
Did you notice how the high priest only referred to Jesus as “him.” He never once spoke the name. The other thing to recognize is that the high priest was criticizing the apostles for the fact that they have been speaking the name of Jesus. The high priest & his cohorts realized that Jesus is a dangerous name – dangerous to their own self-interests.
Do you know what your self-interests are? For example, do you enjoy being the center of attention? Do you prefer not to be the center of attention? Almost everyone falls into one category or the other. Do you know how the name of Jesus is dangerous to those self-interests?
You see, when the name of Jesus comes up in casual conversation, most Christians will
see themselves in the category that agrees with the sermon hymn – “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear!” They do so because they understand that’s the “correct” answer. The struggle we have is when the Law challenges our own self-interests.
If we like being the center of attention, the name of Jesus challenges us to make Him the center. If we don’t enjoy being the center of attention, the name of Jesus will challenge us to remain in the spotlight long enough to bring everyone’s attention to Jesus.
Those are two opposite personalities, or self-interests – you might say extrovert & introvert – yet the same name of Jesus challenges each in different ways. The name of Jesus challenges all people to put themselves last in order that Jesus can then put them first. Do you know what your self-interests are? Do you understand how the name of Jesus challenges you?
It’s important to understand that life isn’t all – “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds.” Life is hard because true living always involves spiritual warfare. If you are a child of God there’s no way to avoid that, because even if you aren’t fighting, the devil is. You might lay down & let him roll right over you, but there’s still a war going on, & you are the victim.
Due to the Christian heritage handed down to us by our forefathers people are not yet marching through our land beheading those who dare to speak the name of Jesus. Nevertheless, each of us here today is in danger of losing our faith in the name of Jesus. I’m not saying you’re this close to losing it, but you are under attack. Satan does hate you & he longs to destroy you!
Do you know what your self-interests are? Do you understand how the devil is working to use them against you? If you love being the center of attention, you might realize one day that you’ve taken over the spotlight & Jesus has moved on without you.
If you really dislike being the center of attention, so you fail to speak the name of Jesus, you might wake up day to find that everyone important in your life has moved on without Jesus. Two opposite personalities, or self-interests – you might say extrovert & introvert – & though the devil tempts each of them in different ways, his goal for both of them is the same. He comes to steal & to kill & to destroy. Satan comes to wage spiritual warfare, & if you are a child of God you have been drafted in the name of Jesus to fight.
That doesn’t necessarily mean buying an AK-47 & learning to blast a hole in every unbeliever you meet. Jesus came to earth in human flesh specifically for the purpose of doing battle against Lucifer & his minions, but Jesus didn’t blow everything up in the process. In fact, Jesus came to die. That is how God did battle against the spiritual forces of darkness.
Jesus put His own self-interests behind Him, in order to put your self-interest in front of Him. You might guess that you & God have a different opinion regarding what your self-interests are. In today’s reading from the book of Acts, Peter & John end up in jail for teaching in the name of Jesus. Here’s what kicked off that series of events:
“Peter & John looked at him intently, & Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. But 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 & walk!’ Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand & helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet & ankles were instantly healed & strengthened.” (Acts 3:4-7 NLT)
Did you catch what the lame man saw as his own self-interest? He looked at Peter & John eagerly expecting some money. Instead, in the name of Jesus, the man was healed. His own self-interests were not met, but once he was healed he entered the temple walking & leaping & praising God. “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds.”
But the high priest & his cohorts saw the same event very differently:
“So they ordered Peter & John out of the council chamber & conferred among themselves. ‘What should we do with these men?’ they asked each other. ‘We can’t deny that they have performed a miraculous sign, & everybody in Jerusalem knows about it. But to keep them from spreading their propaganda any further, we must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.’ So they called the apostles back in & commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.” (Acts 4:15-18 NLT)
The lame man, & the church leaders, were responding to the exact same event, even to the same name. Neither of them had their own self-interests met, but their responses were very different. In the end, that is what makes the name of Jesus so dangerous. By the very nature of unbelief, some people simply cannot accept it.
The name Jesus means that He will save people from their sins. As irrational as it sounds, not all people are willing to be saved. Yet we share the name of Jesus because it is the only name by which anyone can be saved. As Jesus Himself said,
“My sheep hear my voice, & I know them, & they follow me. I give them eternal life, & they will never perish, & no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:26-28 ESV) It is a dangerous name for it is a two-edged sword. It divides people into two camps, the sheep & goats, the saved & the lost, those who come into the light & those who remain in darkness.
The way of Jesus is the way to perfection, holiness & eternal life. The way of Satan is stealing, killing & destroying, which results in eternal death. The character from the Harry Potter novels, “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named,” certainly fits the paradigm of Satan.
Praying in public, in the name of Jesus, is not politically correct today. Those who preach tolerance as the eternal good are unwilling to tolerate Jesus’ name. Many Christian churches today refuse to display even the empty cross in their sanctuaries, for fear of offending people. Don’t even think of putting up a crucifix with Jesus’ dying body upon it.
Yet, the sermon text for today makes a very ex-clusive statement. It does not allow for any diversity when it comes to salvation: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” There are always going to be people with us who take offense at that name.
In Acts chapter 3, St. Luke quotes Moses by writing: “‘The Lord your God will raise up
for you a Prophet like me from among your own people. Listen carefully to everything He tells you.’ Then Moses said, ‘Anyone who will not listen to that Prophet will be completely cut off from God’s people.’” (Acts 3:22-23 NLT)
To a believer’s ear the name of Jesus conveys the very peace of God that surpasses all human understanding. To an unbeliever’s ear the name of Jesus, at best, only brings excuses & confusion. The same name draws some people in while it drives other people away. To those who do not believe it is a dangerous name, yet we cannot help but speak the name.
For, as St. Paul wrote: “…how can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them?” (Romans 10:14 NLT)
Unfortunately for unbelievers, they do not have the saintly nature offered to them by God’s Holy Spirit. They’ve rejected it, along with the name of Jesus. In that rejection, their self-interests are always ungodly – for no one without faith can please God.
On the other hand, fortunately for those of us who do trust in Jesus as Savior, the Holy Spirit has created within us a saintly nature. And that nature does have an awareness of the godly self-interests that the Holy Spirit has put within us.
Those self-interests long to be in the house of the Lord. They desire to praise His holy name. They rejoice in opportunities to share Christ’s love with everyone in need. Keeping those self-interests alive, in spite of the onslaught of the unbelieving world, is why we gather in our Lord’s house each week to receive His blessings, of forgiveness, life & salvation.
Like the lame man, we also need to be healed each week from the effects of sin. No matter what the world may tell you, there is no other name, than Jesus, by which we can be healed. Amen.
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear! It soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds, & drives away our fear. It makes the wounded spirit whole & calms the heart’s unrest; ’Tis manna to the hungry soul & to the weary, rest. Dear name! The rock on which I build, my shield & hiding place; my never failing treasury filled with boundless stores of grace. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet