Here’s a fact: did you know that dairy farmers who name their cows, have happy cows that produce more milk? It’s true. Cattle that are named and “treated with a more personal touch” – can produce an extra 500 pints of milk a year! So the next time you see a Fresian cow – it really could be called Daisy!
Names are important. The most popular boys’ names in 2008 were Jack, Oliver and Thomas. For girls: Grace, Olivia and Ruby. Parents-to-be spend a lot of time choosing their baby’s name and deciding what to call their child because of the meaning behind the name. We did this with both our children. Nadia means “hope” and Isaac means “laughter” – but we chose his because of the association with Abraham and the child promised to a barren Sarah: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?…In nine months time she will have a son.” (Gen.18:14).
My name means “honouring God.” Our names give us a sense of our identity and mean a lot to us. Social scientists ponder things like would Oprah Winfrey have become a famous talk show host if her name had been Mabel? Would Elvis be the King of Rock and Roll if his name had been Bob? That’s why Maurice Mickelwhite and Harry Webb’s agents advised them to change their names to Michael Caine and Cliff Richard respectively. If they wanted to make it big their names must have weight behind them.
When Mary and Joseph found out that they were going to have a baby, they didn’t have to go to the library and get a book to choose his name. They didn’t have to choose a name from beloved family members, as is tradition. In fact, they didn’t choose his name at all. God sent an angel to tell them: “You will have a son, and you will name him Yeshua” – the original Hebrew name for Jesus meaning: “The Lord is Salvation.”
“How sweet the name of Jesus sounds”, wrote John Newton, “it sooths our sorrows, heals our wounds, and makes our spirits whole.” What was I saying about names carrying weight? The name Jesus is full of significance. Primarily as there is no other name that can forgive and save us from sin. That’s why Gabriel told His parents to name Him Jesus; the name above all names, beautiful Saviour, wonderful Lord who works on all of our wounds and diseases, healing our souls.
In the Harry Potter books, the evil wizard must not be named for fear of bringing him into people’s presence. But not with Jesus, whose name we can invoke as we offer prayers and care for those around us. The Saviour who goes by different names: Friend, Lord, King, Father, Teacher, Master, Lamb of God, Holy One, Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords – and there’s many, many more. Jesus’ whole personhood and divinity are wrapped up in the name given Him. He is the fulfilment of Holy Scripture: “A child will be born…the Messiah…whose heel will crush the serpent’s head destroying both sin and death – swallowing them up in victory.” The name of Jesus sums up the purpose of his birth, his life and his death. If there was no perfect sacrifice for sin there would be no forgiveness – without which there is no hope of eternal life. His name holds meaning and possesses power: “I have no money at all, but I give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth I order you to get up and walk!” (Acts 3:6). Look in the text how often the verb walking is used after the miracle: three times as if to emphasise the incredible fact that after years of being crippled this man’s legs were now fully working.
Where are we in this story?
Are we in the crowd surprised and amazed at what happened to the severely handicapped man? Or are we with Peter and John, relying on the power from God, given in divine glory by calling upon the name of His Son Jesus Christ? Are we with the cripple, who wasn’t expecting to be healed and whose feet and ankles became strong and who jumped into the Temple to praise God? Or, are we standing alongside the priests and ruling authorities who later arrest the disciples for teaching the Gospel?
Peter had already declared the name of Jesus as the source of salvation and forgiveness when he preached his first sermon in Acts 2. Now he proclaims and demonstrates that Jesus’ name has the power to heal -physically and spiritually. At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, but this man leapt like a deer, immediately recognising his inner healing for which he praises God, as he’s now able to rejoin the Temple community from which he been excluded all his life. Walking through the gate called Beautiful and jumping through the temple courts, worshipping God must have been an undignified spectacle – so one can well imagine people’s surprise and amazement as they began to recognise him.
This beggar had just expected charity when Peter commanded: “Look at us!” – But he received so much more, the use of his legs, as lovingly Peter says: “In the name of Jesus Christ, walk!” This healing witnessed to the fact that the Crucified One, the Author of Life, was risen and ascended to glory and only by the authority of His name, and through the Holy Spirit’s power, was the instant healing of this man made possible.
We might love the sound of our names. But none of them can heal the sick, raise the dead, or rescue anybody from hell. There is only one name that can do that. It is Jesus that changes people’s lives. And transformation prepares the way for the Gospel to be preached, as Peter, in the rest of the chapter, boldly states the salvation message right there in the Temple. As one commentary I read aptly stated it was, “A lame excuse for preaching the Gospel!”
But as with the disciples generation, someone who doesn’t believe that he or she needs to be saved from anything – especially sin – neither Jesus or His name probably mean all that much. But to those who are in the way of salvation, His name is like honey to our lips and Jesus means everything. I end with prayerful words from Psalm 86:-
Show me, Lord, your way so that I may walk in your truth. Guide my heart to fear your name.
I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart and glorify your name for ever; for your love to me has been great: you have saved me from the depth of the grave.
Loving God, thank you for infinite faithfulness to us and that there is healing and salvation in the name of Jesus Christ.