THE NAME ABOVE EVERY NAME – JESUS !
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Let us pray:
Loving Heavenly Father, we thank you for your love and grace. Help us to receive you today by receiving the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
So, what is in the name? A lot, don’t you think? For example, if I talk about let’s say a great big city that I have once visited and describe the city as: the one with multi-storey residential living, with many bridges, amazing sport facilities, heavy flowing traffic, great parks and multiple beaches, you wouldn’t be able to guess which city am I talking about based on that description, would you? But, if I give away the name and say Brisbane or Melbourne or Sydney then, you would be able to figure things out. Names not only define things but gives away unique identities and define relationships.
Let me throw random names and see how your mind immediately connects it with something. Hot cross buns, mangoes, lemons, Forgan Bridge, a Flathead, have you immediately think of these things hearing these names? How about if I say some human names like Charlie chaplain, Adolf Hitler, John Howard, Roger Federer, etc. You see friends there is a lot in a name. Names give away identity and define relationships.
If I were to say the name of Romeo, what other name comes to your mind almost immediately? Juliet? Right?
Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, rotates around the concept of what names mean as we go through day to day? If you remember the content of the play, the plotline of the feud is between Montague household (Romeo’s family) and Capulet’s household (Juliet’s family). The play begins with a brawl between two households and the tension between two families almost acts as an obstruction to the beautiful love story of Romeo and Juliet. At one point, Juliet even says: O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name; Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet….Juliet goes on to say: ‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy; Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot, Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part Belonging to a man. O, be some other name! What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…and she goes on asking him to forsake his name.
Beautiful piece of Literature, but can you see how names could bring with it a certain baggage. Baggage could be a real problem with relationships. In Juliet’s case, Romeo’s family name is the problem, since the two families are at feud with each other.
Names, whether we like it or not, give away identities, define relationships, and in certain circumstances bring to memory any baggage. Why is this important for us today?
Because today is Palm Sunday. The day the name of Jesus was glorified in the streets of Jerusalem. Even when Jesus sent his disciples to scout for the vehicle of his choice, a humble donkey, to ride on, Jesus knew people would question disciple’s action. So, Jesus said, if anyone asks, tell ‘the Lord needs’ it. Surely, these people would have known Jesus enough to loan a donkey. Think about it, if anyone would come to your place and ask for car parked in your garage, you wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable loaning it to a random stranger. But if you know who is asking, if you know their name, they are your relatives or friends, you would feel comfortable. The name is all you need, the rest of your relationship to the person and the baggage of that relationship will help you make a decision whether you want to loan it or not. .
So it was back in Jerusalem, when people heard why the disciples were untying donkey, the ‘Lord requires it’ was enough to send the colt. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, they spread cloaks and praised God saying ‘Hosanna! blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!’ Surely, they would have known Jesus, perhaps, they connected the prophecy of Zechariah, and maybe why the crowd received Jesus as ‘their king’ (Zechariah 9: 9).
They named Jesus as their king! They also identified Jesus as someone who brings in the kingdom of their father David. Just when you think they figured their relationship with Jesus, in a matter of days they were shouting before Pontius Pilate, ‘crucify him! Crucify him!’ So what’s in a name? According to them a lot. The name of Jesus had baggage!
If you are wondering, what has changed in a span of a week? The issue is simple: they did not like Jesus claims. In fact, when Jesus called himself one with Father, they did not like it. They understood relationship with God as something out there. In their minds it was hard to imagine, Jesus’ name as something powerful that heavens and earth actually would obey. Rather than receiving that name and keeping it pure in their lives, they decided to misuse it. Many in our world use the name of Jesus as a curse, as a swear word, forgetting the power in that name. Sometimes we carry on in life with all its worries, and behave as if the name of the Lord we inherited in the waters of baptism means nothing to us. On this Palm Sunday, as church goers who are quick to praise the name of the Lord through signing or responses, let us examine the conditions of our hearts in the midst of hopelessness. In the face of death, in the face of sickness, crisis in life, suffering, pain, loneliness let us ask, is the name of Jesus we praise still enough to carry us through difficult times? Even as we walk through the shadow of the valley of death, does the name of Jesus give us peace, comfort and security we so long for in our lives? May the Holy Spirit guide you to search for honest answers?
You see friends, people during Jesus days were so offended. Because their hearts told them, Jesus cannot possibly be God, let alone have authority to forgive sins. Not only they rejected Jesus for his claim but were offended that he would be identified as ‘King of the Jews.’ If Jesus was King, then they said he would be a threat to Roman Empire. In fact, the leaders in Sanhedrin, at the trial of Jesus, promoted the idea that Jesus is synonymous to all things evil. Once they labelled Jesus as a direct threat to Roman Emperor, they were able to persuade Pontius Pilate to sentence Jesus to death on a cross. Even when Pilate questioned them, ‘shall I release Jesus, king of the Jews?’ together they said, ‘crucify him!’ they did not want to be associated with the name of Jesus.
While, sinful human hearts have always rejected God and His name, God on the other hand, loves us way too much to give up on us easily. Funny enough, God saves us through His name.
Remember the Christmas story? At the time when the Angel came to Joseph, who learnt of Mary’s pregnancy and was unsure about his future, Angel Gabriel said, ‘’Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1: 21).
By giving away the name of Jesus, Angel gave away God’s loving plan to save this world. Jesus has come into the world to save us from sins. When the crowd greeted Christ with palm branches, little did they know, He was their saviour! After all, Jesus was from the line of David just as God promised long ago, and He comes in the name of the Lord, bearing all the promises of God. Yes, even when people put him on a cross Jesus still saves! Jesus’ obedience to God lasted even when his suffering was immense and pretty intense. When the world rejected Jesus, falsely accused him, spit on him, scourged his back, nailed him to a cross, and in the midst of all of Jesus love for us kept him faithful. Like a servant, Jesus willingly endured all that was put in front of him, including the death upon a cross. No wonder Paul says, because of this obedience of Jesus, God has exalted him and gave him name above all names. This is the good news from which we all benefit.
God became man in Jesus. So that, by his name, we can be in fellowship with God. Your baptism my friend bestows Christ completed work on you. You are made a child of God, bearing the name of the ‘Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’ all because of what Christ has done for you. By the nature of your baptism, you now have incredible access to God, to call upon him in time of need, ask him for his help no matter what your situation is; how amazing is that prospect?
However, the unfortunate thing back in their day and so is in our day is that the name of Jesus is a stumbling block to many. I suppose, some in our culture do not understand Jesus, in fact, they put their best minds, hearts, and resources wanting to get rid of the name of Jesus with little success.
The same attitude that was present at Jesus trial is still present even today. People rather prefer the release of a known criminal (like Barabbas) over Jesus. Where should this leave us? Not disheartened, not to lose faith but persevere just like Jesus. With the same mind we carry on.
In times of crisis, suffering, and punishment, Christ set aside his Godly status to drink from the cup suffering for our sake. In this our saviour shows what true humility looks like. God first, others next, and self and its priorities come last. This is the order Jesus followed even though he was in the form of God. His example, inspires us to do likewise. When we raise from this table, receiving the selfless gifts of Christ, His body, and His blood served for our benefit, we raise to live selfless lives, so that God’s name is glorified in our lives.
The priority of the world, on the other hand, is me first, others next, God last. If those rescued by the name of Jesus, and are called as members of His body were to follow the example of Christ, how much more beautiful this world would be? Think about it my friend! Paul admonishes Christians to live such lives, when he said, ‘3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves’. As you enter holy week, something to ponder, and if need be realign your lives to bring glory to God. Just as some names like Charlie Chaplain bring joy and smiles, while other names bring sadness like Hitler’s name, let us examine our lives today, so that the name of Jesus is always glorified in our lives. When our journey is over, and the world recollects of our names, may our lives bring glory to God.
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Jaswanth Kukatlapalli
Pastor at Mackay Community Lutheran Church (Mackay), and
St. Martin’s Lutheran Church (Cannonvale)
Office Address: 44-46 Wellington Street, Mackay, Queensland, 4740