JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN! …
Names mean things. When Shakespeare wrote, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” he didn’t really know what he was talking about. Because, when we say Jesus Christ is risen, no other name will do. We could call Jesus by the name Fred, but that would not be the same thing. God the Father Himself chose the name of His only begotten Son, and it was not a name chosen on a whim. Jesus’ name means “God is our salvation.” So when we say, Jesus Christ is risen, we are saying more than the man Jesus, Son of Joseph and Mary, has risen from the dead (though we are in truth saying that); when we say that Jesus Christ is risen, we are saying more than God the Son incarnate has risen victorious over the power of death (though we are in truth saying that); when we say that Jesus Christ is risen, we are saying that God is our salvation has risen; we are saying that our salvation from God has come to pass; it has risen before us; it is real; we are saved!
Names mean things, but we take them for granted. I was named David, not because my parents believed I would be a beloved king; not because there was another David that I would emulate; but because they liked the sound of it. David, that’s a nice solid sounding name. After all, what’s in a name? It is nothing but an ordering of sounds, represented by letters that we associate with a person or thing. Apart from the person or thing associated with it, the name is meaningless. It is the person behind the name that has meaning, right? That’s certainly how our world thinks about it today, but that is not how Scripture treats it and it is certainly not how Jesus’ disciples would have understood it. Names mean things. Names hold power. A person’s name in Scripture and in that world is more than a mere label incidentally associated with a particular person. A person’s name is an indispensable part of that person’s nature. One might say that the person is constituted of the body, the soul, and the name. If you change the name, you change the person. Simon’s name means he who has heard and Peter means a rock or foundation. So when Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter, He literally proclaimed that he who has heard becomes the foundation on which Christ builds His Church. If you control a person’s name, you control that person. So when Moses asks God to give him His name, and God responds I am who I am, He is saying in no uncertain terms that He cannot be controlled; He cannot be manipulated; God is who He is, not who we want to make Him. God is not like the pagan myths. He is not one that can be invoked and pressed into service through the incantation of His divine name. So why is it that Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, He will give it to you.”?
Jesus’ disciples knew that God’s name was ineffable – or too sacred to be spoken. Not that it shouldn’t, but that God’s name was so holy, that it was beyond their ability to speak it, no matter how hard they might try. So is Jesus giving them a secret way to manipulate God into doing their will? God, in Jesus name, I ask for a new car! Well, of course not. That’s ludicrous. But pay close attention here, for there’s something we all tend to overlook. Jesus said, “Until now you have asked nothing in my name.” So what! What could that possible have to do with anything? Well, think about it. Have they asked anything of Jesus before this? Sure they have. Jesus, heal me. Jesus, feed me. Jesus, make me see. Jesus, make me walk. Jesus, make me clean. Jesus, let in sit at your right hand in your kingdom. Jesus, tell me what I must do to be saved. They always seemed to be asking Jesus for just about everything. So how can He say that “Until now you have asked nothing in my name.”? Did they say it wrong? Maybe they didn’t pronounce His name quite right. No. But remember, Jesus is not just true man, He is truly God. He is God the Son incarnate. The same God who said to Moses, “I am who I am.” Jesus will not be invoked by His name, and Jesus will not be pressed into service at the sound of His name. So what could Jesus mean when He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, He will give it to you.”? To answer that question, you only need to understand two things: what Jesus’ name means and what it means for us to ask.
Jesus’ name clearly shows us who He is and why He came; why He suffered; why He died; and why He rose from the grave. God is our salvation! Jesus’ name IS God is our salvation. Jesus nature IS God is our salvation. And to ask in this text does not mean to pose a question, or to request a boon. To ask means to crave, desire, or need. What is the result – according to Jesus – of asking in His name? It is that your joy will be full, and what – according to Jesus – will make your joy full? It is the bringing of new life into the world. As Jesus said in the verses preceding this, “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” This is what it means to ask in Jesus name. It means to crave, to desire, to need God as our salvation.
There is no way to the joy of new life other than God as our salvation. If God is our salvation, then our joy is complete and no one can take it from us. Only through God as our salvation are our sins forgiven; only through God as our salvation are we made new creations. We cannot seize God’s salvation as our own. We cannot invoke God’s salvation in Jesus’ name, because Jesus is God and God is who He is and not who we wish to make Him. All we can do is to crave His salvation; all we can do is desire His salvation; all we can do is need His salvation. But this is the Good News. Jesus came and died to cleanse us of our sins; He rose to conquer the power of death itself. And through God’s free gift, God is our salvation. So come to His table this morning and receive the bread and the wine, that in His name has become the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and through His body and His blood receive the grace of God who is our salvation.
Jesus Christ is Risen! … Amen.