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Sermon - November 9, 2014

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                                           Sermon #1189

November 9, 2014                                                                                          Isaiah 9:2-6

Dr. Ed Pettus                                                                                                  John 11:17-27


“What’s in a Name?”


            For about a year a big black dude would walk into the Fitness Center and when I would be outside the racquetball court we would speak to one another with some type of greeting.  On one particular day he stopped a few extra seconds and said, “My name is Daniel.”  We shook hands and I introduced myself.  We know names now and it has made a huge difference in how we interact.  There is something about knowing a name. 


            A patient sits in the doctor’s office waiting to hear the results of the tests.  It has been several weeks of questions and fear and the unknown.  The doctor comes in and says, “Mr. Smith, you have cancer.”  Mr. Smith suddenly has a sense of relief.  The unknown in named and while fear might still linger, just in naming the illness he has some sense of relief, even a sense of power. 


            There is a lot of power in a name.  It is certainly a part of our identity.  I have a couple of friends who legally changed their names and it took most of us who knew them several years to adjust.  I grew up as “Eddie” and that is still my name in South Carolina, but at some point through seminary I started going by “Ed”.  I still correct people who think they are poking fun by calling me “Edward” and I tell them it’s “Edwin”.  There is something about getting the name right.


            The greatest name we know is Jesus, or more fully, Jesus Christ.  Jesus’ name and his title, the Christ, give us a revelation of who he is and what he does.  “Jesus” is the Greek version of the Hebrew name, “Joshua”.  You recall that Joshua is a famous name in the Old Testament.  The name means “he saves”.  Joshua was the one who carried the promise of God and the blessing of the God who would save his people.  While Joshua was not the purest character we would imagine God calling, he still was the one who carried forward the covenant of God.  His name carried with it a particular meaning that also shapes his role. 


Jesus is the Yeshua (Joshua), the Savior, who does display a pure character and carries with him the promises of God and a New Covenant.  When we say, “Jesus saves”, we are not just summarizing the gospel, but we are also proclaiming the meaning of his name and the action of his life, death, and resurrection that brings salvation to bear on the world. 


Jesus is his name; Christ is one of his titles.  Christ literally means “anointed one”.  Just as Joshua was a fairly common name among Jews, so too was the practice of God’s anointing someone.  There are people in the Old Testament who are anointed for a particular purpose who we might call a “savior” or “messiah” in a broad sense.  What is unique is that Jesus is set apart in the Gospels as THE anointed savior of the world.  He is THE Messiah.  His name carries the greatest weight and power and majesty. 


There are over one hundred names or titles that refer to Jesus Christ.  One resource had over two hundred.  Of course, there is no way we can even list them all, let alone address them this morning.  Here are just a few, names or titles: the last Adam, Alpha and Omega, Bread of Life, Cornerstone, Good Shepherd, King of Kings, and the Word of God.  We can see several names in our gospel reading for this morning from John 11.  Jesus is addressed as “Lord”.  Jesus uses the title “I Am” when he says, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  Two titles there as well in “resurrection and life”.  In verse 27 Martha uses three titles, Lord, Messiah, and Son of God.  Just in this one section of the Lazarus story we have the name of Jesus and six titles – Lord, I Am, Resurrection, Life, Messiah, and Son of God. 


Our Old Testament reading from Isaiah 9 includes titles that we attribute to Jesus.  These are the titles we hear during the Advent and Christmas season – Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.  It is even possible to divide these titles from four to eight for Jesus is Wonderful; Jesus is Counselor, and so forth.  Greg Laurie shares some thoughts on these terms. 


His name is Wonderful. This word comes from the root word "wonder," which means "a sense of awe." Jesus wants to bring a sense of awe and wonder to our lives. Jesus Christ makes life wonderful.

His name is Counselor. As Psalm 73:24 says, "You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me into glory."  With Christ as your Counselor, you can know that God will reveal His will to you.

His name is Mighty God. This means that Jesus has unlimited power for you as you encounter the demands of life.

He is called the Everlasting Father, because Christ came to die on the cross and pay for your sins and rise again from the dead, you have an Everlasting Father, One who will be with you forever.

His name is the Prince of Peace. Certainly we live in frightening times. We look at our world and see so many things that have gone wrong. How we need peace in our lives. If you look at the wars and problems we face today, they are, for the most part, the result of people who are breaking God's commandments. But God will bring peace to the person who is well-pleasing to Him.[1]


All of these names tell us something more about Jesus Christ.  They tell us about what he does and who he is.  I want to address a few other titles for Jesus. 


One that sounds quite obvious in meaning is “Son of God”.  Jesus is the Son of God.  Jesus is the only Begotten Son of God.  When Jesus was baptized, God’s voice was heard proclaiming Jesus as God’s beloved Son (Matt. 3:17).  Another time when three of the disciples were with Jesus on the mountain God spoke again, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mark 9:7).  This title given to Jesus signifies that Jesus is uniquely understood as THE Son of God, not just a son of God as in we are all sons and daughters of God.  Jesus has a unique intimacy with the Father, fully obedient to the Father’s will like no one else. 


Another title which is sometimes misunderstood is “Son of Man”.  This title does not speak of the full humanity of Jesus as opposed to “Son of God” speaking to his full divinity.  They do have some connection to make that distinction, but it is not exclusively a term that only speaks of his humanity.  “Son of Man” is actually something of a divine exalted title.  As R.C. Sproul explains:


In the book of Daniel, the Son of Man appears in a vision of heaven. He is presented before the throne of the "Ancient of Days" and is given “dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed" (Dan. 7:14). Here the Son of Man is a heavenly being, a transcendent figure who will descend to the earth to exercise the role of supreme judge.[2]


Son of Man is the title Jesus uses the most to describe himself.  Some believe he used this term to counter the expectation that the Messiah would come as an earthly ruler to overthrow the Roman government.  “Son of Man” is most likely the title Jesus preferred because it describes the one sent from the Father, who descended from heaven.  As Jesus says in John 3:13, “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.”  Jesus depicts the “Son of Man” as the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28) and authority to forgive sin (Luke 5:24).  Jesus’ use of this title describes the One who is Lord, Forgiver, Judge, and would come again.  “Son of Man” does indeed have a strong connection to Jesus as a man, but more so, it is a heavenly title that reveals many things about the particular divinity of Jesus in what the Son of Man does and will do. 


Other titles include Jesus as the Head of the Church, Horn of Salvation, Rose of Sharon, Lamb of God, Light of the World, Suffering Servant, Morning Star, Our Passover, and True Vine.  I believe one of the reasons there are so many titles is that no single title or name can fully capture the fullness of Jesus Christ.  Each one gives us another piece of the whole. 


The Bible affirms that there is power in the name of Jesus. 


Jesus taught the disciples:

“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14). 


“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me” (Matthew 18:4-5).


John gives testimony about the power of the name:


“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;  but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name”  (John 20:30-31).


And one day, hopefully a day not too far away, we will see the scene foretold in Isaiah and in Philippians 2…


“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” (Phil. 2:9-11). 


What’s in a name?  There is power.  There is life.  There is salvation.  There is love.  There is hope.  Let us proclaim the name Jesus Christ, for in just saying the name we proclaim the Messiah who saves.  Amen.


[1] http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/a-new-beginning/read/articles/whats-in-a-name-8589.html

[2] R. C. Sproul. Who Is Jesus? (Crucial Questions Series) (p. 31). Kindle Edition.