Text: Acts 4:1-12
4 Easter, B
1As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening.
Almost before the last word is out of Peter’s mouth he is grabbed violently by the arm. The Chief of the temple police and a large group of club wielding men have them encircled. In a scene reminiscent of our own nightly news, where the police of our day swoop in to arrest and secret away lock-down protesters with their nefarious and dangerous message, these troublesome preachers in the temple courts must be removed before their fake news message can spread.
You see, many Jews expected the resurrection of the dead at the end of time. And the incessant preaching of the disciples about this man Jesus having come back from the dead ... a message they now seemed to be backing up with miracles ... well if it were true, or if people only thought it was true, then this Jesus’ resurrection would prove to the crowds that the end had already appeared in one man. The Law now fulfilled, and the Messianic Kingdom at hand.
And that was bad news for the religious leaders. But not so bad that they were willing to meet at the end of the day, so the apostles are bustled out of the temple courts to cool their heels overnight. It might make the apostles nervous and ready to cooperate. And the swift show of force should make the crowds think twice before listening again.
Only it didn’t. 4But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. The temple authorities might stifle a service or two, but they could not destroy the Spirit’s work. A work that had already seen the number of Christians almost doubled since Pentecost Day!
5On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?”
And so Peter and John find themselves in the very same room where Jesus was put on trial. Staring up into the same angry faces. And the question they are asked is a shrewd one indeed. They cannot condemn the healing of a cripple, but they can hint at accusations that Jesus performed His miracles by sorcery. It was believed that secret names / true names held power over the thing/person named. They can remind the men before them that this Jesus so named as a blasphemer got the punishment He deserved. They can hang the metaphorical noose out before them with the reminder that good deeds done in a bad name are still damnable.
The world still loves to besmirch the name of Jesus and thereby impugn any who would seek to follow in His footsteps or bear His name. Misogyny, slavery, bigotry is that the legacy you really want to stick your neck out for? Remember the crusades? Do you really think you are better than all the rest of the world? That you can’t or won’t suffer like them? That God loves you more than any sincere person of any other religion! Wouldn’t it just be better for everyone, especially you, if you would shut up and do what you were told?
But Peter isn’t afraid, and neither should we be. Listen to him stick his neck out: 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.
They want him to drop this name of Jesus once and for all. But their demands are powerless in the face of this Easter reality. Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! And so instead, the name of Jesus drops the hammer on those self-important fools. They didn’t defeat Jesus then, and they still can’t do it now. The one they had crucified God Himself raised. And the one who died and is alive again, changes everything. At the very mention of His name the lame walk, fearful disciples are made bold, the doubting believe and every knee will bow and every tongue confess to the glory of God the Father and to the light and life of the world.
For there is power in this name that our world just doesn’t understand. A power to bring true light and life into our world of darkness and death. 11This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Christianity is the one true faith because Jesus, the only source of salvation, rescues us from the evil one. He delivers all people from a verdict of damnation and heals ills of body and soul.
“Christ’s name is received only by faith. Therefore, we are saved by confidence in Christ’s name and not by confidence in our works. For the name here means the cause that is mentioned, because of which salvation is gained. To call upon Christ’s name is to trust in His name as the cause or price, because of which we are saved.” (Ap AC IV 98)
Our Good Shepherd has called you by name. Lifted you up in His loving arms. Granted you the gift of the Holy Spirit through your Baptism into His name. Forgiven your sins in His precious Body and Blood. And all of this, without any merit or worthiness on our part. He has gathered us into His flock, and called us by name that we, like Peter before us, may proclaim His name to all the world. The name upon which all our hopes are built. The name in which we find our shelter in the day of trouble. The name that grants us everlasting life and the hope of the resurrection. The name by which every evil has been defeated and every blessing is bestowed. In the name of Jesus Christ the risen One, may you find your rest and peace!