Proclaim the Name
The Festival of Pentecost
Proclaim the Name
Text: Acts 2:21
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” William Shakespeare penned those words into the mouth of Juliet Capulet. Young Juliet painfully cast those words into the night air from her balcony, ruing the fact that her new love Romeo was a Montague. The Capulets and Montagues were enemies. But what’s in a name? If a rose were called a “skunk,” it still would smell sweet. The point was that even if Romeo was a Montague, that didn’t change how great he was or how much Juliet loved him. What’s in a name? Shakespeare makes a valid point as he challenges names and labels.
These days, names don’t mean quite as much as they used to. Sure, we might name our children after a dear family member or friend. But often a name is picked because “it has a ring to it” or because it isn’t on the list of most commonly used names in America. It’s not usual that names are picked these days because of their meaning. My last name Huebner in German was a name for a small and prosperous farmer. My first name Philip literally means “lover of horses.” But I neither like farming nor riding horses (and my wife is allergic anyways). Names don’t always mean as much as they used to these days.
However, there used to be a time when names truly meant something. Those names can often be found in Scripture. For example, Abraham means “father or many,” a name given when God promised many nations would come from his line. Elijah means “My God is the Lord” and Elisha means “My God is salvation.” Those names mean something.
But there is one whose names always have great significance. There is one whose names always have greatest importance. There is one whose names actually change our lives. This, of course, is God. Today we listen more closely to Peter’s famous Pentecost sermon and we hear his encouragement to Proclaim the Name.
Jesus is an important name. Jesus is a name that was specifically given to mean something special. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and announced that Mary would have a child. The angel said, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” The child was to have a special name, Jesus, which means “the Lord saves” or “salvation.” Jesus’ name describes who he is and what he came to do. He is the Savior. He came to save his people from their sins.
That wasn’t the original plan. God’s intention from the beginning was that his people would live with him forever. God gave Adam and Eve a perfect paradise to enjoy with their children and their descendants for all time. The created would live with their Creator in perfect joy and harmony forever.
But Adam and Eve quickly ruined what God had done. As they tasted the fruit of temptation they broke the perfection and lost the paradise. One sin was all it took to set this world spiraling out of control. One sin was all it took to bring sinfulness to all their descendants. One sin was all it took to let Satan and death bring their evil consequences to all.
Of course, there hasn’t been only one sin, and Adam and Eve haven’t been the only sinners. Looking around us at the world today, it seems nearly incredible to think that it once was perfect. The things that people do, the things we see on TV, the things we read in books or magazines are so far from perfect you might think that Satan was in control.
But it isn’t only those around us. We aren’t exempt from these accusations. Hardly a minute goes by when we don’t join our first parents in disobedience of the Lord. If we aren’t angry, then we’re arrogant. If we aren’t lying, then we’re lusting. If we aren’t swearing, then we’re selfish. If we aren’t self-gratifying, then we’re gossiping. If we aren’t cursing, then we are coarse and dirty. If we aren’t idolatrous, then we’re adulterous. “Sinners” is the name that we deserve. That’s who we are. That’s what we do.
Yet God sent his Son and gave him the name “Jesus,” the name that means “the Lord saves” or “salvation.” His name describes who he is and what he came to do. As the angel said, “He will save his people from their sins.”
That’s exactly what Jesus did. He fulfilled his name to perfection as he did what Adam and Eve could not and what we could not—he lived with perfection and perfectly obeyed his Father. He fulfilled his name to perfection as he willingly gave his life as a payment for what we have done. His death in our place removed the sins we have done. He is Jesus and he did save his people from their sins.
Jesus is also given another important name in Scripture. He is also called the Lord, or Yahweh. In the Old Testament you know this special name when you see it in all capital letters. This is a special name God uses for himself. The Lord is his name of free and faithful love. The Lord is his name that tells us he never changes. The Lord is his name that tells us he always keeps his promises.
Two weeks ago I shared with you God’s own definition of this name: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin.” The essence of who God is and what he does is that he will punish those who reject him and sin, but that he will also be compassionate and gracious and abound in love and forgiveness to people.
So what’s the connection between the Lord and us? How do we get to enjoy the love, faithfulness, and forgiveness of God? How do we get that special name to be the name that applies to us? The connection is our faithin Jesus, the Savior. You see Jesus is the Lord. Jesus is the one who fulfilled the meaning of the Lord’s name. Jesus is the one who is the ultimate evidence and showing of the Lord’s love, faithfulness, and forgiveness.
That was Peter’s powerful message on Pentecost. Jews from around the world had gathered in Jerusalem for the harvest festival that was 50 days after Passover. But suddenly that morning they heard Peter and the other disciples talking in languages that they previously had never known. They weren’t drunk like the people had thought. Peter stood up to tell those Jews exactly what was going on. He and the disciples were proclaiming the name of Jesus. They were proclaiming what he had done. They were proclaiming that he was the only way to salvation. They were proclaiming that all have sinned and without Jesus there is no salvation. And so Peter said, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Peter, who 52 days before had denied knowing Jesus and sunk to the depths of sin, was now filled with the joy of salvation and the power of the Holy Spirit so that he could boldly proclaim what Jesus had done. Peter took the opportunity to make sure that everyone knew that they needed Jesus. Peter took the opportunity to make sure that everyone knew that through faith in Jesus they would be saved, too.
Brothers and sisters, Pentecost was just the start. The faithful and fearless testimony of God’s people by the power of the Holy Spirit did not end with Peter’s sermon. That was just the start. The gift of the Holy Spirit was a gift Jesus promised to all his followers for years to come, including us.
The Holy Spirit still works powerfully today. He works through the words that we sing and proclaim here in worship. He works through the words that you share with your friend or your neighbor or the your coworker. He works through the words that are attached to water in holy Baptism. He works through the words that are attached to bread and wine and Jesus’ body and blood in holy Communion. Through these powerful means the Holy Spirit still smashes stony hearts of sin, he gives faith in Jesus, and he strengthens faith in Jesus.
Peter made it very clear on that first Pentecost: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” What a wonderful joy that all of us who believe in Jesus, the Lord, will be saved! But the contrary is frightening. That also means that everyone who does not call on the name of the Lord will not be saved. You cannot get to heaven by what you do. You cannot get to heaven by being a nice person. You cannot get to heaven by trying hard. You can only get to heaven through your faith in Jesus as Savior.
So who do you know that doesn’t know about Jesus? A friend? A family member? A neighbor? A coworker? The cashier at Walmart? The guy who fixes your truck? Without Jesus, they will not be saved. Who will tell them the name that is above all names? Who will tell them the name of the one who lived and died and rose for them? Who will tell them about Jesus?
Why not you? The Holy Spirit worked powerfully through Peter. He was just a fisherman and likely not an eloquent speaker. Yet the Spirit gave him the words to speak and powerfully worked through that message so that 3,000 people came to faith on that first Pentecost.
The Spirit does the same today. He works through pastors and teachers. He works through nurses. He works through salesmen and saleswomen. He works through managers. He works through employees. He works through those out of work and those retired. He works through adults and children, through men and women. Most importantly, he works through the Word of God.
Names may not have as much meaning and may not be as special today as they once were. But we get to share with others names that do—Jesus and the Lord. The Holy Spirit once worked as those names were proclaimed to you. The Spirit brought you to faith. Now be God’s mouthpiece and share those names with others. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” so Proclaim the Name.
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Posted on June 12, 2011, in Church, Sermons and tagged Acts, Acts 2, Church, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Name of the Lord, Pentecost, Pentecost Sermon, Peter, Sermons, the Lord, Work of the Holy Spirit, Yahweh. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.