The Name of Jesus

Name of Jesus
January 1st
Philippians 2:5-11

At the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess. This is terrifying. Sometimes we forget that all judgement has been handed over to the Son (John 5:22). Your sweet Jesus is also the one who condemns. On the last day the question will not be whether or not you will bow before the Lord. The only question will be whether you will bow in terror or in comfort. All will bow. We should make this very clear: God is terrifying. We should shrink when we hear his Name.

We run into problems when we concentrate on the Father over the Son. It becomes dangerous when we concentrate on the natural knowledge of God over the revealed Word of God. We might trick ourselves for a little bit: “God is awesome. God has a plan for me. Isn’t nature beautiful and awesome? God must be beautiful and awesome!”

But then comes the fire, famine, hurricane, typhoon, and recession. What the heck? God is awesome, all right, just not in a 1980’s beach bum kind of way. He is awesome in a “Holy crap, run for your life” kind of way. So then what becomes of God’s plan for me? What becomes of this beautiful nature that has now turned on us? We are left only with a faith detached from a promise. Faith as virtue. Just believe that he has a plan for you. Just believe that it will all turn out well. Just believe. And then the burden is on us again. Just believe.

Think of all the attributes of God: all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present, free, eternal, infinite, and so forth. All of those are petrifying unless one is added: love, specifically grace, an undeserved love. Love changes all of those scary attributes to comforting characteristics. Now the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, free, eternal, and infinite God is on my side. The difference is love. And the only way we see his love is in Christ. And the only way we can truly see the love of Christ is at the cross. And the only way we know about this cross is through revealed Word which is delivered to us. So God sends preachers to preach, to absolve, to administer the Supper, and to baptize. We need the Son. We need the revealed Word. Otherwise we bow the knee only in fear.

The Son, through preachers, baptizes with Word and water. It is one way the Son is revealed to us. More than that, it is how he saves us. Baptism also has a unique connection to the Name of Jesus. Jesus means “God saves.” Fitting. It is also the Greek from of the Hebrew Joshua. We remember Joshua as the one who led Israel across the River Jordan into the Promised Land. Moses couldn’t. He and the other elder Israelites were not allowed because of their sin. I cannot help but think of the irony. Moses, the law-giver, can’t get across Jordan (a metaphor for dying and going to heaven). Only Joshua, that is, Jesus, can. Jesus is our ticket through Jordan and into the Promised Land of heaven, an inheritance sealed at baptism. What the law cannot do, Jesus does.

God tattooed his Name on you at baptism, so that you would always know who is on your side, so that you would always know who claimed you. You belong to him. He claims you. You are guaranteed the inheritance of heaven. You belong to the family. He entered time and space and said, “She I mine!” And with that the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, free, eternal, and infinite God has pledged himself to be intimately involved in your life. You will go nowhere without his protection. You will take no leap without his safety net. You will not endeavor without his insurance. He has claimed you. Nor will you ever fail, fall, or falter without his forgiveness given to you.

So we will no longer shrink at his Name but welcome it. It was placed on the ancient Israelites (Numbers 6:22-27) so that they (and everybody else in the area) knew whom God had chosen. God has placed his Name on you so that you will always know whom God has chosen. He has chosen you! When you were as hapless and helpless as the Israelites in the wilderness, he chose you. An undeserved love.

So here is God’s plan for you: He will forgive you. He will fulfill his promise of grace to you. No matter how many times he has to do it, he will forgive you. And he will send you out with the cross. That cross will remind you of the sinful world, of your sin, but ultimately of how Jesus saved you. So his Name is no longer something we fear. It is pure comfort. So on the last day we will bow and we will confess and the confession will be this: God saves. Joshua. Jesus.

Michael Berg

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