Summary: A sermon dealing with what it means when we call Jesus the Savior.
1 John 4: 9 – 14
Did you hear the story of little Fruit Stand? When the 1960s ended, San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district reverted to high rent, and many hippies moved down the coast to Santa Cruz. They had children and got married, too, though in no particular sequence. But they didn’t name their children Joe or Suzie. People in the mountains around Santa Cruz grew accustomed to their children playing Frisbee with little Time Warp or Spring Fever. And eventually Moonbeam, Earth, Love and Precious Promise all ended up in public school. That’s when the kindergarten teachers first met Fruit Stand. Every fall, according to tradition, parents bravely apply name tags to their children, kiss them good-bye and send them off to school on the bus. So it was for Fruit Stand. The teachers thought the boy’s name was odd, but they tried to make the best of it. "Would you like to play with the blocks, Fruit Stand?" they offered. And later, "Fruit Stand, how about a snack?" He accepted hesitantly. By the end of the day, his name didn’t seem much more odd than Heather’s or Sun Ray’s. At dismissal time, the teachers led the children out to the buses. "Fruit Stand, do you know which one is your bus?" He didn’t answer. That wasn’t strange. He hadn’t answered them all day. Lots of children are shy on the first day of school. It didn’t matter. The teachers had instructed the parents to write the names of their children’s bus stops on the reverse side of their name tags. The teacher simply turned over the tag. There, neatly printed, was the word "Anthony."
As we continue our series “Jesus is…”, today we fill in the blank with the title “Savior.” It is more than a title, though. Really, all we need to know about Jesus is summed up in his name, for the name “Jesus” means “Jehovah saves.” The name Jesus is actually the transliteration of the Hebrew “Joshua,” which means Jehovah saves. Names were an incredibly important part of first century culture. The naming of a child was as important as the birth of a child, for the name was to be more than a mere identifier of the child, it was to be a reflection of his/her very character. So it was with Jesus. The prophet Isaiah had predicted long before Jesus’ birth that God would send a savior. We are reminded every year at Christmas: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and he shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Is. 9:6). It would be an angel of the Lord who would appear to Joseph in a dream and reveal this savior’s name—Jesus. In Matthew’s Gospel we find this: “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20b – 21). Everything we need to know about Jesus—his purpose, his life, his aim—is summed up in his name. Jesus is…Savior!
To proclaim Jesus is Savior suggests someone or something needs saving. When we proclaim Jesus is Savior, it is our acknowledgement that WE need saving. That brings up the whole issue of sin, and we’re just not so sure we want to talk about sin. Sin is so negative, and I want to come to church to get a pick-me-up. I want the preacher to make me feel good about myself. If the preacher tells me I’m a sinner, I won’t likely feel too good. And, I would say, “If that’s all the preacher says, you’re right.” But, how can we hear the Good News that Jesus saves if we don’t first hear the bad news that we need saving? Jesus is Savior means there is Good News!
Let’s look at this thing called sin. We can’t understand God’s story apart from sin. In the beginning, God created everything beautiful. As a matter of fact, God called it “boker tov”—very good. The devil was not content that things should be very good. Aspiring and failing to become God himself, he set about to destroy that which God created very good. His aim was the man and woman God created and placed in the Garden of Eden. It was God’s will that Adam and Eve would have anything they wanted except the fruit from the tree in the center of the Garden—the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Satan tempted them to violate God’s will—to sin. Humanity has been sinning ever since!