6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: Jesus is the ultimate name -- the only name through which there is salvation.

Well, as you’re aware by now my name is Brad. Although, that is not the whole truth. Brad is actually a shortened form of Bradley. That’s what my parents named me -- Bradley. Bradley is a name from the British Isles that means broad meadow -- perhaps a commentary on girth.

Now, I wish that I could tell you that there is great significance in my name. But the fact is that the only significance of my name is that my parents liked it.

Sometimes Americans name their children because of a great meaning -- sometimes there is no great meaning.

However, in the ancient world names almost always seemed to have great significance. So it is important to take note in Luke 1:31 that the angel Gabriel tells the very surprised Virgin Mary -- “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.” (NLT)

It’s not just the virgin conception that leaps out in this passage but the name Jesus -- for Jesus means “the Lord saves”. And everyone knew it. It was not a new name. It was actually an updated version the name Joshua.

Gabriel is giving Mary, the mother of Jesus, a clue regarding what Jesus was going to be all about -- salvation -- the meaning of his name and his life. He is coming from the Lord to save -- a fact which the gospel writers unpack in their descriptions of his kingdom activity, the cross, and the great resurrection. JESUS SAVES.

In Luke’s second volume or book -- what we call the Book of Acts -- we are not surprised then when the Apostles invoke or call on the name of Jesus as they are acting on his behalf -- as they become agents of his salvation.

In Acts 3:5-6 Peter and John are about to enter the Jewish Temple for the afternoon prayer service and they come across a crippled man -- someone who could not walk. And he was begging -- asking for a donation.

Perhaps you’ve seen similar people in big cities. Last weekend we were in Seoul and we saw a man without legs lying across the sidewalk begging. We saw the same thing in the streets of Bangkok in February.

So, what do Peter and John do as the crippled man confronts them. Do they tell him to stop bothering them? No!

Do they give him money? Apparently not. They didn’t have any money for in Acts 3:6 Peter says to him, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”

Which, of course is what he does. Verse 7 -- “Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened. He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them.”

Notice that this all centers around the name of Jesus. “In the name of Jesus the Nazarene get up and walk...”

This activity does not escape the eyes and ears of the religious leaders -- who had thought that they had gotten rid of Jesus and his movement. So, they send the police out to arrest Peter and John -- locking them up overnight in jail.

The next day the Apostles are taken into the Jewish council -- the Sanhedrin. In that meeting the religious leaders demand to know by what “power or name” (4:7) they had been operating. “Who has given you the official license to practice medicine? To heal this man?”

That the man was helped is immaterial in their minds. Their interest is in authority -- even authority to do good.

Last Friday Cheryl, our son Kent, and I were in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. We actually crossed over into North Korea by a few steps. And even though my experience of North Korea is very limited I can tell you that I don’t think I’d want to live there. The North Korean government wants to regulate everything that happens there.

You would have to get a government license to do good there -- to give food to the poor or the heal someone or to share good news with them. It’s a very controlling place.

Now, we were not afraid because we had a group of South Korean and American soldiers guarding us as we stood on the border. But it is amazing to think that there are governments who feel threatened by the good deeds of some.

And this was the case in Acts 4. The government leaders wanted to know under whose name the Apostles were authorized to act. 4:8 -- “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers and elders of our people, are we being questioned today because we’ve done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed? Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead.’”

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