In his 1875 book on the history of hymns, Edwin Long tells of Reverend E. P. Scott, a missionary, living in India during the 1800s. At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but against advice of his fellow missionaries, Scott set out alone to visit a remote village. He was determined to share the Gospel with a dangerous savage tribe. His friends sought to dissuade him, saying, "We will never see you again." He said, “But I must carry Jesus to them.”
Several days into his journey, Scott was met by a large group of warriors who quickly surrounded him, each one pointing a spear towards his heart. Expecting to die, Scott made a decision to use his last few breaths to glorify God, and to hopefully stir something within the hearts of his captors. He took out his violin (which he always carried on him), closed his eyes, and began to play and sing “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name,” in the native language of the warriors.
After singing the first verse, the second, the third, and then beginning the fourth, Rev. Scott realized he was still standing, and that all around him was a peaceful quiet. Opening his eyes he saw every spear lowered. There stood those mighty warriors, with tears in their eyes. Throughout the remainder of his life, Scott spent much time with this tribe, sharing the love of God.
We forget that there is power in the name of Jesus. When Jesus sent out the 72 to preach and perform miracles, many returned saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” (Luke 10:17). In Acts 4:12 Peter preached about Jesus saying, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” In John 16:23 Jesus said to the disciples, “In that day you will not ask me for anything. I tell you the truth. My Father will give you anything you ask for in my name.” If that wasn’t enough, Paul reminded us in Phil 2:9-10 that “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”
The name of Jesus is also a sword in our culture (Matt. 10:34). The name of Jesus brings controversy, division and even hatred. We all have heard people abuse the name of Jesus to express disgust or aid them in cursing. Interestingly, I never hear the names of various religious leaders or so-called gurus being used when someone is angry or upset. So why do people, including avowed atheists, use the name Jesus Christ in this way?
I believe that in their hearts, they know there is power in that holy name. Sure, they are taking it in vain. They are violating the third commandment (Ex. 20:7). But in a way, they are acknowledging the existence of God. Otherwise, why invoke the name of a God you don't believe in? Why say the name of a person you don't think ever existed? Because there is power in that name and when you say it, people pay attention.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not advocating that we can use the name of Jesus in a formulaic way to get what we want—like the charismatics tell us. Slapping the name, “Jesus,” on something doesn’t simply make it holy, indestructible or omnipotent. However, the name of Jesus is something of a paradox—it’s common, yet uncommon at the same time.
In the first century, Jesus was about as common in Judea as John, Mike or Larry is common to us. If you were looking at an ancient classroom roll you might see it appear multiple times. However, contained in the name “Jesus” was His unique purpose for it means, “God Saves.” It is the same name as Joshua in the Old Testament. It is given to our Lord because “He saves His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
Jesus is easy enough for a small child to say; simple enough to be the last words upon dying lips; powerful enough to bring us through any storm and merciful enough to save the lowest sinner. “God Saves,” is the greatest and most powerful word humanity has ever known, and it will be the final word that will be spoken when Earth turns to dust and the curtain of history falls. “Jesus” will be the only name that matters in heaven and a lingering rebuke of what might have been to the prisoners of hell.
Juliet was speaking to Romeo when she asked the famous question, “What’s in a name?” She went on to say that a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. Rename it as you will and a rose will still retain its fragrance and beauty. But this principle doesn’t carry over to Jesus. For in His name is the identity and heart of God. In the name of Jesus there is hope, courage, comfort, authority and unity. -DM