What's in a name? Do you know where this question originates? Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and her questioning why a family name needs to divide them. “What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” I'm going to look at some names of Jesus in today's readings. I'm looking toward our reading from Philippians and the story of Christ's descent from heaven, life on earth, and his ascending back to heaven.
Speaking of names, our Matthew and Beth had an interesting plan for naming their kids. Their middle names were going to be the fruit of the Spirit. It may be easier to demonstrate how it starts. (on screen) Magdalene Love, Acacia Joy, Naomi Peace... the next girl would've been Esther Patience. Matthew was fond of saying, if they'd have had 9 kids to get all fruit of the Spirit, they'd name him Lackof...Lack of Self Control!
It is Palm Sunday and we read Luke's account. All four gospels tell about this parade into Jerusalem but with slight differences; different points of view if you will. Luke's is the calmest. If you listened closely, you will also notice some things missing from his account. Anybody? There are no palm branches, only John mentioned palm branches! And no Hosannas either, Matthew and Mark included that information! Luke doesn't mention the crowd naming Jesus the “Son of David” as Matthew and Mark do. Which brings me back to names, we get a couple of names in Luke's gospel account, the first being the obvious one, Jesus. You may not know that Jesus is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Joshua. And the root meaning of his name is simply, “he saves.”
Lord is the next name in the Palm Sunday reading, the disciples are to say, “The Lord needs it.” A little background on this title Lord from the scriptures. In the Old Testament, there were various ways God was addressed. Technically, God gave the name Yahweh to Moses at the burning bush. Yahweh is translated I AM. So when you read the Old Testament and see LORD in all capital letters, it is used in the place of God's proper name, Yahweh. When it is simply capitalized, it is the translation for the title Adonai, the name given to indicate the lordship of God.
When we read the New Testament, it is a little more straight forward: God is the name used for God. And when the name Lord is used it means master or ruler. So when the disciples asked for the colt, they asked in the name of their lord, their master. Jesus may have prearranged this or the owner understood who the lord was for those disciples.
But during the procession into the city, Luke records the disciples calling out the words of Psalm 118, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” This is a close quote of Psalm 118:26 which we know from our communion liturgy, “blessed is the one who comes...” Here they have ascribed to Jesus the title both of king and lord. It seems to indicate some recognition of who Jesus was; even though this recognition did not allow the disciples to stand by Jesus as the week went on. King and Lord, but not Savior and sacrifice. Not Redeemer or Messiah. And not God nor Son of God. They still saw Jesus as Israel's king and their master. But they had no understanding of the universality of his purpose.
And finally, the Pharisees addressed him as “teacher.” In Hebrew or Aramaic, this would have been the title “Rabbi.” It was a term of respect. Sometimes the Pharisees addressed him this way simply to curry favor with the people. But His followers used this title for him often, and they did understand his great gift of teaching.
But I've been using these names to work my way to the Philippians passage. The passage begins with Paul telling his readers, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” We've seen what the name Jesus means, but Christ? Most of you know this, but a reminder that Christ is the Greek word that means Messiah. And the Messiah for the Jewish people was the anointed one coming to lead their nation. Messiah would naturally be a king, a master, a rabbi. But this understanding was never clearly understood during the lifetime of Jesus. It was in retrospect that the disciples, the family of Jesus, Jewish believers and the gentile converts recognized that Jesus was all these... and more.
And we've finally worked our way to the main point of today's message. It is understood by most theologians that the last half of the passage that Robbie read is really a portion of an early Christian hymn. And the best hymns are filled with spiritual truth. And this is the truth that the hymn proclaimed and the truth we are to hear and proclaim, “ 9Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” That's what is in this name, the name above all names. And it is not the J-E-S-U-S that Paul exalts, it is the person Jesus Christ. The person who humbled himself, who left the glory of heaven to walk on our dirty, dusty, sinful earth. The same person who, after living a life of great love and service, died and rose again to defeat the power of sin and death. These few verses tell of his story going from equality with God in heaven then “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.” And if leaving his glory in heaven and taking on our feeble bodies was not enough humility, he went further yet, “he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-even death on a cross.” Last week we talked about how the cross was the ultimate humiliation. But all this humility finally ends with exaltation. This name, this person of Jesus is Lord, is God, is Savior. “God highly exalted him!” As I said, this passage from Philippians is an early hymn, a hymn that traced the life of Jesus from creation to glory. A modern hymn traces this passage in a way, Lord I lift you name on High has this passage, “You came from heaven to earth to show the way
From the earth to the cross, my debt to pay From the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky Lord I lift Your name on high.” His journey took him from heaven to earth, from earth he was lifted up on a cross. From there he was laid low in a grave. The grave couldn't hold him and he walked on this earth another 40 days then ascended to heaven where he is crowned in glory.
We are singing another modern hymn that tells the story of Jesus. This hymn about Jesus begins when the world was begun. Jesus came to earth and at Bethlehem he had his birth. He taught, and he healed, he called disciples to follow him. We also sing of his Passion, his cross, his burial. Our hymn doesn't sing of his place in heaven, rather we sing of his place in us. “I'll live in you if you'll live in me... I'll lead you all wherever you may be.” What's in a name? Everything when it come to Jesus. This name of Jesus brings us to a personal, an eternal relationship with God. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus lives in us. Acknowledge this truth, live this truth, accept this invitation anew. In obedience, follow the Lord of the dance wherever he may lead. Amen.
Hymn: I Danced in the Morning 302 PH