Rev. Terry Goerz,
Redeemer Lutheran Church
The following is from a sermon by Rev, Dr. Thomas M. Winger:
The story is told of a wrestling match in the ancient Olympics between a wrestler from Ephesus and one from nearby Miletus. The little Ephesian was absolutely unbeatable, and so his Milesian opponent cried foul. On close examination the judges discovered that the Ephesian had six magic words written on a band around his ankle. When these “Ephesian letters” were removed, the Milesian threw him to the ground 30 times in a row! What was the power of these words?
Acts 19 tells us that Ephesus was home to the great Temple of Artemis, thought to be the most powerful of gods. Magicians used her divine name and the “Ephesian letters” to control demons and perform miracles.
But when Paul came to Ephesus preaching the name of Jesus, Artemis and her demons met their match. In Jesus’ name he healed the sick and cast out demons. The magicians gave up their magic books and the idol makers went out of business. The name of Jesus triumphed because, as Paul would later write to the Ephesians, God the Father had raised Jesus “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” [Ephesians 1:21]
By raising Jesus from the dead on Easter Sunday and seating Him again at His right hand in heaven after 40 days, the Father gave the greatest glory and power to the name of Jesus. His name had more power than the name of any “gods.”
This ancient way of thinking seems very foreign to us today. We have scientific explanations for illnesses and accidents; we look to medicine for healing and to technology for protection.
But as our Western society seems to be on the brink of collapse, as terrorism, pandemics and war come closer to our doorsteps, as false religions seem more popular than the Christian faith, we must realize that there is more going on in the world than we can see with our eyes.
The Bible teaches that behind it all there is a great spiritual battle going on, even in our modern world. The ancient Ephesians turned to magic and idolatry because they were deathly afraid. The message of the Christian Gospel calmed their fear by giving them a name more powerful than Artemis’.
The good news for us is that we, too, have been given this greatest spiritual weapon, “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.” [Philippians 2:9-10]
The power of Jesus’ name was found in its meaning: “for He will save His people from their sins”.
“Sins” are the failures and rebellious acts that separate us from God. “Sins” are thoughts, words, and deeds that come from the devil and his demonic troops.
“Sins” represent our defeat in the spiritual battle.
But Jesus enters into the battle to “save” or rescue us by defeating our spiritual enemies. Christmas was His entry into the battle and Easter was His great victory. By giving us His name, He gives that victory to us.
The angel told Joseph that this child will have another name: “Immanuel [which means, God with us].” [Matthew 1:23]
If Jesus tells us what He does [He “saves”], Immanuel tells us how He can do it. Jesus can save because He is the Most High God who has come down into human flesh. These names aren’t just labels to help us distinguish one person from another. These names do what they say. Jesus delivers us in our spiritual battles because He carries the power of God.
Before He ascended, Jesus delivered His name to us through His holy apostles. He sent them forth to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins in His name. These preachers wielded His name like a sword against our spiritual enemies.
And Jesus gave these apostles the authority to put His name on people throughout the world with the water of Holy Baptism “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.
So, just as the Father exalted His eternal Son by giving Jesus His divine name, God lifts us up by putting His name on us in baptism. We are now part of His family and are protected by His name. His name gives us the forgiveness of our sins and the power of the Holy Spirit. By believing in Jesus’ name, we have life.
This is only the beginning of the great treasures that come to us when we receive Jesus’ name in Baptism. Jesus tells us that His name opens up the Father’s heart to us. Whatever we wish to ask of the Father, He will give it to us because of Jesus’ name.
In other words, the Father treats us as He would treat His own Son. Prayer is only possible because we have Jesus’ name. We end our prayers in Jesus’ name not as if it were a magic formula but because Jesus has promised to carry our prayers to the Father. His name opens the door to heaven and allows us to stand before God’s throne.
Jesus truly is the name that is above all names! Blessings!