Text: Acts 4:1-12
Date: Easter IV + 4/29/12
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Appearing to His apostles He commanded them from now on to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins in His name to all nations for the salvation of every person. We have seen in our readings from the Book of Acts that, after Pentecost, Saint Peter did this very thing. After bringing the release, forgiveness and even physical healing of Christ to a lame man on the porch of the temple, when the people were starring at him and the apostle John thinking they were looking at some sort of fantastic miracle workers, Peter preached to them Jesus Christ and Him crucified and risen again. Peter invited them to saving faith in Jesus with the result that “many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.” Today it is estimated that that number has grown to around 2.1 billion or one-third of the current population of the world.
Today the story of Peter and John continues. We are told that “as they were speaking to the people” the priests and the chief in charge of the Levites who kept guard in the temple, and those who belonged to the party of the Sadducees (who, by the way, deny any idea of “resurrection from the dead”) approached in anger. They were angry, St. Luke tells us, because the apostles were doing what Jesus commanded them to do, namely, teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead, the most important thing that has ever happened in their lives and in the history of the world! Since it was around 6 p.m. these officials arrested Peter and John and put them in jail until the next day. What follows was simply the fulfillment of what Jesus Himself had predicted when He said to them, “they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict” (Luke 21:12-15). Well, here was the first test! And Jesus gave Peter “a mouth and wisdom.”
In the official meeting the next day of the rulers and elders and scribes, with Annas the high priest, and there was Caiaphas (!), it was almost an exact replay of the interrogation of Jesus just months before that led to His death. Their question gave away that they knew what was going on because they did not ask them “how” they healed the lame man but “by what power or by what name” they did this. Peter is “filled with the Holy Spirit,” which means he was about to preach God’s Word to them. This morning I want you to notice Peter’s answer when he points us to “the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” saying, “there is no other name given among men by which we must be saved.” What does it mean to be healed and saved “in the name” of Jesus? What does it mean to be baptized in the name of Jesus or to gather for the Divine Service “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”?
It certainly does not mean simply vocalizing the name “Jesus” as if it were some sort of mantra or magic word. That’s not what Jesus meant when He said things like, “whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give it to you” (Jn 15:16). So here there was no magic spell cast by Peter when he told the lame man, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:6).
The name of Jesus is more than just the five letters of His name as the Son of Mary. The invocation of the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is more than just an announcement or pledge of allegiance. The name of God includes His entire revelation of Himself, all His power, His very presence and all His works. But more than that! Peter did not heal the lame man. Jesus healed the lame man. To announce healing or forgiveness “in the name of Jesus” is to deliver Jesus Himself. In the rite (or sacrament) of confession and absolution, for instance, this is what is behind the pastor’s question, “Do you believe that the forgiveness I speak is not my forgiveness but God’s?” “Let it be done for you as you believe. In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Notice we don’t say He forgiveness. He says, “I forgive you.” That’s the voice of Jesus to you!
There is a second important point made by our text. Remember the time when Jesus was in Capernaum. St. Mark reports this already in the second chapter of his Gospel. “And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And [Jesus] was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.” Then Mark tells us, “when Jesus saw their faith,” He did not say to the paralytic, “be healed,” or “take up your bed and go home.” Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” What does forgiving sins have anything to do with physical healing? When some of the official Bible teachers questioned, noting, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” then followed the famous exchange when Jesus asked them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?” Of course, for a mere man it is “easier” to say, “Your sins are forgiven” because you can’t really prove that. But if you tell a paralytic to “Rise, take up your bed and walk,” you soon realize your dealing with a charlatan and a fraud when the man just continues to lay there helpless. Physical healing is much more difficult, even impossible from our point of view. But Jesus is no ordinary man. So He said to them, “that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He then commanded the impossible, saying to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” “And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!’” (Mark 2:1-12). The point, of course, was that this was proof that Jesus has authority to forgive sins.
Now what does the forgiveness of sins have to do with physical healing and wholeness and vice versa? It is interesting that when Peter asks his interrogators, “if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed,” he doesn’t use the word often translated as “healing” from which we get the word in English, “therapy.” Rather, he uses a word that has the more comprehensive meaning of “salvation!” To be healed in the name of Jesus is to be saved by Jesus. So Peter concludes, saying, “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” …healed …delivered …redeemed.
“There is no other name….” To how many “other names” do people look for help and even salvation in our world? There are the other religions, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Shinto, Animism to name a few. Then there are those who look only to themselves and their own powers as somehow able to “make it” in this world and maybe even the next on their own. It is only when the reality of God’s word is heard, however, that the only help and answer becomes clear. The reality is that people die because people are sinners, separated from God. On their own all people deserve only God’s eternal wrath and punishment. The gift of God’s eternal love, however, came to the world when the Word was made flesh, when the Son of God became the man called Jesus. He came not just to do a few miracles of healing but to die; to die our death; to die in our place; to die for us. Christ died for you. He died because only His death was the acceptable sacrifice by which all sin is forgiven and God’s wrath is stilled. Therefore the Bible says things like, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Prov 14:12). Only faith in Jesus, as Peter says, is the one way to salvation. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:5-6).
Thank God that
Salvation unto us has come
By God’s free grace and favor;
Good works cannot avert our doom,
They help and save us never.
Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone,
Who did for all the world atone;
He is our one Redeemer. (LSB 555)
In the name of Jesus.