Holy Name of Jesus (Christmas II) – 2016

The Most Holy Name of Jesus

Christmas II

The Lesson. Acts 4. 8.

In Those days: Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them: Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel: if we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole, be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel: that by the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner: neither is there salvation in any other. For there is none other Name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.

The verse that I just read to you from the Acts of the Apostles, is one that is the cause of much consternation in society today. It is regarded by some as an almost arrogant assertion that anyone who is not a Christian will suffer the pains of damnation and Hell. This attitude has so permeated the collective mindset that some groups who claim to be nominally “Christian” will even maintain that one may attain their heavenly reward through the tenants of other religions; even those that deny or are diametrically opposed to the tenants of Christianity.

Now I can completely understand how a Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu person might come to this conclusion. What I don’t understand is how someone who claims to be a Christian may reach that same conclusion. To be a Christian, to be a true follower of Christ, means that you believe certain things; among them being the belief that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died for our sins, and rose from the dead, and that he ascended into Heaven, from which he will return again one day to pronounce our final judgment.

And being a “Christian” also means that we believe that all the words Christ spoke while here on Earth were and are absolutely true. And so, we must focus for a moment on those words; (John, 14:6) “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father, but by me”. It seems to me that this should set the matter to rest; but still, there are many “Christians”, who are more afraid of offending others and as a result they decline to defend the truth that Our Lord himself proclaimed; which brings me back to the Acts of the Apostles.

To better understand today’s lesson, we must first go back a bit and recall the setting for St. Peter’s speech; Peter and John had gone to the Temple in Jerusalem where they were confronted by a lame man who was begging for money. Peter responded to the man not by giving him gold or silver, but by commanding him to rise and walk; healing him by invoking the Name of Jesus Christ. This act caused quite a stir and when a crowd of people gathered in wonderment, Peter used the opportunity to preach the Gospel to those assembled.

Needless to say, all the commotion got the notice of the Temple authorities who responded by arresting everyone involved and tossing them into jail overnight. The next day Peter, and we assume John and the lame man who had been healed, were hauled before the Sanhedrin to explain this disruption to the public order.

To fully appreciate what St. Peter and his associates faced on that day, we must first remember the significance of the Sanhedrin. This was the supreme court of the Jews of that time. It was comprised of priests, scribes and elders, all of whom were not only learned men, but who likewise were held in high esteem in Jewish society. The whole atmosphere would have been enough to intimidate even the best trained and educated of men, let alone a simple fisherman from Galilee.

And yet, St. Peter does not appear to have been intimidated in the least. Rather, he launches into a speech that not only explains how and why the lame man was healed, but also issues a scathing accusation and condemnation of those who would presume to interrogate him; and he forever puts to rest the question about how mankind has been granted Salvation.

Forgive me if I seem to digress for a moment, but it occurs to me that the situation St. Peter faced in front of the Sanhedrin is analogous to what we Christians face today. Peter was given the opportunity to qualify his actions; to testify that there was more than one way to obtain salvation; to tailor his message so that the authorities, who were so obviously hostile to him, would not feel offended; to mollify them and assure them that he and his message were no threat to the status quo.

But St. Peter does none of these things, because he knows that to do otherwise would be to deny the Truth; the Truth of the Gospel; the Truth of Christianity; the Truth that states without ambiguity that it is only through the Name of Jesus that man may be saved.

To proclaim this Truth in the face of such formidable opposition required a particular courage. It required a quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear. And this particular courage inspired St. Peter to speak with boldness; not hesitating or fearful in the face of actual or possible danger or rebuff. And of course, this courage, this boldness, likewise had its particular inspiration as well.

And we find this inspiration, most obviously, in the first verse of today’s lesson from the Acts of the Apostles; one that we find repeated throughout Holy Scripture; “In those days: Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them…”.

filled with the Holy Ghost…”. Take a moment to consider and place yourself in St. Peter’s shoes; a simple fisherman from a backwater country. Relatively uneducated and unsophisticated; not particularly good with words or comfortable with speaking in public. And here you are standing before the most prestigious body in your world, most all of whom are anxious for your demise. How would you respond? From where would you gain the strength to speak?

filled with the Holy Ghost…”. This inspiration that St. Peter experienced was not a “one-time” thing, nor was it the first of many such examples; Recall the words of the angel who appeared to Zacharias regarding his son who we know as St. John Baptist; (Luke 1:15)For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.

Likewise when the Baptist was still in the womb of his mother, St. Elizabeth who “heard the salutation of Mary, and the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:”

And likewise, on the feast of Pentecost, (Acts, 2:4) they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

This then is the inspiration that allows us to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear. It motivates us to speak without hesitation or fearfulness in the face of actual or possible danger or rebuff. It moves us to act with all courage and boldness in defense of the Faith and to the Glory of God.

filled with the Holy Ghost…”. Now you know the key. Now you know from whence all inspiration comes. Now you know by what power you may testify to the Truth even today, even when society is against you. Now you know that it is through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost that Christians rightly proclaim in the face of all opposition, that Salvation comes only through the Name of Jesus.

For there is none other Name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.

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