4 Easter, April 22
Rulers, elder, scribes, the high priest, and members of the high priestly family question Peter and John about the power and name, that is, the energy and authority that fueled a healing, and, perhaps more troubling, inspired conversions growing to nearly 5,000 souls. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answers. He speaks, but in truth the sanctity and Spirit of God speak through him. “[L]et it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead” (Acts. 4:10). “There is salvation in no one else,” Peter says, “for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved” (Acts. 4:12).
“Jesus alone” is a clanging symbol if interpreted through a single or even several cultural contexts equated with the gospel. Conversion so understood would imply a change in one’s lived context to a purely artificial form of imitation. The gospel would then be confused with style, cultural preference, manners, and prescribed ways of accepting, confessing, and expressing faith. The cross would then imply the death of all natural affections and the normal bonds of affiliation to family, community, and nation. Such a message, though appealing to some, would never escape the criticism that Christianity sanctifies conquest and is the death of every natural good. Grace, it would seem, destroys nature. This is, however, a complete inversion of the gospel and the cross.
Jesus becomes what we are and lays down his life to pay our debt and claim our hearts. “I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice” (John 10:15-16). How Jesus will bring them and how they will listen to his voice is beyond knowing. In a sense, the one eternal gospel is heard and received in ways ever new. As the gospel passes from hand to hand, it grows without changing, adapts while keeping the deposit of faith, and is fitted to earth though hidden in heaven. Jesus is not only a recapitulation of human nature generally, but a recapitulation and thus a reformation of persons in their irreducible uniqueness. Thus, the death to oneself in union with the cross of Christ is a new birth to one’s deepest and truest self. Every person and every cultural context is the raw material of Christ’s risen manifestation.
Jesus Christ brings life and salvation to the world, but not by replacing the world, not by imposing a new reality that extinguishes the old. Rather, he enters the valley of the shadow of death; he deigns to visit the exiled children of Adam and Eve who walk amid tears and sorrow and the judgement of death. Jesus shows his power, the power of his name, chiefly in showing mercy and pity. He lifts up the poor from the ashes; he exalts the humble and fills the hungry with good things. He does not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped. Instead, he empties himself to the point of death on cross. In his death he touches and knows the depth of human sorrow. In his resurrection he makes human life “the house of the Lord” enduring throughout one’s “whole life long” (Ps. 23:6).
We know that Christ abides in us by the Spirit given to us (1 John 3:24). The Spirit shares Christ as a presence malleable to flesh and blood, mind and soul. Jesus alone, no one else, no other name, embraces everyone and everything.
Look It Up
Think About It
Whenever humans are saved, there Jesus is.