By Pamela A. Lewis
Reading from Acts, 4:1-12
4 While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came to them, 2much annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead. 3So they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4But many of those who heard the word believed; and they numbered about five thousand.
5 The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, 6with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, 10let 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. 11This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’ 12There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”
In watching over the last several weeks the many protest demonstrations in response to the recent killings of Black men and women by police, I was particularly struck by the protestors’ occasional but powerful exhortation: “Say his name! Say her name!” At that command, the crowds shouted with one voice the name of a man or woman who had been killed in an encounter with police. Their shouts could not restore to life those who had died, but they loudly insisted that the ones whose names they shouted had worth.
When Peter and John are brought before the Sanhedrin, the same group who had condemned Jesus to death, it is a near re-enactment of Jesus’ trial. This is again a scene of intimidation, at the center of which is the question about in whose name and power Peter and John heal and preach.
As guardians of the Jewish faith, the Sanhedrin, are not asking an unreasonable question; for them, names hold power and are markers of character. But they seem not to have changed since their encounter with Jesus, who has already told them in whose name and power he did his works. Thus it rests with Peter, whose own name means “stone,” to preach boldly and to teach the Sanhedrin that Jesus, the stone they had rejected, is now the cornerstone and the only way of salvation.
When making a mental list of powerful names, put Jesus at the top. Then say his name aloud.
Pamela A. Lewis taught French for thirty years before retirement. A lifelong resident of Queens, N.Y., she attends Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, and serves on various lay ministries. She writes for The Episcopal New Yorker, Episcopal Journal, and The Living Church.
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