There is a name that beholds the power of this world and the world to come. There is a name that withstands all criticism and praise alike. There is a name that transcends life and death itself. There is a name that stands above all names in glory, worthy of praise. That name is Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior.
As we approach Good Friday and Easter Sunday this Lenten season, I have been studying through the narrative of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. My hope is to approach these two holidays with a better grasp of who God Incarnate (God-in-flesh) was on this earth. During my study this morning of Matthew's account of Jesus' ministry, I realized the gaping difference between simply knowing of the name of Jesus and knowing the name of Jesus. For many have heard the name of Jesus, yet so few come into a satisfied state of obedience unto a lovingly relentless God.
This is becoming a case study of mine. How did the name of Jesus affect those when Jesus was physically present? Thankfully, we are given the Gospels to observe this question from differing angles. Today, I plan to approach this begging question from Matthew's perspective. Our text for this post comes from Matthew 14:1-12.
Matthew 14:1-12, "At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. But when Herod's birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus.
To highlight the above text and fill in a little background information, Herod the tetrarch (Roman emperor) hears about the rising fame of Jesus. He attests this to a man, whom he previously had killed. This man was John the Baptist. John has been revered by all of history as a man of great importance. Matthew 3 gives account of Jesus asking John to prepare the way by baptizing him in the Jordan River. According to this Scripture above, John was even considered a prophet by the people.
Instead of being killed, John was imprisoned by Herod. Matthew's account shares that Herod did so because he feared the opinion of the people who held John to be a prophet. The reason Herod first missed Jesus here is because he's got the wrong guy. Because he did not see Jesus as Lord (the Christ), he turned elsewhere. He gave into people-pleasing. He succumbed to terrible fear. He even bowed down to the thought of the Christ among them, but he had the wrong guy. The irony of it all is that the Christ was out ministering and discipling while Herod was imprisoning and killing the man who baptized Jesus. He had what he thought was an important prophet, but he was missing the Prophet.
The second reasoning behind why Herod missed Jesus is perfectly explained in his reaction to the news of Jesus' rising fame. He does not react as if Jesus is the Christ but as if John is the Christ. Yet, in this, his initial claim is that John rose from the dead due to the supernatural powers that John possesses. Somehow, this seemingly did not surprise Herod to the slightest. If I heard of someone being raised from the dead due to their own power today, I would at least be surprised, if not terrified. However, the irony of this is that Jesus will do exactly what Herod predicted had happened in John shortly after.
Finally, Herod missed Jesus a third time by claiming his resurrection to be due to "miraculous powers." Without the story of Jesus' birth, death, and resurrection, this would be ultimately confusing like some sort of murder mystery. However, with the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus, we know that Herod misses the mark here. He believed in the miracles of the Christ, but not in the Christ himself. Because of this, we see that Herod had the wrong guy. He thought he knew what to fear as Emperor of Rome, but because he was misinformed as to who the Christ was, he missed out on Jesus.
As we turn to John the Baptist, we realize that he does not have a word in this account. However, the actions of his ministry speak novels. The Roman people first recognized an anointing upon John as a prophet. Though Herod feared the people's rejection, I believe he secretly feared the power of John (the man he assumed to be the Christ) more. His immediate reaction to Jesus' fame being attributed to John's rising from the dead due to miraculous powers tells me that he felt haunted by this. In fact, Herod was sorry for killing John, but did so by decree of his daughter. Ultimately, Herod sold out.
Upon taking in the account of the death of John the Baptist, I consider the importance of the name of Jesus. How we view Jesus matters. If we hear his name and anything short of Lord, Savior, or King comes to mind, we miss the mark. My mind is perplexed and, at the same time, amazed at how this mistake causes such blindness in people, then and now. Herod was blind; likewise, I was blind. For a part of my life, I failed to see Jesus in the glorious light of the immeasurable supremacy that he reigns victoriously in. Yet, it is victory that I now fight from rather than for. The difference maker? Who Jesus is, what Jesus did, and what Jesus is going to do. I can, now, look to the cross and the empty tomb alone and know where I am going because I believe in the power of the name of Jesus in both.
Readers, you too were blind. Some of you are still blind. To each of you, I ask, "How do you view Jesus?" While it is important to know the blessings, promises, and teachings of Jesus, do you know Jesus?
My encouragement for you is to choose Jesus, as opposed to selling out. Do not turn to pleasing people. As Lecrae Moore puts it, "If you live for people's acceptance, you will die from their rejection." Maybe this means reaffirming your faith in him by refocusing on Jesus and refraining from anything that distracts you from him. Possibly this entails placing your faith in Jesus for the first time. This decision is between you and God only. Whoever and wherever you are, know this: He knows your heart, your every being, and he wants all of it to himself.
There is power in the name of Jesus. We have the ability to call on his name and crossover from death to life! I am not here to tell you all you have to do is just believe. I am here to tell you that there is power in the name of Jesus. There never will come a day where his name is not better than your circumstances. I promise, there will never come a day where calling on the name of Jesus in his presence will be a waste of time.
Psalm 84:10, "For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness."
A single utterance of the name of Jesus as Lord and Savior is better than a thousand utterances of any other name. He reigns in holy, immeasurable light. Call upon his name!
Heavenly Father, I pray that we would become more aware of your presence and more aware of the Name that is above all names. Your very name, Jesus, draws our broken hearts into your still presence, to be transformed and renewed by your Spirit. Teach us to bring ourselves as we are into your midst. Give us a spirit of boldness to call upon your name in the midst of any success, failure, temptation, or victory. Call us into your amazing grace, that we may gain a heart of praise for your name. It is you and you alone, Jesus, whom we live for. You are worthy of all glory, honor, and praise.