4/26/2015 10:42:21 AM
A Reflection on Acts 4:5-12
"By... what name did you do this?"
At first glance, this question towards Peter sounds a little odd. Peter is being investigated for what he did in the Temple (and what we heard last week). Peter healed a man who could not walk and that caused a bit of a kerfuffle. Peter is arrested and the religious authorities are interrogating him. They want to know what power Peter has or, if he doesn't have that power to cause miracles, who does? The authorities want Peter to name names.
We all have names and our names have power. God's name in the Old Testament is written as YHWH ("I AM"). It's not a true personal name but is instead a stand-in for how to address God. The authors of the OT assumed their was a personal name for God but, over the years, it was viewed as too holy and powerful to write down. Only chosen individuals, like Moses or the prophets, had access to God's personal name and with that name came the power to cause miracles and to do amazing things. I forget where I heard this next tidbit but an early attempt to discredit Jesus and the early church was the claim that Jesus wasn't that special, he just tricked his way into learning God's personal name. Nowadays, we might not think names have supernatural powers like but we know names carry power. Knowing a name implies a relationship and an ability to call on them when we're in need (or want something). "Networking," "who you know," and "family money" are all phrases we use today to signify the power that names carry. Relationships (and the opportunity to form those relationships) help advance our careers, get us out of trouble, and have access to experiences and resources that other people don't. Everyone has a name and everyone's name has a system of power that comes with it. So when the religious authorities ask Peter for a name, they're asking for information about who he has access too. And Peter does the only thing he can: he talks about Jesus.
Peter's words are powerful because they focus on Jesus as the source of all that he can do. Jesus, who the authorities rejected and sent to be killed, is still active in the world, loving those who are rejected, and bringing light into dark places. The world currently around Peter is hostile. They attacked Jesus and are against what Jesus brings. Peter stands against that hostility, naming his reality: that all the good they do and the love they share comes not because he's a good, moral, or amazing person. The love he shares comes from Jesus Christ. We do what we do because we're disciples of Jesus. That's the source of who we are and what we do. It's also a challenge - inviting us to do what Jesus did and that's love everyone that comes into our path.
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