Acts 4: 5-12 Psalm 23 John 10 11-18
It is not often that the compilers of the Lectionary give us so many choices; all of these readings and the Psalm are a gift to preachers.
Just look at the Acts Reading.
This account comes immediately after Peter healed the lame man in the temple. Peter had faith in the name of Jesus. He was not popular with the crowd and now to make matters worse the apostles are declaring that God had raised Jesus from the dead. So what was it about this early message which got the authorities so alarmed and angry? You would think it would have been great news to know that God was alive and well and healing people in the name of their Messiah – Jesus?
But not it would seem if you were the ones in power, not if you were one of those who had rejected and condemned the Messiah. And not if you thought this new group of Christians were about to upstage your authority.
Look at the last line – Peter declares that there is NO OTHER NAME under heaven by which we must be saved.
Christianity would be a lot more popular, even cool if it were not for this preposterous claim of Peters. What did he say: There is no other name given under heaven and among humans by which we must be saved.
Salvation is found in no one else: there is NO OTHER NAME.
If only we were content to stick to the golden rule – ‘do as you would be done by’ – which every faith agrees upon, then surely we could live in peace and unity.
Why does Christianity have to be so unreasonable and exclusive?
When they were wandering in the wilderness, Moses enquired of God ‘who are you, what is your name?’
God replied ‘I AM WHO I AM’ the Hebrew word for I AM is Eggu-yme.
Numerous times in the gospels we read of Jesus saying the ‘I am’ statements and it is the same word that he uses Eggu-yme.
‘I am the good shepherd’
‘I am the bread of life’
‘I am the resurrection and the life’
I am the way the truth and the life.
He also said no one comes to the Father except by me’
The great mystery of our faith, God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit, - one God, one name Eggu-yme I AM - ‘THERE IS NO OTHER NAME.’
It is so much easier to think that all religions are much the same - well aren’t they? Don’t they all lead to God in the end?
If we take a closer look we will see that the Buddhists have no personal creator or God’
For Hindus, God is a philosophical being – what ever that is.
New Age Christians believe that all is one, all is God, and that we are equal with God.
Islam teaches Muslims to believe in a God of judgment rather than love, a creator who is distant from his creation. Muslims do share with us a holy God; but one who works through law: Their salvation, then is through good works alone which is a desperate and fearful thing. How would you know if you had worked hard enough?
The Christian God is an infinitely holy, loving, merciful Father; A mystery revealed in Jesus, who is full of grace and truth.
There is NO OTHER NAME.
NO OTHER NAME by which we must be saved.
Not saved from acts of terrorism, from poverty, illness or any natural disasters but from ourselves; our sinful nature that separates us from God.
Only Jesus can do that.
So the answer is no. All religions do not lead to the same one true God.
The name of Jesus, whether we believe in him or not, is unique.
Peter’s claim stands for all time
There is NO OTHER NAME – The name of Jesus
No one else can hold a candle to him.
No one else claimed to be one with God
No one else claimed to forgive sin
No one else has been raised from the dead - To live forever.
There is NO OTHER NAME.
Peter had used the name of Jesus in faith to heal the lame man – but he is reminding them that using the name of Jesus isn’t some new kind of magic, it is no use mumbling a secret word like ‘abracadabra’, which will make things happen – it is believing in Jesus and the power of his name that is the way to wholeness, now in the 21st Century just as it was in the 1st Century.
In the Gospel Jesus call himself the ‘good shepherd’ and contrasts himself with hired hands who were paid to look after sheep. As these men did not actually own the sheep, they cared little about them: they only looked after them for the money. Therefore, it would be very unlikely for one of these hired hands to risk his life for the flock, or be prepared to fight off wild beasts. They would be more likely to run off and abandon the flock to the wolves.
Psalm 23 gives us insight into the role of a good shepherd. Shepherds in the east used to go in front of the sheep and lead them. Jesus our shepherd has gone ahead of us – he has faced the danger for us, he knows where the rocks and ravines are – if we follow we will be safe. Shepherds find good pasture for the sheep, and seek out clean water to drink. Jesus leads us to good pasture but sadly some Christians are still spiritually starving. We need to learn to feed on the word of God and drink the water of life. Shepherds carry two pieces of equipment a rod and a staff. The rod is a short stick to ward off thieves who might steal the sheep and to protect them from wild animals. The staff or crook is not some fancy walking stick – but a long pole with a crook on the end. This would hook around the neck of a sheep that might be wandering off, and when the sheep were going into the fold for the night the shepherd would lie down and look at them as they passed by. If he saw one that was injured or lame he could hook it out. Then he could treat the wounds with the oil and wine also mentioned in the Psalm. Wine would have been poured into wounds to cleanse and the oil was poured in to soothe the wound. The other use for the crook is that of prodding and keeping them moving when they were flagging behind. There is a famous scene in the Bayeux Tapestry of a captain prodding his men with a spear it is called ‘comforting the troops’. Thy rod and staff they comfort me!
So in case we were in any doubt:
There is no other way. There is no other shepherd. There is no other name. The cornerstone of our faith Jesus.