What’s in a Name?

My cousin is a Jehovah’s Witness. She and I had a conversation a while back. I asked her, “When Jesus said that he had given his disciples God’s name, what name did he mean?”

“Jehovah.” was her unhesitating response.

Then I asked her where in the Gospels do we find an instance of Jesus ever calling God, “Jehovah.” She didn’t have an answer. Jesus had his own name for God which he taught his disciples to use as well. Know what it is?

I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. (John 17:11)

The Hebrew scriptures speak from time to time of the LORD as being like a father to his people, but no one used, “Holy Father,” in the vocative tense to call on God. Only Jesus, the eternal Son, could so refer to God. That is, until by his death and resurrection, he paid our adoption fee.

The name, “Father,” when applied to God holds tremendous power regardless of the language we speak. Those who call God by this name can count on his protection, provision, guidance and correction. The children of God can live victorious, though persecuted, in the midst of a wicked society.

The name Christ has given us to call God by speaks of relationship. The power comes not from phonemes, but from our access in Christ to the Father by one Spirit (see Ephesians 2:18). If it were any other way, God would be reduced to some sort of impersonal force required to respond to properly pronounced incantation.

When we call God, “Father,” we proclaim gospel theology.

Fathers, especially adoptive ones, initiate the relationship with their children apart from any effort or work on their part. Children can be proud of their father, but they can’t boast in their own merit at achieving a place as his child.

Fathers want to give gifts to their children. We can come boldly to God to ask for small things as well as big things.

Fathers seek the best for their children, but children must trust that this is so in order to benefit from that good will. This is why everything in our relationship with God must come from and operate on faith.

Fathers discipline wayward children for their benefit even though it isn’t pleasant for either party. There is a severe side to God as Father, but always for our good.

Every father’s ultimate goal is to develop mature offspring who reflect their character but also stand as full fledged individuals. God commands us to live free.

These facets of our understanding of God can seem to contradict, but they harmonize completely in God’s nature as Father. By holding all of these dimensions of the name, “Father,” in tension, we will be protected not only from external harm, but also from destructive ideas about God in our own minds. We will truly be kept in his name.

I Hope You’re Satisfied

When the Son of God came to earth, the people who encountered him struggled to know how to relate to him.  This was because they didn’t know how to relate to each other.  From the time humans rebelled against God, their souls have been hungry.  They’ve developed methods to salve but never satisfy their hunger.  One method of hunger abatement has been mutual exploitation.

When Jesus fed 5000 people with just a little food, those present discovered that Jesus had much to exploit.  At first they attempted to build a relationship with Jesus based on feigned interest.  They asked, “So Jesus, when did you get here?”  Jesus brushed past this question to their real motives.  He said, “You’re only here because I filled your bellies with bread.”  Then he addressed their real need by telling them that they should work not for bread that will perish but for enduring bread.

But these people were very broken and they only heard the word, “work.”  They understood work.  “Of course,” they thought, “we know how things function around here.  If you want something you have to work for it.  He doesn’t want our feigned interest.  He wants us to work.”  So they asked Jesus what sorts of things they would need to do in order to satisfy God.  Jesus gave them the cryptic answer, “Believe in me.”

Then they thought, “Wow, this guy really expects a lot.  He wants us to revere him as a prophet.”  So they said, “Well Jesus, if you want us to treat you like Moses, you’d better act like Moses.  Give us some bread from heaven.”  Again Jesus responded with an offer of bread for their souls.  He replied, “Moses didn’t give you the real bread.  My Father gives the real bread from heaven.”

“Now, we’re getting somewhere;” they mused, “all we’ve got to do is revere this guy as a prophet and we’ll have our physical hunger fixed for life.”  “Sign us up, Jesus!” they said, feeling satisfied that they had finally brokered a mutually profitable deal.

Jesus, however, shattered their expectations with only six words – “I am the bread of life.”  Jesus did not come to broker a deal.  God, the Son, came to give himself as the only food for God-hungry souls.   He exposed and denounced mutual exploitation with reckless self-sacrifice.

So, how should we react to Jesus?  In the only way worthy of him: By acknowledging our need for him and by giving ourselves to him in kind through unconditional trust.  Hear his words again from John 6:35, “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

So I ask you:  Is your soul hungry?  If so, I beg you to stop salving that hunger through human relationships, personal achievement, or even religion.  Admit your need for him and give yourself to him in utter trust.  You will be satisfied.