Today's lectionary reading from Acts (which can be found here: http://gamc.pcusa.org/devotion/daily/2010/9/23/ ) immediately made me think of that question from from Shakespeare's 'Romeo & Juliet', 'what is in a name?' And the statement of Romeo's that goes with it, 'A rose by any other name, would smell as sweet.'
In the Acts passage we read that 'God did extraordinary miracles through Paul'. God was working so powerfully through Paul that people were healed simply by touching pieces of cloth that Paul had touched. The times Paul lived in were not so different than ours and there were those that saw this as a business opportunity. In particular we are told about 7 sons of a Jewish high priest that were travelling exorcists (read: snake oil salesmen or scam artists looking to take advantage of those suffering from spiritual, physical or psychological ailments).
And, to be fair to these guys, you can see how they would get the idea to begin using the name of Jesus in their act - in fact, they probably thought they were tapping into real power - because Paul goes to great lengths, again and again to point out that it isn't anything about him that gives him this healing ability - but rather that it is the power of Jesus Christ and God's Holy Spirit working in and through him.
So these, guys start using the name of Jesus in their act, and presumably all goes well until they run into some real demons - actual spiritual forces of evil. And what those demons say to these con-men - con-men who say 'in the name of this Jesus Christ Paul speaks of - is incredibly interesting. They say: Jesus we know, Paul we know - but who are you?
You see there is power in the name of Jesus Christ - but the name isn't magic. The name of Jesus isn't a spell you can use or a get out of jail free card. The power in the name of Jesus Christ comes from the relationship you have with the person of Jesus Christ. The power in the name of Jesus Christ comes from how you have made yourself open to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit because of the call of Jesus Christ on your life and the place of authority that you have given Jesus in your life.
The demons didn't know the con-men because the con-men didn't know Jesus. Sure they knew his name, but they didn't know him, they didn't have a relationship with him and they certainly had not opened up their lives to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus was not a part of their lives - let alone the Lord of their lives so when they called out his name it held no power, because there was no connection to the person of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit that we have access to through the work and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit of God is powerful beyond what we can even imagine - and the name of Jesus Christ carries that power with it, but we can not tap into or access that power unless we know the person behind the name and unless we have invited that person to be at the very center of our lives and who we are.
So do we know Jesus Christ or do we just know his name? It is a question that makes a world of difference?
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