By Gabriel Peters
“What a beautiful Name it is
What a beautiful Name it is
The Name of Jesus Christ my King
What a beautiful Name it is
Nothing compares to this
What a beautiful Name it is
The Name of Jesus”
– ‘What a Beautiful Name’ by Hillsong Worship
What’s so beautiful about the name of Jesus? Many people use it as an expression or even a swear word, and there are many people named Jesus (albeit pronounced differently) in some countries. Doesn’t it seem like the name of Jesus is quite commonplace today, just a name like any other?
Jesus is the Son of God
Last Saturday, we celebrated the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. In the Gospel for that day (Matthew 16:13-19), we read that Jesus and His disciples came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, a place of pagan worship in the Old and New Testaments. Many gods were worshipped there throughout its history, from Baal to Pan, the Greek god of nature and fertility. The place was also named in honour of Caesar Augustus, who was emperor of Rome at the time and whose title was Divi filius, or “Son of God”. Caesarea Philippi was thus a central place where all forms of pagan worship and immoral activities met, a kind of red-light district of that region.
It was in this context that Jesus put a provocative question to the disciples: “Who do people say the Son of man is?”. When they gave Him a list of speculations, “John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets”, Jesus turns straight to Peter and asks him, “Who do you say I am?” Peter, the uneducated fisherman, a nobody in the eyes of the world, then makes that remarkable declaration of faith. Amidst all the false gods, in defiance of Caesar’s divinity, Peter claims: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
Jesus is Lord
Brothers and sisters, who is the God of our lives? Can we, like Peter, truly say that Jesus is Christ the Saviour and Lord? It is no light thing to proclaim that Jesus is our Lord and Saviour. If Jesus was just a good moral teacher who died a tragic death on a cross, we might be able to get off easy by leaving it at that, looking back on His passion and death sentimentally every Good Friday but never really responding to it. However, the proclamation that Jesus is God is a breathtaking statement. If Jesus is “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28), that means everything else in my life is not God and takes its place behind God. Jesus comes first, not just on Sundays or whenever I am in Church, but He is first in all that I think, say and do. All of my life is under His Lordship and authority, and all is surrendered to Him. Only then will everything fall into place because only God knows exactly how to take care of my life and guide me to life. Therefore, to proclaim Jesus as my Lord means to trust Him enough to hand my life over to Him, living as He directs me, with Him as the captain of my ship.
Jesus is Emmanuel
But God is not just an abstract concept, an omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing) and eternal being that is far out there. God is a personal God who loves each and every one of us personally. How do we know that? Well, Scripture tells us that God is Love (1 John 4:16) and love always involves the lover and the beloved drawing close to each other. God Himself chose to draw close to us and could not bear to be apart from us, taking on our own fallen human nature to be, as St Catherine of Siena says, “closer to us than water is to a fish.”
Jesus is Emmanuel, meaning “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). However, God went further than merely coming down to be with us. He gave His life for us on the cross. Looking at the cross, we know that we can fully entrust our lives to Him, because He fully gave His life for us. God never asks us for something that He doesn’t first do. If He asks us to surrender our lives to Him, it’s because He first surrendered His life to us, and does so every moment of every day, most tangibly in the Eucharist. If He asks us to love, “we love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19). Pope Benedict XVI says in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love), “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” It is only when we experience what it truly means to be totally loved by God that we can begin to surrender our lives to His Lordship and live for Him. In fact, only after encountering His love for us does it make sense to proclaim Jesus as Lord, because the name of Jesus is no longer something that we just say with our minds but something that has become an experienced reality and something that we actively respond to.
What does it mean to speak the name of Jesus?
To speak the name of Jesus is to proclaim His power over everything, for the name of Jesus is above all other names, and every knee shall bow to Him (ref. Philippians 2:9-11). Jesus’s name is above all sickness, all worries, depression, fears, hopelessness and sin. There is nothing in all of creation that can separate you from the love of God (ref. Romans 8:38-39), so live no longer in fear and defeat, for Jesus has won the victory over all.
Notice that to proclaim Jesus as Lord does not mean that we become instantly perfect, that our lives are free from struggle. Indeed, Peter himself fell and suffered many times after making His statement of faith. Although we live in a broken world that has lost sight of hope because it may seem that good, innocent people suffer while evil, scheming people get ahead, the victory of Jesus proclaims that death, evil and darkness will not have the final say, and those who hope in and cling onto Him will not be forsaken. Have hope, dear friends! Death has lost its sting (ref. 1 Cor 15:55) and it is Jesus who will have the last word. Indeed, “we are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!” (St John Paul).
In the early morning of 15 April 1912, the Titanic, thought to be unsinkable, collided with an iceberg and sank, killing more than 1500 people. Legend says that the band aboard the Titanic, knowing they were about to die, came together and played the hymn Nearer, My God, to Thee. In the movie adaptation, the band’s calmness as they played is contrasted to the wild panic unfolding all around them as people screamed and the waters rose. May we be God’s instruments to, like the musicians, stand firm amidst a shipwrecked culture that has lost hope of salvation and radically proclaim, with the tune of our lives, that God is very near to us and will save us.
When we know God’s name, we know our own names
Did you know that the name ‘Christian’ comes from a Greek word meaning ‘little Christ’? Perhaps we would do well to ask ourselves whether we are living as Christ lived or whether the term ‘Christian’ is just a mere title for us. It also means that to know God is to know ourselves, who were created by God, in the same way as the only way to know the meaning of a painting is to ask the painter himself. Many people may have speculations about what the painting means but only upon asking the painter will the true meaning be revealed. Similarly, many people may have opinions about who you are and what your purpose in life is, but only upon asking the Lord will you know who you truly are.
The world today has many names for you. Some names put you down while other names control and manipulate you. But know this, brothers and sisters, only the painter has the right to name his painting, and only God has the right to name you. To proclaim the name of Jesus, therefore, is to hear Jesus proclaim your own name over you and say to you in return:
You are not a failure or a mistake, you are not forgotten, you are not useless, you are not invisible or unworthy of being seen. You are my beloved child and I am well pleased with you (ref. Mark 1:11)
I love you. No matter what this world says of you, I alone know you through and through, I knit you together in your mother’s womb and I never make mistakes (ref. Psalm 139:13-14).
My love is the only thing that defines you, not the opinions of others or your own opinions of yourself. I will never leave you nor forsake you. (ref. Deuteronomy 31:6).
Let us claim today that Jesus is Christ, our Saviour and Emmanuel! May we claim the joy that belongs to a people that was saved, is being saved and will continue to be saved by Jesus and continue to allow him to direct our minds and hearts.
About me: Hi! My name is Gabriel and I’m graduating from NUS, having studied physics. I like the 3 Cs: cycling, carbonara and (most of all) Christ, and I think the world should know that orcas are the most amazing animals ever. I look forward to fully knowing everyone in heaven when our earthly pilgrimage is over!
Office for Young People seeks to raise up a generation of young people passionately in love with Jesus and His Church.