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Jesus the name high over all 

Sermon by The Reverend Charles Royden

 

Jesus the name high over all.

This year we are going to have a different Advent lighting ceremony. We are looking at the names and titles given to Jesus. We will look at a different name each Sunday and light a candle for each one. Each name is associated with the traditional candles Old Testament, the Prophets, John the Baptist, Mary. I want this sermon today to be just an introduction to some of the names or titles used for Jesus and what we can learn from them.

So five candles, five names ! And as we remember the names we remember Jesus and that marvellous passage from Philippians Chapter 2

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.


So I have called the Advent liturgy, Jesus the name high over all

1 First Candle - Jesus the Son of David

Scripture Matthew 21:14
The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they were indignant. "Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him. "Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read, "'From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise'?"

Commentary

What can we learn from calling Jesus Son of David?

I suppose the first thing to remember is that this is something out of the Old Testament. The Old Testament spoke of the coming of the Messiah, of how a Saviour would be born, a king in the line of King David. He would rule the world wisely and bless all the nations.

We might laugh at Kaiser Wllhelm II, Queen Victoria’s grandson who claimed Jesus to be an Aryan, he like many others, have tried to avoid the Jewishness of Jesus. However it is just not possible. Jesus was a living, breathing, worshipping circumcised Jew. We are all a bit guilty of this, and you only have to think of the pictures of Jesus which we all grew up with - of Jesus with blond hair.

We might not like the idea but Jesus was a Jew, he didn’t look white, and our faith is Jewish in its origins. Indeed if the Jews had accepted Jesus as the Messiah, then there would have been no Christianity at all. Christianity came about because some Jews recognized that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, the fulfilment of Jewish hopes. Originally all Christians were Jews!

The tradition of the Jesse Tree is good for this reason. At Christmas time lots of Christians have used trees upon which to hang symbols of this history, told in the Bible, leading up to the birth of Jesus.

I suppose that many of us are familiar with family trees, which show us where our families have come from. My father and his mother and father and their parents and so on. Well the Jesse Tree is just speaking about the genealogy of Jesus, or the family tree.

Who was Jesse? Well he was the father of King David, and the gospel writers were very eager to show that Jesus was brought up in a family where his father was descended from this royal line

The New Testament starts in Matthew with this family tree, history of the family

This has enabled Christians to tell the story of God in the Old Testament, it is useful to remind ourselves that Christian history is fundamentally Jewish. The history of the Israel is the history of our faith and Jesus is the promised Messiah. Jesus is the one foretold in the scriptures and his birth is the fulfilment of God’s promises to his people.

It is true that the early church soon realised that to be a follower of Jesus, one no longer had to become Jewish. Circumcision and dietary laws were just some of the issues which were struggled with in the New Testament. Nevertheless it is important for us to remember our history, the history of God dealing with his people.

In this way we can see the continuity of God's love, patience, and grace across the centuries to the most unlikely people in the midst of their failures and difficulties

The story told of the Jesse Tree should serve to remind us of our Christian family history. It should also serve to remind us that Jesus is a real person, not an imaginary figure. He stands in the history of time, from which we date even our calendar. Jesus is real and as Christians we believe that he is real today and able to meet with us this Advent time


2. Second Candle - Jesus the Prince of Peace
The prophets who foretold the birth of Jesus

Scripture Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.


Commentary

Isaiah the prophet spoke of one who would come, a king in the line of King David. "the Prince of Peace".

Because Christians saw Jesus as the fulfilment of Jewish hopes, so they felt able to go to the Old Testament and see in it passages which could be given meaning in the life of Jesus.

Did this passage from Isaiah, which we read out every Christmas, originally refer to Jesus, no - but the Christians could see that such words gained new meaning when viewed in the light of Jesus.

Of course peacemaker was something which applied directly to Jesus. When Jesus came he taught people the importance of being peace-makers. He said that those who make peace shall be called the children of God. When Christ comes to us he brings us peace and he will bring everlasting peace when he comes again in glory.


3. Third Candle - Jesus the Lamb of God
John The Baptist

Scripture John Chapter1:29
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."

Commentary
It is difficult for us to understand what people must have felt when they heard Jesus called the Lamb of God by John the Baptist . We know that the disciples did not find the idea easy to come to terms with. Think of Peter after his confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus spoke of suffering and Peter wanted nothing to do with it. It concluded with Jesus having to say to Peter ‘get thee behind me Satan.’

Peter will confess Jesus as the Christ, but he cannot think of a Christ who suffers and dies. Jesus knows his role is one of apparent weakness, it cannot have been easy to follow a man who was symbolised by a lamb. We don't follow lambs! What they would have wanted was for something like the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

In Rastafari, "The Lion of Judah" represents His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I. Rastas hold that Selassie is a direct descendant of the Israelite Tribe of Judah through the lineage of King David
and Solomon, and that he is the Lion of Judah mentioned in the Book of Revelation. Now lions are not sacrificial, they stick up for themselves.

You can understand why some Christian traditions like to use
Lion of Judah in Christianity. In Christian tradition, the lion is often assumed to represent Jesus. Many Christian organizations and ministries use the lion of Judah as their emblem or even their name.
The phrase appears in the New Testament Book of Revelation 5:5;
"And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not:
behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah,
the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof."

The use in C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia of a lion as a
messianic figure is seen as a potential reference to this section of Revelation. But Jesus was never called the lion, this was not his style at all, he was the Passover Lamb, sacrificed for us.
This is why on the cross we are told that none of Jesus bones were broken. It was a commandment in Exodus that the bones of the sacrifice were not to be broken.

Exodus 12:43
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "These are the regulations for the Passover: "No foreigner is to eat of it. Any slave you have bought may eat of it after you have circumcised him, but a temporary resident and a hired worker may not eat of it. "It must be eaten inside one house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. The whole community of Israel must celebrate it.

So Jesus as the substitute for the lamb sacrifice has none of his bones broken, he is instead pierced with a spear.

When John called Jesus ‘The Lamb of God,’ he brought to mind the greatest act of salvation in the history of the Jewish people, the release of the people from captivity in Egypt. This was celebrated every year in Passover. Jesus was led like a lamb to the slaughter, he is our Passover lamb, sacrificed for us, once for all. We have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus. When John called Jesus the Lamb of God, he saw him as a Saviour who would take away the sin of the world. As we light this candle we remind ourselves that Jesus is God’s final sacrifice for the sins of the world.


Fourth Candle - Jesus The Son of God

Scripture Luke Chapter 1:30
But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Commentary
Why do Christians take the words and actions of Jesus so seriously?

It is not just that we think he was a great thinker or moral teacher, the reason is that we believe Jesus to be none other than God himself.

Christians would affirm that God can be perceived in creation, through magnificent works of music, literature and art. However God is known most reliably and fully in only one place, through Jesus Christ.

That is why Jesus is the foundation of our faith, he is the truth which sets us free (John 14:6, 8:32)

God created a good world and so it was OK for Jesus to as God to become a part of it and take flesh. Jesus, for all practical purposes, was 'God with skin on.'

The Gnostics at the time, later the Arians and today people like Jehovah's Witnesses and Muslims found it impossible to agree that God had taken human nature or a human body in the person of Jesus. Christians believe that in Jesus God entered human history and because of that we divide all human history into a time before and after Jesus Christ.

The Fifth and Last Candle - Jesus is Emmanuel
‘God with us’

Scripture Matthew Chapter 1:18
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" --which means, "God with us."

Commentary
One of the things which I find to be obviously true is that if we refuse to co-operate with God, then what God wants won’t happen. When we do bad things, when we refuse to go things—then trouble occurs.

1. Why is there so much starvation in the world? It is because we refuse to share the world’s abundance, there is more than enough food for everybody but we choose not to share.
2. When a crazed gunman shoots children in a school, quite frequently you will hear folks muttering about trying to understand God’s plan—this is a most ridiculous statement, it is not God who pulls the trigger, it is somebody who is not listening to God.

It might be comforting to think that everything that happens is God’s will, but it is dreadful theology and shamelessly let’s us off the hook for not facing our own responsibilities.

If we face up to our responsibilities in life and make the right decisions and behave in the right ways then we can rest assured God’s purposes are much more likely to be fulfilled.

So take Mary—faithful Mary, justifiably history's most venerated mother and the only woman mentioned in the Koran.

During her childhood she lived in Nazareth where she was put into an arranged marriage with the carpenter Joseph. Gospel references begin when she was a little over 12 years old. Luke reported that while Mary was living with her parents in Nazareth, an angel visited and told her she would give birth to a holy child who would be called "the Son of God." Being pregnant out of wedlock was dangerous, Mary might even be stoned to death.

Yet she trusted. God was at risk, taking flesh in a frail youngster, yet she was faithful and co-operated with God to bring about God’s purposes.

Our faithfulness might never be called upon to have such an onerous task as being parent to the incarnate God. Yet God entrusts all sorts of things to us, which many of us clearly blow. And how much more might God entrust to us if we were more faithful and trustworthy.

Perhaps the reason that God called Mary to be the Mother of Jesus was because she had been found trustworthy previously.

So we have the incarnation. The incarnation at Christmas affirms creation. It means literally 'in flesh'. Christ took on an earthly body. This was sacramentalism taken to extreme. Jesus in taking human flesh gives new meaning to creation and earthly existence and bodies. God takes flesh just like any man. He shares the atoms, the molecules, cells and organs of humankind, the crown of His creation. He becomes a human being in anatomy, physiology, social relations and in every other way except moral culpability.

So here was Jesus born into a human family and brought up as a child with human parents. C. H. Spurgeon said

'Infinite and an infant. Eternal, and yet born of a woman. Almighty, and yet hanging on a woman's breast. Supporting a universe, and yet needing to be carried in a mother's arm. King of angels, and yet the reputed son of Joseph. Heir of all things, and yet the carpenter's son.' Jesus came from the presence of angels to a cave filled with animals, from the throne of heaven to a feeding trough. He who was larger than the universe became an embryo. He who sustains the world with a Word, chose instead to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl. ‘

Jesus was human, he had a human mind. From the Bible (Luke 2:40, 52, 46) we see that he went through a learning process. It is difficult for us to comprehend but Jesus, who possessed divine attributes such as omniscience and omnipotence, still went through normal human development. Imagine Jesus learning to read and write! He had the limitations of humanity.

Jesus also experienced human emotions. He could be troubled in his soul, he could weep. It is a mystery to us how, in Jesus Christ, humanity and deity are co-mingled. Jesus is clearly God and claimed to be on many occasions, Yet, he also allowed himself to be humbled, voluntarily experiencing human limitations

He experienced temptation, as we do. Everything which we struggle with, Jesus too struggled with, he was completely human.


Conclusion

So we have it some of the names given to Jesus, which help us to understand the Lord we worship and whose birth we will prepare for and celebrate over the coming weeks.

All of these names are important, all of them hold valuable truth and insight into who Jesus is. But the most important thing to appreciate is not what the names themselves mean.
Jesus said to Peter
Who do you say I am?
So this morning we ask ourselves the same question. Stir up Sunday is traditionally a time to give ourselves a wake up call. Advent is upon us, we will celebrate Jesus birth and we will prepare for his return.
Who is Jesus to you ? And are you ready to welcome him?