Thursday, August 17, 2023

What's in a name?

First of all let look at the name of Caesar Augustus

The Roman Emperor who was in power when Jesus was born had many titles some of which have a strange similarity to those given to Jesus. 

The Roman Caesars made claims to deity that the Bible teaches only God can make. 

For instance, Caesar Augustus was  known as:

The Blessed One, 
The Anointed One (the Messiah), 
The Pax Romana - The one who brings peace, 
The Pontifex (i.e. the Priest). 

He was regarded as a god and claimed that at the age of 17 he could bring men to God. He was also called the Divine Son of God in 42 BC at the age of 21. 

History shows that his claims to be divine were not supported by lifestyle, behaviour or power.

What about the name of Jesus?

Before we look at the effect of Jesus' name lets just clear up the historical evidence for the life of Jesus. One of the most important non-Christian references to Jesus in ancient non-Christian sources is found in Tacitus.
Tacitus is generally regarded as one of the finest Roman historians. He mentioned Jesus once in his Annals (15:38-45) when he describes how Nero deflects accusations from himself on the fire of Rome and instead blames the fire on the Christians. In describing this, Tacitus gives a short historical background to these ‘Christians’.
“Therefore, to scotch the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians.
Christ the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentance of the procurator Pontius Pilate, and a pernicious superstition was checked for the moment, only to break out once more, not merely in Judea, the home of the disease, but in the capital itself, where all things horrible and shameful in the world collect and find a vogue’ (Tacitus, Annals of Imperial Rome, tr, M Grant (Harmonsdsworth: Penguin Classics, 1985), 15.44.
Now what about the effect of Jesus' name. The name of Jesus has long been understood by Christians to carry with it an authority and power which is unique. For instance in the Book of Acts people were baptised in Jesus' name (Acts 2. 38, 19. 5) and folks were healed in the name of Jesus (Acts 3. 6, 4. 10). It is also noticeable that the authorities feared public reaction to the use of Jesus' name so much so that preaching in the name of Jesus was banned (Acts 4. 18, 5. 40). Have you ever wondered why this was the case? I know some people feel that it was response of an undeveloped ignorant society to the actions of a man who was unique and misunderstood but I think that there is more to it than that.

Let's look at what gave the name of Jesus such power. Discovering what happened back then may be the key to what we should believe about Jesus today. If He is the Son of God, as the Bible teaches and Christians believe, then we would be crazy to ignore him. I would like to look at three areas of the life of Jesus.

1. His perfect life, 
2. His miraculous powers, and 
3. His death and resurrection. 

Did Jesus live a perfect life?

To live an outstanding life, free from criticism and flaws is quite a feat. All humans know their limitations and would in their saner moments admit that no one is perfect. The Bible states that 'all have sinned and come short of the glory of God' - we hardly need anyone to prove this point to us as we know it's true. The scriptures also state that Jesus was holy, void of evil, blameless, unstained and unsoiled and different from everyone else who ever lived. This is a major claim that is ridiculous if not true. 

To date, historians have never produced evidence that Jesus was anything short of perfect. The Roman Governor, Pilate, could find no fault in him, Luke 23. 4. 

His accusers, at his trial, made baseless claims and accusations which were unsubstantiated. Scripture records that 'the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, And said, this fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days,' Matt. 26. 59-61

Did Jesus perform miracles?

The Bible records that when Jesus was on earth he often performed miracles. This was part of the portfolio of evidence that convinces Christians that Jesus was more than a great man, he is the Son of God.

Luke Wayne 1 of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry states:
'The Gospels describe Jesus' ministry including miraculous healings and other wonders like walking on water, multiplying bread, and commanding storms to cease all at once. Such extraordinary acts are just one part of the larger testimony in scripture that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah and the Son of God

Critics will claim that there are insufficient historical grounds to believe such spectacular accounts, but the reality is that all the historical evidence points to the fact that Jesus really did perform miracles

Obviously, there are no videos or photographs of Jesus bringing about these signs and wonders. It is also true that giving blind men sight or turning water into wine are not the kind of events that leave behind archaeological remains for us to unearth. 

If we relied only on these kinds of evidence, however, we would know very little about anyone in ancient history. What we do find is exactly what we would expect to find if Jesus really was a miracle worker: a unanimous ancient testimony on the matter not only from those who revered Jesus but also from those who scorned Him.'
On the Premier Christianity website it states:2
It’s relatively simple to make the case for the historicity of Jesus. Firstly, it’s what the vast majority of scholars of the ancient world believe. We not only have the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, but his death by crucifixion is one of the most widely attested events in the ancient world, written about by contemporary historians such as Josephus and Tacitus.

Did Jesus rise again from the dead?

The good news of salvation and forgiveness through Jesus Christ is based on the fact of Jesus death, burial and resurrection. 

The scripture states: 

'For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures;
And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time'.

1 Corinthians 15:3-8

Thomas Arnold was a non Christian Historian who testified to the credible historical evidence for the resurrection as follows:

 “I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.”3

I put to you today that the name of Jesus like no other name. He (Jesus) is unique and is worthy of your trust. This is because of who he is, the Son of God become man, and because of what he has done, Christ died for our sins.

Trusting in His name after turning from your sin is all you need to do to be forgiven, saved and safe for this life and the next life.

I leave you with a few bible quotes that will help if you are serious about getting saved and knowing God:

'Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved,' Acts 4:12 

'Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses,' Acts 13:38-39

1 - The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry
2 -
3 - Thomas Arnold, Professor of History Oxford, Author of the three-volume History of Rome


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