Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost…
These names, to us very little more than three proper names, were very different to these men who listened to Peter. It wanted some courage to proclaim on the housetop what he had spoken in the ear long ago. "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!" To most of his listeners, to say, "Jesus is the Christ" was folly, and to say "Jesus is the Lord" was blasphemy.
I. THE NAME JESUS IS THE NAME OF THE MAN, WHICH TELLS US OF A BROTHER.
1. There were many who bore it in His day. We find that one of the early Christians had it (Colossians 4:11). Through reverence on the part of Christians, and horror on the part of Jews, the name ceased to be a common one. But none of all the crowds who knew Him supposed that in His name there was any greater significance than in those of the "Simons," "Johns," and "Judahs" in the circle of His disciples.
2. The use of Jesus as the proper name of our Lord is very noticeable. In the Gospels, as a rule, it stands alone hundreds of times, whilst in combination with any other of the titles it is rare. "Jesus Christ" only occurs twice in Matthew, once in Mark, twice in John. But in the later books, the proportions are reversed. There you have hundreds of such combinations as "Jesus Christ," "Christ Jesus," "The Lord Jesus," "Christ the Lord," and not frequently the full solemn title, "The Lord Jesus Christ." But "Jesus" alone only occurs some thirty or forty times outside of the four evangelists; and in these the writer's intention is to put strong emphasis on the Manhood of our Lord.
(1) We find phrases like this: Jesus died, the blood of Jesus, which emphasise His death as that of a man like ourselves, and bring us close to the reality of His human pains for us. "Christ died" makes the purpose and efficacy of His death more plain; but "Jesus died" shows us His death as the outcome of His human love. I know that a certain school dwells a great deal too much for reverence upon the mere physical aspect of Christ's sufferings. But the temptation with most of us is to dwell too little upon it, to think about it as a matter of speculation, a mysterious power, an official act of the Messiah, and to forget that He bore a human life, which naturally shrank from the agony of death.
(2) When our Lord is set before us in His humanity as our example, this name is used — e.g., "Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith" — i.e., a mighty stimulus to Christian nobleness lies in the realisation of the true manhood of our Lord, as the type of all goodness, as having Himself lived by faith, and that in a perfect degree and manner. Do not take poor human creatures for your ideal. Black veins are in the purest marble, and flaws in the most lustrous diamonds; but to imitate Jesus is freedom, and to be like Him is perfection. Our code of morals is His life. The secret of all progress is, "Run, looking unto Jesus."(3) We have His manhood emphasised when His sympathy is to be commended to our hearts. "The great High Priest" is "Jesus"... "who was in all points tempted like as we are." To every sorrowing soul there comes the thought, "Every ill that flesh is heir to" He knows by experience, and in the man Jesus we find not only the pity of a God, but the sympathy of a Brother. The Prince of Wales once went for an afternoon into the slums, and everybody said deservedly, "right" and "princely." This Prince has "learned pity in the huts where poor men lie."(4) And then you read such words as these: "If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him." How very much closer to our hearts that consolation comes, "Jesus rose again," than even the mighty word, "Christ is risen from the dead." The one tells us of the risen Redeemer, the other tells us of the risen Brother. And wherever we follow our dear ones into the darkness with yearning hearts, there, too, the consolation comes; they lie down beside their Brother, and with their Brother they shall rise again.
(5) So again, most strikingly, in the words which paint most loftily the exaltation of the risen Saviour, it is the old human name that is used, as if to bind together the humiliation and the, exaltation, and proclaim that a Man had risen to the throne of the universe. What an emphasis and glow of hope there is in, "We see not yet all things put under Him, but we see Jesus" — the very Man that was here with us — "crowned with glory and honour." So in the Book of the Revelation, the chosen name for Him that sits amidst the glories of the heavens, and settles the destinies of the universe, and orders the course of history, is Jesus. As if the apostle would assure us that the face which looked down upon him from amidst the blaze of the glory was indeed the face that he knew long ago upon earth, and the breast that "was girded with a golden girdle" was the breast upon which he so often had leaned his happy head.
3. So the ties that bind us to the Man Jesus should be the human bonds that knit us one to another, transferred to Him, and purified and strengthened. All that we have failed to find in men we can find in Him.
(1) Human wisdom has its limits; but here is a Man whose word is truth, who is Himself the truth.
(2) Human love is sometimes hollow, often impotent; it looks down upon us, as a great thinker has said, like the Venus of Milo, that lovely statue, smiling in pity, but it has no arms. But here is a love that is mighty to help, and on which we can rely without disappointment or loss.
(3) Human excellence is always limited and imperfect; but here is One whom we may imitate and be pure.
4. So let us do like that poor woman, bring the precious alabaster box of ointment — the love of these hearts of ours, which is the most precious thing we have to give. The box of ointment that we have so often squandered upon unworthy heads — let us come and pour it upon His, not unmingled with our tears, and anoint Him, our Beloved and our King.
II. THE NAME "CHRIST" IS THE NAME OF OFFICE, AND BRINGS TO US A REDEEMER. It is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew Messias, both meaning the Anointed. I cannot see less in the contents of the prophetic idea of the Messias than these points: Divine inspiration or anointing; a sufferer who is to redeem; the fulfiller of all the rapturous visions of psalmist and of prophet in the past. And so, when Peter stood up amongst that congregation and said, "The Man that died on the Cross, the Rabbi-peasant from half-heathen Galilee, is the Person whom all the generations have been looking forward to," no wonder that nobody believed him except those whose hearts were touched, for it is never possible for the common mind, at any epoch, to believe that the man that stands beside them is very much bigger than themselves. Great men have always to die, and get a halo of distance around them before their true stature can be seen. And now two remarks are all I can offer.
1. The hearty recognition of His Messiahship is the centre of all discipleship. The earliest and the simplest Christian creed, which yet — like the little brown roll in which the infant beech leaves lie folded up — contains in itself all the rest, was this: "Jesus is Christ." He who contents himself with "Jesus" and does not grasp "Christ," has cast away the most valuable and characteristic part of the Christianity which he professes. Surely the most simple inference is that a Christian is at least a man who recognises the Christship of Jesus. And it is not enough for the sustenance of your souls that men should admire, howsoever profoundly, the humanity of the Lord unless that humanity leads them on to see the office of the Messiah, to whom their whole hearts cleave. "Jesus is the Christ" is the minimum Christian creed.
2. The recognition of Jesus as Christ is essential to giving its full value to the facts of the manhood.
(1) "Jesus died." Yes! What then? If that is simply a human death, like all the rest, I want to know what makes it a gospel? What more interest I have in it than I have in the death of any men or women whose names were in the obituary column of yesterday's newspaper? "Jesus died." That is the fact. What is wanted to turn the fact into a gospel? That I shall know who it was that died, and why He died. "I declare unto you the gospel which I preach," Paul says, "how that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures." The belief that the death of Jesus was the death of the Christ is needful to make that death the means of my deliverance from the burden of sin. If it be only the death of Jesus, it is beautiful, pathetic, as many another martyr's has been; but if it be the death of Christ, then "my faith can lay her hand" on that great sacrifice, and know "her guilt was there."(2) So in regard of His perfect example. To only see His manhood would be as paralysing as spectacles of supreme excellence usually are. But when we can say, "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example," and so can deepen the thought of His Manhood into that of His Messiahship, and the conception of His work as example into that of His work as sacrifice, we can hope that His Divine power will dwell in us to mould our lives to the likeness of His human life of perfect obedience.
(3) So in regard to His resurrection and ascension. If it were only "Jesus," those events might be as much to us as the raising of Lazarus, or the rapture of Elijah — namely, a demonstration that death did not destroy conscious being, and that a man could rise to heaven. But if "Christ is risen from the dead," He is "become the first-fruits of them that slept." If Jesus has gone up on high, it may show that manhood is not incapable of elevation to heaven, but it has no power to draw others up after it. But if Christ is gone up, He is gone to prepare a place for us, and His ascension is the assurance that He will lift us too to dwell with Him, and share His triumph over death and sin.
III. "THE LORD" IS THE NAME OF DIGNITY, AND BRINGS BEFORE US THE KING. There are three grades of dignity expressed by this word in the New Testament. The lowest is that in which it is almost the equivalent of "Sir"; the second is that in which it expresses dignity and authority; the third is that in which it is the equivalent of the Old Testament "Lord" as a Divine name; and all are applied to Christ. The central one is the meaning of the word here.
1. "Jesus is Lord" — i.e., the manhood is exalted to supreme dignity. It is the teaching of the New Testament, that our nature in the Child of Mary sits on the throne of the universe and rules over all things. Trust His dominion and rejoice in His rule, and bow before His authority.
2. Christ is Lord — i.e., His sovereign authority and dominion are built upon the fact of His being Redeemer and Sacrifice. His kingdom rests upon His suffering. "Wherefore God also hath exalted Him, and given Him a name that is above every name." It is because He bears a vesture dipped in blood, that on the vesture is the name written, "King of kings, and Lord of lords." Because He has given His life for the world, He is Master of the world.Conclusion: Do not content yourselves with a maimed Christ.
1. Do not tarry in the Manhood; do not be content with an adoring reverence for the nobility of His soul, the wisdom of His words, the beauty of His character, the tenderness of His compassion. All that will be of small help for your needs. There is more in His mission than that — even His death for you and for all men.
2. Take Him for your Christ, but do not lose the Person in the work, any more than you lose the work in the Person. And be not content with an intellectual recognition of Him, but bring Him the faith which cleaves to Him and His work as its only hope and peace, and the love which, because of His work as Christ, flows out to the beloved Person who has done it all.
3. Thus loving Jesus and trusting Christ, you will bring obedience to your Lord and homage to your King, and learn the sweetness and power of the name that is above every name — the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
(A. Maclaren, D. D)
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.