I’m not a fan of Shakespeare. But I love words. And in his play, “Romeo and Juliet,” a simple quote calls for my attention.
From the Italian city of Verona, a family feud takes place between the Montagues and the Capulets. These two families hate one another. But Romeo (who belongs to the Montagues) and Juliet (who belongs to the Capulets) fall deeply in love.
That’s why Juliet famously asks Romeo, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet” (Act II, Scene II). In other words, Juliet loves everything about Romeo—well, except for his name. If a rose is labeled an onion, it’s still going to smell sweet. And if Romeo Montague is labeled a Capulet, he’s still going to be attractive. So, in response to Juliet’s plea, Romeo willfully takes a new name.
That’s what I do when my girlfriend and I order from a fast food restaurant. When the cashier asks for my name, I say my name is “Jordon.” No joke. Because when I tell people my name is “Isaiah,” they look at me as if I’m speaking Greek. Nobody can spell it. And it frustrates me. Plus, “Jordon” is a name given to both guys and girls. I think it’s a smart plan, to be honest.
But what’s in a name?
In Acts 3, Peter and John were approaching the temple at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. It was almost time for the prayer meeting. “And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple” (v. 2 ESV).
As Peter and John walked by, the lame man asked them for money. “But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!’” (v. 6 ESV). And that he did. Needless to say, the people were utterly amazed. Therefore, Peter saw an opportunity to proclaim the gospel.
While in Solomon’s Portico, Peter preached some hard-core truth to the people of Israel. He blamed them for delivering Jesus to death (v. 13-14) and having Him killed (v. 15). But according to Peter, the source of the lame man’s healing was the name of Jesus (v. 16).
After Peter’s sermon, the religious people had Peter and John arrested. “And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, ‘By what power or by what name did you do this?’” (4:7 ESV).
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well’” (v. 8-10 ESV).
What’s in a name? It depends. There’s nothing in the name of Peter. There’s nothing in the name of John. And there’s nothing in the name of Isaiah Pauley. But in the name of Jesus, there’s more power and might than the most elaborate explanation can afford. After all, Peter says, “‘And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’” (v. 12 ESV).
The name of Jesus. Oh, how marvelous. Oh, how wonderful. And what an honor it is to live for His name. To take on His name. To associate ourselves with His name. I mean, isn’t that the meaning of “Christian?”
How are you handling the most precious and powerful of names? Are you really living for the name of Jesus, or are you using the name of Jesus for your own selfish ambitions? After all, Jesus says, “‘On that day [judgement day] many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness”’” (Matt. 7:22-23 ESV).
Jesus is talking about false teachers who distort the truth of the gospel. People who use the name of Jesus but don’t really know Him. And that, my friend, is a scary thing.
I don’t know about you, but I desire to hold the name of Jesus above every other name. I desire to dedicate my life to His name. I desire to experience the power of the gospel for the glory of Christ. That’s the story of Peter and John. And it can be ours, too.