Consider names. Each person has one. People may also have nicknames–good or bad–reflecting certain perceived traits of that person. Some names are well known, or rather the persons they are attached to are well known, and others are not. Consider some names: St. Paul, Judas Iscariot, J.R.R. Tolkien, Richard Dawkins, C.S. Lewis, Harrison Ford, Bill Clinton, George Bush. Each a well known name, and each bringing to mind certain good, bad or neutral traits and incidents depending on one’s view point and knowledge of the person. Names also bear meanings in many languages. Think of some of the names of God in the Old Testament: El Shaddai (all sufficient one, or God almighty), and Jehovah Jireh (God will provide). Names can have importance.
Names can also have power depending on the person than bears the name. For instance a messenger from a monarchial nation might go to another nation “in the name of the king or queen.” An ambassador from the United States to another country conducts affairs in the name of the President and government of the United States. Within certain contexts the name of the President bears weight, power, and authority, beyond what my name or your name does.
When Christians pray, consider a common ending to their prayers: “In Jesus’ name.” They pray, they petition, they ask, thank, command by a higher authority. On their own they have no authority, the same as an ambassador has no authority apart from the President and government. But their leader, their king, lends them his authority. They can speak in the name of the king–in the name of Jesus Christ. There are numerous instances of this in scripture in different contexts. Matthew 28:18-20 says: “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Here is the investing of that authority as ambassadors. Here Jesus gives permission and authority to preach the gospel to the nations: preaching and teaching about him, and in his name. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he refers to himself as “an ambassador in chains” (Ephesians 6:20). In 2 Corinthians 5:20 Paul says: “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ be reconciled to God.”
In John 14:13-14 Jesus says: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” Acts 3 records a story of Jesus working through his ambassadors in a dramatic way. “Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 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. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 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!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong” Acts 3:1-8.
When days are dark, when the outlook of the future is grim, remember this, Jesus Christ the God we serve is a powerful God. There is power in his name, granted to those who love and serve him. “I [Jesus] have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” John 16:33.