From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Eighteen, Day Two
Just as Yahweh is God's personal name revealed in the Old Testament, Jesus is the personal name of the One we call Redeemer, Lord, and Christ. His name is intimately linked to the God of the Hebrew Scriptures because it means "Yahweh is salvation." Indeed, Jesus is Yahweh come to earth. If you have ever pictured God as a distant, wrathful Being, you will have to reconsider that portrait in light of Jesus Christ, who is God bending toward us, God becoming one of us, God reaching out in mercy, God humbling himself, God nailed to a cross, God rising up from the grave to show us the way home. Jesus, name above all names, beautiful Savior, glorious Lord!
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. Matthew 1:20-21
Praying the Name
Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."
Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." Luke 15:1-7
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."
Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." Luke 19:8-9
Reflect On: Luke 15:1-7 and 19:8-9.
Praise God: Who is the Seeker of the lost.
Offer Thanks: Because God has pursued you.
Confess: Any complacency toward those who are lost.
Ask God: To align your heart with his purposes.
Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life stunned the publishing world by selling twenty-three million copies in just three years. The book's subtitle, "What on Earth Am I Here For?" poses a question most of us ask ourselves at least once a lifetime. But the most purpose-driven person in history may not have needed to pose the question at all because his purpose was announced before his birth.
Presumably Joseph, Mary's anxious husband-to-be, knew that Yeshua meant "Yahweh is salvation," but the angel in his dream was careful to spell it out for him: "You are to give him [the baby in Mary's womb] the name Yeshua, because he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). From the beginning the single purpose of Jesus' life was to seek out sinners and then to save them. He was God hunting souls, not to hurt them but to help them — and that is still his purpose.
I wonder how many of us really believe this. Do we have the slightest idea of how driven Christ is to dwell with the least attractive among us, with people who not only look bad but are bad? And if he has this drive to dwell with the worst and the lowest, doesn't that say something about his commitment to being with us when we are at our worst?
Theologian and writer Robert Farrar Capon has an interesting take on the parable Jesus told to disgruntled scribes and Pharisees about the shepherd who leaves ninety-nine found sheep in order to search for one lost sheep. The religious leaders had been grumbling about Jesus. How could a man with friends like tax collectors and sinners presume to teach them anything? It was against the backdrop of their self-righteousness that Jesus told them the parable, asking how they would respond if they owned a hundred sheep and one got lost.
Capon begins by pointing out that most shepherds wouldn't think of leaving ninety-nine sheep to go in search of one lost sheep because to do so would be to leave the rest of the flock vulnerable to predators. Instead, as Capon writes,
You cut your losses, forget about the lost sheep, and go on with the ninety-nine. . . . In this parable, Jesus never goes back to the ninety-nine sheep. The ninety-nine sheep are a set-up. Jesus has divided the flock into one sheep and ninety-nine sheep. . . . I think the real meaning of the one and the ninety-nine is that the one lost sheep is the whole human race as it really is. And the ninetynine "found" sheep who never get lost are the whole human race as we think we are.
No wonder Jesus liked to hang out around sinners. There are no other kinds of people to associate with. But as the parable implies, Jesus can do little for the strong and the self-righteous who don't even know they are lost. It's the poor, the weak, the addicted, the troubled, and the fractured people — those who have an inkling of how off course their lives have become who are often the most responsive to grace.
This principle applies even after our conversion. Jesus seeks to bless the people who admit their need, not the ones who act as though they know it all and have it all. Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, those who hunger and thirst. Blessed are the empty, not the full.
Pray today for the grace to know how much you still need Jesus. Ask him for the grace to see beyond your wants to the things you really need — more compassion and less harsh judgment, more generosity and less fear, more patience and less irritability, more faith and less doubt. Pray that Jesus will enable you to move beyond the kind of selfish praying we all do so that you can pray in a way that reflects his heart, letting whatever moves him move you. Then pray for the privilege of joining him as he seeks out and saves those who are lost.
Two of Ann Spangler's most-loved books have been released in paperback: Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus.
These books help us understand the biblical context in which these names and titles were revealed, and help us gain a more intimate knowledge of the Father and of the Son.