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The Name of Jesus Christ
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
January 2, 2011
Numbers 6:22-27 Luke 2:15-21 Psalm 8
Our Bible readings this morning concern the name of God. In our reading from Numbers, after the blessing, God says of Aaron and his sons, “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them (6:27). I use this blessing at the end of every service, as do many of our ministers. Indeed, it is a blessing used by many different denominations. When we say it, we say, “The Lord bless you.” But in the Hebrew, the proper name of God is in the text. That name is Yahweh. This name for God was given to Moses at the burning bush and it is under the name of Yahweh that the whole Israelite culture was organized. The name Yahweh, however, was considered too holy to speak. So in place of Yahweh, Jews then and Jews today, say Adonai, which means “Lord.” So when this blessing is spoken, usually we honor that convention and say, “The Lord bless you.” But the important thing about the numbers passage is the actual name of God, Yahweh. The purpose of the Numbers blessing is putting God’s name upon the people of Israel.
In our New testament passage, we heard about the circumcision of Jesus. Then he is formally given the name Jesus. When we hear the name Jesus Christ, we can easily think of common names that have a first and last name such as John Smith. In that way of thinking, Jesus is the first name and Christ would be the last name. But there is a deep meaning behind the names when we say, “Jesus Christ.” In fact, there are levels of meaning for the names Jesus Christ. Those names are not just a first and last name.
On the natural level, Jesus is the Greek name for the Hebrew Joshua. Recall that it was Joshua who led the Israelites in their conquest of Canaan. Joshua brought the Israelites into the Promised Land. The meaning of the Hebrew name Joshua is “Savior.” So we can say that as its Greek equivalent, the name Jesus means Savior. And it is Jesus who leads us into the Promised Land of heaven.
The name Christ is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Messiah.” Messiah means “anointed,” and it refers to the anointing of kings. The Messiah was eagerly looked forward to by the Jews as the divine king who would drive out the Romans, rule on the throne in Jerusalem, and usher in a period of peace throughout the whole world. Jesus claimed to be the Messiah in His trial, but all through His ministry He tried to redefine what the Messiah meant. The kingdom and the peace that the Messiah would bring is all within us.
So the two names Jesus Christ mean Savior and King. Jesus is our savior and he rules in our hearts. But on the spiritual level, the two names mean more. They encompass all we need for salvation. For Swedenborg, Jesus refers to the Lord’s Divine Love, or Divine Good. Christ refers to The Lord’s Divine Wisdom, or Divine Truth. The Lord is Divine Love and Divine Wisdom itself and so the two names Jesus Christ refer to all that God is.
Jesus Christ means salvation for us because when we embody love and wisdom, we have God inside us. All of heaven is made up of God’s divine love and wisdom. The heat there is God’s divine love and the light there is God’s divine wisdom. These two qualities proceed from God as the sun in the spiritual world. God as He is in Himself is infinite and He cannot be in any created thing because we are all finite. This means, essentially, that God is too big to be in us as He is in Himself. But he shines out from His own life into heaven, and from heaven into our souls as the heat and light of the spiritual world. And the sun of the spiritual world shines forth from the Lord Jesus Christ.
as He cannot be received by any one as He is in Himself, He appears as He is in Himself as the sun above the angelic heavens, the proceeding from which in the form of light is Himself as to wisdom, and in the form of heat is Himself as to love. The sun is not Himself; but the Divine love and Divine wisdom going forth from Himself proximately, round about Himself, appear before angels as the sun. He Himself in the sun is a Human, He is our Lord Jesus Christ both as the Divine from which are all things, and as to the Divine Human (AR 961).
All of heaven is made up of this divine love and divine wisdom from God. So we can live in heaven to the extent that we have God’s love and wisdom in our hearts. If we do not have divine love and wisdom in us, we cannot endure the heavenly atmosphere. This is why our religion is called mystical. Mysticism means an actual conjunction with God. Mysticism of this sort can be found in the Eastern Orthodox religion, too. In that faith, they call it divinization. We need to be conjoined with God in order to live in heaven–that is, we need to have God’s love and wisdom in our hearts in order to live in heaven. So conjunction with God is salvation. On one occasion, Swedenborg heard angels talking about this, and they were talking about, “the one God, of conjunction with Him, and of salvation thence” (AR 961). Conjunction with the one God is salvation.
The person Jesus Christ has caused much confusion and controversy in Christianity. While Christians know that there is only one God, they also try to reconcile the oneness of God with the words of Scripture that seem to suggest a three persons. This issue is called the Trinity. And the classical formulation of the trinity says that there are three persons with one essence. This cannot be understood. Swedenborg himself began his life with that idea. He had to give up the ideas about the trinity that he grew up with as a Lutheran. Swedenborg’s theology is so consistent throughout that we don’t realize that he had to learn these heavenly truths and actually change the way he had been thinking before his enlightenment. The angels who were talking about God that Swedenborg heard told him that his thinking did not agree with the idea of God in heaven.
The angels perceived in my thought the common ideas of the Christian Church concerning a trinity of Persons in unity and their unity in trinity . . . and they then said, “What are you thinking of? Are you not thinking those things from natural light with which our spiritual light does not agree? Therefore unless you remove the ideas of that thought, we close heaven to you, and go away” (AR 961).
He responds to the angels that his ideas about the trinity were about God’s attributes:
But then I said to them, “Enter, I pray, more deeply into my thought and perhaps you will see agreement.” And they did so, and saw that by three persons I understood three proceeding Divine attributes, which are creation, salvation, and reformation; and that these attributes are of the one God . . . (AR 961).
The angels accept this idea of the trinity, and then they separate off the old ideas of the trinity that Swedenborg grew up with as they enlighten his mind.
After this the heavenly light before seen above the aperture returned, and gradually descended, and filled the interiors of my mind, and enlightened the natural ideas of the unity and trinity of God; and then the ideas received about them in the beginning, which were merely natural, I saw separated, as chaff is separated from the wheat by winnowing, and carried away as by a wind into the north of heaven and dispersed (AR 961).
This must have occurred early in Swedenborg’s enlightenment because from the first pages of the Arcana Coelestia through his last book True Christian Religion, Swedenborg is consistent that there is only one person in the Godhead. His doctrine of God brings together the Old Testament reading this morning and the New testament reading. Our teaching is that Yahweh God of the Old Testament came down to earth in the body of Jesus that He took from Mary. So the Creator God who always was and from whom all things are, came into the material world and took on a material body. The Old Testament Yahweh is Jesus’ soul, and Jesus is the body of the Old Testament Creator God. God’s soul acts through His body, Jesus Christ, and acts to give us all life and salvation. With Yahweh as the soul, through His body Jesus Christ, God acts to bring joy and salvation to the human race. The activity of God through his body Jesus Christ is the Holy Spirit. So Swedenborg says of Jesus Christ:
The Lord Jesus Christ: in Him is the Divine being itself from which all things are, to which the soul of a person corresponds, the Divine Human, to which the body in a person corresponds, and the proceeding Divine, to which activity in a person corresponds (AR 961).
This perfect conjunction of God the Father and Jesus Christ as the soul is in the body is spoken of in the Bible. John’s Gospel tells us, “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (John 5:26). Only in a perfect union of Father and Son can life in itself be one. There cannot be more than one life in itself. Two or more itself’s cannot exist logically. Jesus is Life Itself because of His complete union with Life Itself who created all things. Swedenborg argues this point philosophically. It may be difficult to understand, but it does make sense and shows how Swedenborg’s whole life made him fit to explain the teachings of the New Church. For Swedenborg,
the Divine being, which is also the Divine manifestation, because it is one, the same, the itself, and hence indivisible, cannot be given in more than one; and that if it were said to be given, manifest contradictions would follow (AR 961).
So let’s forget about all the manifest contradictions that would follow from several beings who are being itself. Let’s instead turn to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ whom we can readily picture and understand. Let us turn to Jesus Christ for our salvation. And let us act to incorporate the divine love and wisdom of God through Jesus Christ into our hearts and lives. Then we will be united with God and find joy and peace in heaven where love and wisdom are heat and light itself.
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