Easter 4 - Acts 4:5-12
Bring a large blanket to your gathering and split your group into two. As somebody helps you hold up the blanket, each small group should send somebody to sit on either side of it. The object is to be the first to yell out the other person’s name once the blanket drops. Play several rounds to get your group warmed up.
Point out that we spend a lot of time making sure that we know each other’s names. Why is that?
Why are names important?
Have you ever been talking to some people and heard your name spoken in another conversation from clear across the room? How does that happen?
Have you ever forgotten somebody’s name? How did you feel about that?
Has anybody ever forgotten your name? How did you feel about that?
What does it mean to be “on a first name basis” with somebody? Why is that special?
Today, we’re going to talk about the importance of a name.
Since Easter, we have been discussing the early Church--the people who first recognized the risen Jesus as being the Son of God, the One who could forgive them of their sins and secure their eternal lives with God. Did you know that’s the definition of church? Sure, we sometimes refer to a building as a church, but it really refers to the believers who gather, whether they have a fancy building to meet in or not.
Anyway, the movement was huge. People were hearing the story from Peter and the other apostles and joining them by the thousands. However, the old guard was still in control. These were the people who had wanted Jesus dead in the first place and thought they had rid themselves of this threat to their authority, were not very happy with this surging popularity.
When Peter and John healed a lame beggar in front of a huge crowd in the temple courts, the religious leaders could not deny that a miraculous sign had occurred. But when Peter attributed the power behind the miracle to Jesus, they were enraged. Having never recognized Jesus as anything more than a mere man, they found Peter’s statement to be sacrilegious. They threw Peter and John in jail, but Peter was not done proclaiming the power in the name, Jesus.
Read Acts 4:5-12
Caiaphas and Annas were two of the religious leaders directly responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus (John 18:24). How would you have felt if you were Peter and John, appearing before these men?
Peter and John seem very courageous. Where does their bravery come from?
What do the religious leaders want to know?
What answer does Peter give them?
Peter says that there is more than just healing power in that name. What else does he say can be accomplished only in the name of Jesus?
Invite everybody to share how they feel about the following situations: their name often being mispronounced, being called their sibling’s name all the time, being called a hurtful name, or their name has ever been omitted from or misspelled in a program for a school play or concert or something similar like a newspaper photo caption or award certificate. (Optional: Have this discussion in smaller groups of 2, 3, or 4, and then ask if anybody has anything to share with the larger group.)
Names are important to us. They are deeply personal, and we don’t want them to be misused. That’s not unusual; God feels the same way. Which of the Ten Commandments am I referring to? Number three: You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. (Exodus 20:7 NRSV)
We all know the most egregious misuse of God’s name is probably as a compound swear word. What about using it in exasperation, such as, “God, Jonathan, you’re so stupid?” (Please change the name if there is a Jonathan in your group.) What about using it to try to boost your own credibility, as in, “I swear to God, guys, that’s what happened?” What about, “OMG?” All of these examples fail to carry with them the honor and reverence that is due the name of God. Just as we do not want people to be careless with our names, we should be even more careful with God’s.
What is your reaction to the second part of that commandment: the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name?
Caiaphas, Annas, and the other religious leaders knew this commandment, and they knew how serious God was about it. One sure way to misuse God’s name would be to give somebody else credit for God’s work. Forgiving sins, for example, can only be done by God. When Jesus told the paralyzed man his sins were forgiven (Matthew 9:1-8), the religious teachers said he was committing blasphemy (taking credit for God’s work). They didn’t recognize Jesus as being God in the flesh. Now, Peter was crediting Jesus with more of God’s work--not just healing, but eternal salvation.
What is eternal salvation?
How does the empty tomb show us that Jesus can bring us eternal salvation?
Who is eternal salvation for?
What are some appropriate ways to react to this truth?
Who do you know who needs to hear this truth? What is the best way to tell them?
Did you ever notice how we pray, “in Jesus’s name, Amen?” Why is that?
Want to get active with this lesson? We have a great element called “Who Am I” that works great. You can get it at the Youth Worker Collective: https://youthworkercollective.com/who-am-i-exploring-acts-4-through-name-tags/.
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