A Worthy Name
By Anthony Casperson
When we’re first introduced to Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he’s a brash, brawling party boy. Someone who takes for granted their power, prestige, and gifts. A person that has the reputation as the next mighty king of Asgard, but doesn’t understand what that really means.
He’s in need of a wake-up call.
And this is what Odin does as he speaks an inscription into Mjolnir, the representation of Thor’s power. “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.”
From that moment on in the film, Thor must learn what it means to be worthy of the name. He can’t just sit back and relax into his old habits. There’s a need for an active pursuit in order to live up to the name he already has.
This idea of being found worthy of a name has existed for centuries. And as we turn to the first 6 verses of Revelation 3 in our blog series, “Summer Revelation,” we’ll see it in regard to the church in Sardis.
Jesus has spoken to several other churches before, starting each with an image of himself. To Sardis, he stands as the one with the seven spirits and seven stars. He’s the transcendent God who holds the universe in his hands. But also, the one who keeps the angels, set guard over specific locations, close at hand. They keep watch over the city and never fail.
The city of Sardis knows something about keeping guard. See, at this point in history, they had a reputation as a city that had never fallen in battle. Enemies could pound upon the walls, but the city remained alive inside. This notable name among all the cities of the Roman Empire held them in high military and strategic regard.
But there was a slight blemish that kept them from maintaining the name as the Unfallen City. While it was true that no battle had left them on the losing side, there were two occasions where stealthy invasion in the night found the guards sleeping. And the city failed to defend itself because of the failed watch.
It appears that Jesus has this historical perception in mind when he gives them the most backhanded commendation to all of churches in these two chapters. You have a reputation (literally “name” in the Greek) of being alive, but you are dead.
People know you to be those who have never fallen to the enemy, but their deceptions and unfaithful actions have crept in. Death has infiltrated, ready to destroy everything, and you don’t even realize it.
And that’s the best Jesus can say about them? Ouch.
Later on in verse 4, he does give an offhand comment that there are still a few names in the city. Those who have been found worthy to walk with Jesus. Who have pure, unsoiled garments. They haven’t given in to the worldly pleasures of the enemy, nor drunken themselves into a stupor when they should be on guard.
Verse 2 reveals Jesus’ correction to the people of the church in Sardis. Wake up! Don’t just lean back and relax, thinking you’re safe. The enemy is near and ready to kill you. Strengthen what is ready to die, set your feet in a firm battle stance. And complete your mission. The job’s not done yet. So, get to work.
Jesus flows directly into his call for repentance in the beginning of verse 3 as he tells them to remember what they received and heard. Remember your training. Keep it. Guard it. Protect it. There’s a reason why God has you here. And you’re failing. Get up. Now.
If we don’t wake up to the tactics of the enemy, then Jesus himself will come like a thief in the night. He’ll come in and finish the job himself. And you won’t even see it coming. You won’t know the hour by any means.
The promise made to we who overcome this temptation to sleep through our watch is wrapped up in having a worthy and living name. We will be found worthy to be clothed in white garments.
Also, Jesus will by no means blot our name out of the Book of Life. Cities held records of those living in them. And when a person died, their name was blotted out. So, while many arguments revolve around these few words, the point of the context should reveal to us that it means we’ll be found as those who are not among the dead. We who overcome won’t just have the reputation of life, but actually will have life.
Finally, Jesus not only promises that we will have a worthy name, but that he will confess our name to the Father. Our worth will sound from the lips of the great God of the universe. Something much better than a reputation with a clarifying asterisk.
Let us be careful not to relax into a state of sleepiness. The enemy and his lies seek to infiltrate and kill. We must stand guard against him. All the more after the secret invasion has already begun.
Wake up, my brothers and sisters in Jesus.
Whosoever hears these words of the Spirit, let them awake and stand worthy of the name.