Where two or three are gathered

Once upon a time, a few people in a forum were discussing the topic, “What is church?” And the following passage came up:

Matt 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

We commonly understand this passage to mean that if you get two or three people in a room, Jesus comes to the party.
But what if that isn’t it? Or isn’t all of it? For instance: is he not present when we’re alone? Is there “more of Jesus” when we’re together with someone else? Why?

Pooh thinkSo like Pooh I started to think. think. think.

This passage seems to mimic another pattern in Scripture: the necessity of two or three eye witnesses needed to accuse someone of a crime. (Deut 17:6, Deut 19:15; 2 Cor 13:1; Heb 10:28, etc.)

Numbers mean a lot in Scripture. Specific numbers, that is. Just do a study on the number five, and your eyes will be opened to an entirely new dimension. Numbers all fold back in together, creating a bigger picture.

When I hear “two or three” in that kind of statement, I think of the two or three eyewitnesses necessary to–if I can midrash a bit–establish the truth of a situation.

Recently I’ve been looking into the concept of the phrase “in my name” found so often in Scripture, especially connected with Jesus. How often do we hear phrases like “… in Jesus’ name, amen,” or “You are healed in the name of Jesus!”

Have many of us ever even questioned why we utter this in the first place? This is not a common phrase used outside of Christianity. You don’t hear people saying, “Go to the Walgreen’s. Whatever you ask for in my name will be given to you.” That’s just not normal. But why isn’t it normal? Perhaps because we’ve taken it from another culture and extracted it from its original context. some of you are rolling your eyes because this might sound “typically Julia”, but hear me out.

The Hebraic concept of a “Name” is not limited to the letters and pronunciation of someone’s given name. It’s not just a label.

Someone’s name is their character, their person, what they stand for. So taking the Lord’s name in vain, for instance… I don’t think that means saying “Oh God”. I think that means misrepresenting God’s character and making Him out to be something He is not–in a sense, being a bad eye witness (see, I did bring it back to the original topic!). Here’s a short explanation of the concept that I enjoyed reading.

So what about this “gathered in my name” business? Perhaps us gathering “in the name of Jesus” means lifting up his character and representing who he is here on this earth. Maybe it means when two or three of us are witnesses–meaning acting as he would and being “Jesus with skin on”– then the truth about him becomes known, and there he is with us because we’re representing him in truth. We are there in his stead.

It’s like making someone your signatory (I’m not sure if that’s the right word), or essentially letting someone represent you in a situation where you cannot be present. You are giving them the responsibility to be there in your name and do what you would do in that situation. So in a way, you are there because your ways and wishes are being carried out by your representative.

That’s what i think this might be about…. not church, really… but representing Jesus to the world as a witness to make him known.

What do you think?


5 thoughts on “Where two or three are gathered

  1. Good post. :) I agree, I don’t think it’s about church either. And I also agree with you that “in my name” or “in His name” means more about his character and reputation than the spelling or sound of the name.

    I like the wittness explanation! Very good! I also think that the “two or more” may possibly be a reference to a minimum number of men to qualify a “group”. In Hebrew cultures there must be a minimum of 10 men in order to make a formal group for prayer or worship or study. Could it be that Messiah was saying that you could pray or study or worship as a “formal group” with even two or more?

    Your message about being His representative is very good. How often do we, who wear His Name, misrepresent Him? *sigh* No wonder the world – even believers at times – don’t “get it”. We wear His reputation and we need to wear it rightly. And we are here to do His work, just as Yeshua came to earth to do the work of the Father. We need to do as we are instructed through His Spirit and the world will know that we are His students by our love.

  2. Hello Julia. Thanks for writing this thoughtful post!

    The previous verse Matt 18:19 goes:

    Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.

    All authority on heaven and earth has been given to Jesus, he is king of all creation. So when we use his name, in prayer and faith, we are declaring heavenly authority and power over earthly circumstances and situations. It is so encouraging to me that Jesus allows his followers to declare his Name and authority over earthly situations (hence: with God, nothing is impossible!), which also reminds me constantly that this privilege of using Christ’s Name comes with the responsibility of living a righteous life.

    I absolutely agree that that is what the church is meant to be, a group of people who are Jesus’ ambassadors and representatives on Earth. I also think church is the place where Christians can support and encourage each other in this (rather daunting!) undertaking; Paul said in one of his letters, I can’t remember which: “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.” As pastors and leaders in church imitate Christ, the congregation is led by their example, and in that way all are encouraged and grow in faith.

    That’s what church is to be; if church has degenerated into a “drive-thru” club that’s what it is: nothing more than a club, in impact and significance. –I have a response to that post actually, so I might just mosey there and make a reply. :)

  3. Just now I realized that Jesus might be saying this not for those gathered in His name, but any whom they encounter. Jesus is authorizing us to act on his behalf, in his stead. The key is that Jesus wants us to act as a community and support each other so we do not make rash conclusions.
    Perhaps where two or three are present we will be wiser and better able to follow His commands.

  4. Hi – Thank you for your thoughts. You asked a very helpful question, “Is there “more of Jesus” when we’re together with someone else?” Let me suggest an answer.

    This verse (Matthew 18:20) comes in the context of the reconciliation of two people. One is the wrongdoer, the other having been wronged. If the gospel of Jesus is prmarily about the reconciliation of wrongdoers (us) with the one wronged (God), then the reconciliation of two people is of immediate concern to Jesus.

    1. He assures us, in this verse, that when two believers (“in his name”, desiring to honour their Saviour) come together to convict, confess and forgive sin then he (Jesus) is there – to oversee, enable, encourage, commend.

    2. His name is honoured among believers when this is done well. Namely, when we forgive as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32). When this kind of reconciliation takes place, we are all the more thankful for the reconciliation that God has worked through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

    3. His name is honoured among nonbelievers when this is done well. They (nonbelievers) are not dull-minded. They can see the link between the reconciliation that God has worked, and the kind of reconciliation that is (or is not) taking place between believers. In a Matthew 18:20 reconciliation, the gospel of Jesus is shown to be true and trustworthy.

    Thank you again for your stimulating thinking, and the opportunity to respond. The Lord be with you always.

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