Jesus is Lord
Series: “Who Do You Say That I Am?”
March 19, 2023
Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church
This Lent we’re exploring several influential/important titles given to Jesus.
We’ve talked about Jesus as Friend and Jesus as Teacher. Today, Jesus as Lord.
Luke 6:46-49 Ex. Jesus repeating himself, variation of Matt. 7
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, it quickly collapsed, and great was the ruin of that house.”
Philippians 2:1-11 Paul utilizes an early Christian hymn
If, then, there is any comfort in Christ, any consolation from love, any partnership in the Spirit, any tender affection and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he existed in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
assuming human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a human,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God exalted him even more highly
and gave him the name
that is above every other name,
so that at the name given to Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
It was the first creed of Christianity.
When this new sect within Judaism needed words to succinctly state its uniqueness, they chose these three, “Jesus is Lord.”
Paul wrote this in his letter to the Christians in Rome: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
In Philippians 2 Paul longed for the day when, every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Paul felt it was important for Christ-followers to be able to articulate their faith, and he urged them to do so with these simple but weighty words, “Jesus is Lord.”
We said last week that “Teacher/Rabbi” was the most common way that Jesus was directly addressed in the Gospels. But throughout the New Testament, including the Gospels, the most common way he’s referred to is “Lord.”
“It’s the Lord!” they called out to him.
“Lord, is it at this time that you will restore the Kingdom?”
Thomas called him, “My Lord and My God.”
Martha once said to Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
Jesus’ own words demonstrated what people called him when he said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord’ and don’t do what I say?”
There are three meanings of this word that I’d like you to remember this morning.
The first two are fairly easy to grasp. 3rd – a little harder.
- Lord means Leader.
It’s the one you follow and strive to model your life after. Christ-followers strive to model their lives after the Lord, Jesus Christ. “Why do you call me ‘Lord’ and don’t do what I say?”
Illustration. My Son Sam is a master at card games. He’s always been great at various games, even as a young child. I hope he never learns to play poker, because I fear he’d give up his career in music and head off to Vegas. He can bluff with the best of them. His double-bluffs are legendary in our family. He recently taught us a new card game he plays with his friends. They call it The Dumb Game. (might be a practical joke on us) Sam taught us the game, a game he played countless times. He has a unique strategy to playing it, one that we’re all trying to copy. When he’s not around we often say, “What would Sam do here?” Isn’t this the move Sam would make?” “I’m trying to think like Sam. WWSD? We’re trying to think like Sam, and play like Sam, and win like Sam.
Christians strive to think like Jesus (“Have this mind within you that was also in Christ Jesus”) – Christian strive to think like Jesus, live like Jesus, love like Jesus. He’s the Master – He’s our Lord, our Leader. And the word Lord implies Ultimate Leader!
He’s not just one leader among many to choose from, depending upon the situation.
He’s #1 for Christ-ians. And this is precisely where it got dangerous for the Early Christians.
If you lived in that part of the world in the 1st Century, 2nd, 3rd, 4th Century – who was Lord? Who was the Ultimate Authority? Caesar!!!! Caesar was Lord! Countless Christians were martyred because they refused to say those words, “Caesar is Lord.” This is why the Early Church was persecuted and why some emperors tried to eliminate Christianity. They viewed it as a direct threat to their authority. And they were right. It was!
New Testament scholar N.T. Wright wrote this: “The emperor was kyrios” (the Greek word for Lord). The emperor was, “the lord of the world, the one who claimed the allegiance and loyalty of subjects throughout his wide empire.”
In Phil. 2, Paul is mimicking how Roman subjects had to honor the Emperor – kneeling and confessing allegiance. The early Christians boldly proclaimed, “Jesus is Lord. Caesar is not!” – and that change of allegiance cost them dearly.
Of course, today the opposite is true for many. Many Christians of all different persuasions give their ultimate allegiance to their political party and/or to their ideal leader/candidate.
Listen, The Kingdom of God is too big to fit into your political party! Your political party didn’t drop out of Heaven into your hands. So, don’t give your ultimate allegiance to it. Question it. Evaluate it, reform it, in light of scripture, in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ. Jesus is Lord, not the platform of your party. I would love to say a lot more about this, but fortunately for you we have two more aspects of Lord that we have to cover.
So, so far, we’ve said that Lord means ultimate leader, the one you give your utmost allegiance to.
2. Secondly, Lord is a divine title.
By calling Jesus Lord the early Christians were giving him divine status. What did Thomas say? – “My Lord and My God.” In the Hebrew scriptures, God is called YHWH Yahweh. (Exodus 3, name revealed to Moses at the Burning Busy, “I AM.” That was so special to the Jews that they decided it shouldn’t even be spoken aloud. It was too sacred. (Compare that to people today using our Savior’s name as a curse word. Don’t get me started!) The ancient scribes went through the Old Testament and everywhere they found the name YHWH they replaced it with Adonai, which means Lord. “The Lord is My Shepherd” originally read, “Yahweh is My Shepherd.” Our bibles note this by putting LORD in all caps.
So, God is called Lord in the Hebrew scriptures. Jesus is called Lord, Kyrios, in the New Testament. When they got around to translating the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, guess what word they used to replace YHWH? Kyrios, Lord. Caesar is not the ultimate Lord. YHWH is. God is.
So, in the Greek version of the Old Testament, God is called Kyrios, Lord. The New Testament was written in Greek, and Jesus is called Kyrios, Lord – a divine title. The early Christians saw Jesus as unique divine – fully God, fully human.
Here are some of the reasons why they saw Jesus as divine.
- He forgave the sins of people he had just met, folks who hadn’t sinned against him, Jesus the man. They had sinned against God.“Arise. Your sins are forgiven.” Ex. Mark 2:5-10
- 2. He allowed his disciples to worship him (Matt. 28:9). Jews must worship only God (Commandment #1)
- He stated that he would return to judge the world at the end of time. From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
- 4. He asserted that his teachings were on par and equal to God’s.
“You’ve heard it said, “Thou shall not commit adultery, but I say to you . . .” Matthew 5:21, 27, 38
- Direct statements:
“I and the Father are one.” – John 10:30
“When you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.” – John 14:9
“Before Abraham was, I am.” – John 8:58
- He was crucified under the charge of blasphemy, claiming to be God. John 5:18, John 10:31-33, Mark 14:60-64
- 7. He agreed with Thomas’ declaration, “My Lord and My God!”– John 20:26
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this statement from a Roman centurion at the foot of the Cross: “Truly, this man was the Son of God.” (Mt. 27:54, Mark 15:39, Luke 23:47). In fact, if you have trouble wrapping your brain around the idea that Jesus was God in the flesh, at least consider that he was a unique Son of God. We’re all children of God, but there was something absolutely unique and divine about the One who is called, “The only-begotten Son of the Father.”
So, just to review so far – when we call Jesus our Lord we are saying that –
–he is our Ultimate Leader, the Ultimate Authority for our lives
–we’re recognizing that Divinity uniquely shines through him. He’s a beautiful one-of-a-kind revelation of God.
3. And finally, thirdly, when we call Jesus our Lord we are saying that he has authority over this world.
He’s not just the Lord of Heaven. He’s also the Lord of Earth. That’s why we sang, “God of Wonders.” He’s the, Lord of Heaven and Earth.
If Jesus is the Lord of the Earth . . . and not Caesar – Then the Lord wishes to establish his reign, his kingdom, his ways here on earth – and we play a key role in that!
“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” – Thy will be done on earth!
Diana Butler Bass writes about discovering this aspect of Jesus’ Lordship. She put it this way: “It dawned on me that Jesus’ lordship was far more than surrendering control of my own life to God. It had something to do with this place, bring this (world) under his lordship, too . . . Not only was Jesus to be Lord of our hearts; he was Lord of the whole earth, active in history, working toward liberation and love, and willing to take down empires in doing so.” (p. 131, p. 134 in Freeing Jesus)
Let me close with some thoughts by the popular Christian writer John Ortberg.
Margie’s Bible Study studied Ortberg’s book, God is Closer Than You Think. There’s a companion DVD that goes along with the book study. The DVD begins with Ortberg high up in a college ivory tower, talking to the camera far, down below. Ortberg uses that location to visualilize how many people experience God – high up and far away.
But God is closer than you think – “The Kingdom of God is at hand!” And one of the best ways to experience God is to strive to bring some of God’s kingdom down here to earth – to bring what’s up there, down here.
Ortberg writes this:
Sometimes people pray a version of the Star Trek prayer to Scottie: “Beam me up.” Many people think our job is to get my afterlife destination taken care of, then tread water till we all get ejected and God comes back and torches this place. But Jesus never told anybody – neither his disciples nor us – to pray “Get me out of here so I can go up there.” His prayer was, “Make up there come down here.” Make things down here run the way they do up there. (p.176)
Ortberg says the most dangerous, exciting, life-changing prayer we can pray might be, “Lord, make up there come down here.” – and let me help!
To truly believe in Jesus’ Lordship we need to pray prayers like that – for our Ultimate Leader, the Divine One, calls us to extend his lordship from Heaven to Earth – to make “up there come down here” – on earth as it is in Heaven.
Think about it.